When we purchase a new appliance or electronic gadget, chances are it will come with an instruction manual. These manuals tell us what we can expect from the product, how to use it, and trouble-shooting tips. Although we may throw these instruction manuals away after the first day we own the new product, there are Manuals that we have in our brains that tend to last a lot longer.
These Manuals are the expectations we have for people we have relationships with. They are our expectations. We usually don’t even share our manuals with the people we have them for. Each item in the manual usually contains the word, “should,” such as, “A good husband should always bring me flowers when he can see I’m having a rough day.” Maybe one of our Manual items for our young adult children is, “He should respect my wishes and come home at a decent hour,” or “He should find a better job.” Whatever we have in our manuals, the best thing we can do is throw them away.
Why throw out the Manuals we have for others? Because they aren’t serving us. They aren’t creating anything positive in our lives. They certainly aren’t helping our relationships. When we try to manipulate and control other people by having expectations of them, it only makes us miserable when they don’t meet our expectations. The thing is, people aren’t really very good at following our Manuals for them. Mostly, they’re just good at being themselves; who they really are. The best thing we can do is accept people for who they are and choose to love them as they are. Think about how you feel when someone expects you to behave a certain way so they can be happy. Unless you’re a devoted people-pleaser (a topic for another post), you probably feel manipulated and misunderstood.
Of course, parents should have expectations of their minor children, and consequences given for not following the rules. Another exception is a boss/employee relationship. Beyond those two exceptions, we really will be healthier and happier if we just toss those Manuals in the trash and love people they way they show up. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that it’s okay for people to abuse you, and I’m not saying you can’t ask people to change. Go ahead and make the request, but realize that if you expect people to change in order for you to love them, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You could be loving them already. Other people aren’t in charge of our feelings. We are.
To learn more about Manuals and other ways to improve our relationships with our adult children and others, I would love to share with you a 6-week program I’ve developed for that very purpose. Sign up now for a free 45-minute mini-session and let’s talk about whether or not life coaching is the help you’ve been looking for.