How can I expect nothing and appreciate everything?
June 8, 2012 12:30 PM   Subscribe

How do I learn to live by the maxim "Expect nothing, appreciate everything?"

I tend to get disappointed when my boyfriend cancels or changes plans on me. He's not being unreasonable, a lot of times I just set my expectations incorrectly and then am upset when he isn't able to meet them. This happens semi-often - once every month or two. He doesn't like to plan things and waits until the last minute, which sometimes impacts me and my plans, because I base my expectations on casual conversations we've had. That is when I feel disappointed.

For example, we are going on a trip soon. This trip is attached to an important two-day meeting he has, which happens after the trip. I'm staying at a different place in the city where we are vacationing for an extra day while he stays with people from work for two days after our vacation. I was fine with this until he told me that he has to leave the night before the meeting instead of the morning that the meeting starts. I felt sad and expressed my disappointment that he was cutting our trip slightly shorter than I had originally planned. However, I immediately told him that I understand the meeting is really important - because it is - and that I support him going. Unfortunately, my expression of initial disappointment was very upsetting to him. It was a bit prolonged - about two or three back-and-forths where I said "but I really want you to stay with me that night" - I didn't just accept it immediately.

This is just one example. Stuff like this has happened before, and it will almost certainly happen again.

I'd like to get to a place where him canceling or changing things doesn't disappoint me; a place where I really am grateful for what I get. How can I do this? How can I learn to stop expecting things and appreciating what I have? He's a great guy; he just doesn't like planning and is kind of bad at it, and I don't fault him for that. I just want to be less disappointed when this happens, because it will happen again and I want to handle it better when it does.
posted by sockermom to Human Relations (16 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: How do I learn to live by the maxim "Expect nothing, appreciate everything?

This is NOT something you do in a relationship.

Unfortunately, my expression of initial disappointment was very upsetting to him. It was a bit prolonged - about two or three back-and-forths where I said "but I really want you to stay with me that night" - I didn't just accept it immediately.

He was upset because you're... not a doormat? I mean, why would you accept that immediately?

Seriously, this guy sounds like a Flakey McFlakeyPants who just isn't giving you, your feelings or your needs equal airtime in the relationship.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:37 PM on June 8, 2012 [23 favorites]

Keep a calendar and make sure you write down stuff that you are counting on happening and make sure that he knows you are writing it down.

As far as him changing plans last minute, there's nothing wrong with being upset about it and trying to negotiate, imo. That's just the kind of arguments you sometimes have in relationships. You don't need to accept it right away, but you do need to be able to let it go, which it seems like you did.

To be honest, I think 'expect nothing, appreciate everything' is a good maxim to live by when you're dealing with the ups and downs of day-to-day-life, but it's a terrible maxim to apply to a relationship. He's your boyfriend, not a lotto ticket. You should be able to depend on him.
posted by empath at 12:40 PM on June 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think the flag here is that you are finding fault with yourself to the degree that you somehow need to change your entire mindset to how you approach your relationship with your boyfriend.

We obviously don't have the whole story as to how the disagreement went down, so it's hard to say who's at fault here. But when things like this happen, both people should be cognizant of what impacts they're having on the other. Your boyfriend should realize that changing plans last minute can be frustrating and disappointing. You should realize that sometimes things come up that are out of his control or that plans can change. Sometimes those things will clash with each other and you'll have an argument about it. But you shouldn't feel bad about being disappointed, and if he's successfully making you guilty for having feelings, then that's not a good sign for him or you.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I'd like to get to a place where him canceling or changing things doesn't disappoint me; a place where I really am grateful for what I get.

This jumped out at me. You're basically saying here you want to learn to be happy with whatever bread crusts are convenient for him to toss your way. I don't think this is possible, and what's more I think it's not fair to you and your needs - this statement completely removes what YOU want from the equation.

It is totally OK to want to be able to depend on plans being carried out once you've made them. The business meeting is understandable (though I would have also been really bummed and expressed that, in your shoes.)

