Don't expect everything that you want

Published: Thursday, May 1, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 30, 2003 at 11:00 p.m.

It's wonderful to tell a lover what we want - and more wonderful to get it.

It is our privilege to express what we want. It is our lover's privilege to give us what he or she wants to give us.

You may have the notion that she should be more affectionate because you want more affection. Or you may think that he should work on his biceps because you want bigger biceps.

Maybe you want everything in its place. Great, as long as you don't expect somebody else to put it there.

Our privilege to ask for what we want isn't our partner's obligation to deliver what we want.

I get a lot of questions from people who struggle with expectations: I cook, so is it too much to expect her to get the groceries? I give him what he wants, so isn't it fair to expect him to do the same?

Anytime we do something with the one-sided understanding that he or she will reciprocate in a specific manner, we set ourselves up for disappointment. Worse, we set ourselves up for anger.

If you decide (independent of your sweetheart) to make his favorite breakfast so that he'll spend the day shopping with you, please don't get angry when he'd rather go hiking.

It's OK to be disappointed - but don't fix him breakfast unless it's in your heart to do that, regardless of the outcome.

Maybe he'll moan but go shopping with you anyway. And maybe you'll have a miserable day.

When one partner does something out of obligation, rather than desire, both partners lose.

Is it OK to expect a sweetheart to do what he says he's going to do? Is it OK to be more than disappointed when she changes her mind about what she wants?

It's reasonable to expect a sweetheart to keep a promise. It's natural to feel disappointed if she changes her mind.

But when we feel disappointed and angry, it's probably because we compromised our truth or did something we didn't really want to do to get what was promised.

Having sex with a man to get a commitment is a classic example. If somebody makes a commitment and changes his mind, you will probably be disappointed.

But if you compromised your truth and had sex with him to get the commitment, you will probably be disappointed and angry.

And you may blame him, but he is not responsible for living your values. You are, and you get another chance at it.

When you do what you really want to do, you will be at peace - regardless of the consequences - because it's what you would have done anyway.

You can accept somebody else's truth, however different it is from yours. But you must live your own truth. And to be truly happy, you must recognize that you are living your truth for you, not for somebody else.

If you realize that you pick up after him because you enjoy a clean house, then you won't resent it and expect kudos from him. You're not doing it for him; you're doing it for you.

And you're not going to try to make him feel guilty about it or tell him what he should do to reciprocate.

He gets to do something that he enjoys, the way you enjoy a clean house. Then you're both happy. And your happiness isn't contingent on somebody else's behavior.

It's my privilege to tell him what I want - and that feels good, whether or not he gives it to me.

If he doesn't want to give it to me and he does it anyway, we both lose. If he wants to give it to me, without resenting it and without compromising his truth, we both win.

Jan Denise Soroka is a columnist, author and speaker based in Florida. She invites comments and questions through e-mail at; or visit her Web site at

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