Having a manual for others is one of the most damaging things we can do to ourselves and to our relationships.
I know, I am speaking from experience here.
The manual is a book of expectations that we have for others. It’s our manual, but it’s for them. They don’t even know we have it We feel like they should just know.
In fact, if we have to actually tell them, we make that mean something. I mean after all, I they loved us, they “should” know.
The manual describes how we would like this person to behave so that we can feel good, feel better and be happy. It seems harmless, and we feel justified to have these expectations of other people. I mean, don’t we have a right to expect things from our spouse, our friends, our boss or our co-workers.
Here’s the problem…
Any time our happiness is tied to someone else’s behavior, or our expectation of what they should do, or how they should act, we are sure to be disappointed.
In fact, I think having a manual for someone is “premeditated resentment.”
We are making someone else responsible for our emotions. We are abdicating our responsibility for our emotions to someone else, we are entering emotional childhood.
“Other people’s behavior has no impact on us until we think about it, interpret it and choose to make it mean something.”-Brooke Castillo, The Life Coach School.
It might sound like this:
- He should act more cheerful when I call
- He should call me more
- He should offer to help
- He should help me when he sees that I am stressed
- He should walk the dogs once in a while, pick up the kids
- He should be more understanding when I am feeling overwhelmed
- He should hold my hand more often
- He should plan more dates
- He should offer to help me
- He should know how much my life has changed since moving here
- He should be more considerate
- He should…
These are all thoughts that sound so innocent, like expectations. But ruminating on the “should” creates a simmer of annoyance, followed by frustration and builds to anger and then…resentment.
That’s where I found myself when I learned about the manual I had for my hubby. I was not only wallowing in it, I was smearing it everywhere I could. I was dragging it with me to every conversation every time I was asked how things were going. I was walking the dogs in resentment, I was cleaning stalls in resentment. I was describing my life in resentment.
Every single time he failed, according to my manual, I could feel more and more resentment building. Spontaneous combustion was right around the corner.
We think that if someone knows us and loves us that they should just know and if they know, they should just do. When they don’t, we pout, we sulk, we show up snarky, we close down, we start looking for evidence that we are right and they are wrong. We roll around in self-doubt and self-pity, disappointment and resentment. We go down a road that is a path to relationship destructions. We may even start thinking that we have married the wrong partner, or attracted the wrong friend or made a poor career choice.
We don’t even realize that we are the ones showing up creepy and needy when we do this crap.
So, what to do?
Throw away the manual. Stop thinking that anyone “should” do anything. Understand that everyone gets to show up just as they are and you get to do you. It’s a beautiful thing when you allow people to be in your life exactly how they are and you choose to love them just as they are. It’s so grown up to be responsible for your own emotions, it’s emotional adulthood.
I stopped the pity party and started seeing that even if he would have done all of those things, it’s quite possible it still would not make me happy. That’s my job, my responsibility.
When you are in a space that you just aren’t happy, you really think that someone, or something can bring it up for you. They can’t, nothing can.
When we have a manual for someone, it’s just a matter of time before they let us down, don’t do what they should or say what they should, act how they should. It’s just a matter of time before you start resenting.
Click here to watch Transformation Tuesday Facebook Live replay where I talk about expectation hangover and the manual and how it is “premeditated resentment.” (Starts at 18:46)
When you find yourself going down the road of executing a manual, here is help. This worksheet will help you define the manual you have for someone so you can throw it out.
Welcome to “Emotional Adulthood.”
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