If this is happening multiple times every month? That's not fair to you. This is more than being a bad planner. He needs to start taking your wants and feelings into consideration. If he's not willing to do that, I don't think there's anything you can do to reframe it for yourself to make the disappointment easier - because the problem doesn't have anything to do with you in the first place.
posted by superfluousm at 12:50 PM on June 8, 2012 [9 favorites]

I think you just need, if you want a change, to change your reaction to the disappointment.

I'm very, very laid back and very, very "Expect nothing, appreciate everything" when it comes to my relationships. But the one thing I HATE is when plans are made and when plans change. It's my one big thing.

That doesn't mean that my partner doesn't ever change those plans. But he knows that what he's doing is something I really don't like. That doesn't mean he never does it, but it means he weighs his options appropriately. So if he doesn't feel well and we cancel plans, then I know he REALLY doesn't feel well.

What jumped out at me the most from your post was:

Unfortunately, my expression of initial disappointment was very upsetting to him

Well, as my mom would say, tough toenails to him. That doesn't mean you get to hold your disappointment against him or let it ruin your vacation. But he's changed plans and it's a change you don't like. You get to be disappointed. As long as you express your disappointment in a reasonable matter, you can be disappointed; likewise, he can be upset that you're disappointed, even enough to try to assuage that disappointment, but he doesn't get to do so in a way that forces you to change your mind.

Disappointments happen in life. It's okay. You just manage them. And a relationship should be, in some part, about making choices where you weigh the ways you will disappoint your significant other versus the actions you take, not about ways to get that other person to modify their behavior so they're never upset.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:02 PM on June 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

"Expect nothing, appreciate everything"

This could be a great way to think about the vicissitudes of fate or fortune, to the over-arching trends of one's life. When it comes to relationships, things are not so simple.

You should appreciate being appreciated; that is, you should know how to recognize when someone values you and your feelings and desires and values and limitations, and you will be unhappy if you're in a position where you feel like you just have to deal with not being appreciated. You should expect to be treated with at least as much love, consideration, understanding, and support as you extend to your partner.

Different people express themselves differently, and that always has to be taken into account in relationships. But I think that's the least that you are entitled to expect and would be wise to appreciate, relationship-wise.
posted by clockzero at 1:06 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Err, sorry, is this a new boyfriend? Because less than three months ago you still had a modestly crazy husband. It actually makes a difference if this is a rebound, a poly relationship, an affair, your husband, or whatever. The expectations will be subtly or markedly different.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:11 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, DarlingBri. It's the same man; we're married, but we're not public about our marriage yet for a variety of reasons and factors, both his and mine, that aren't related to this question. I'm used to calling him my boyfriend because of this. Sorry.
posted by sockermom at 1:18 PM on June 8, 2012

To piggy-back on what empath is suggesting...get in the habit of writing events/commitments in the calendar. these are commitments that you both are agreeing to.

If your SO changes HIS plans last minute, you can decide whether YOU want to change your plans accordingly.
"sorry that you have to return early, SO--Since I have the room for another night, I'm going to stay and do this fun thing--I'll miss you!"
posted by calgirl at 1:30 PM on June 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

In this question, you are using (I don't know whether consciously or coincidentally) language that evokes the popular self-help idea of "acceptance", but you may be making the common mistake of confusing it with "resignation". Tara Brach's book Radical Acceptance is very good on this distinction – that the point of learning "acceptance" is to see things for what they are, not to start from the conclusion that you've somehow got to find a way to manipulate yourself into being OK with how they are. You haven't.
posted by oliverburkeman at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I totally hate people who flake and bail at the last minute. They should not get scot-free off the hook every effing time they pull that shit. Oh, poor baby, he has to deal with you being sad? Well, he SHOULD.

Anyway, to answering the question:

* Always, always, always assume that your plans are going to be canceled. Mentally decide what you are going to do with your time WHEN he bails. Always have a contingency thing going in your head for when he bails. Then if he doesn't bail, it's a pleasant surprise.
* If he says something casually, do not assume you have official plans and act accordingly. You probably don't have official plans until money has actually been paid for something anyway. If he said "we'll go to the movies Friday night," do NOT assume you're going to the movies with him Friday night and keep your plans free just for him. If someone asks you to do something Friday night and they're less tentative about it, say yes. If he can't do anything until the last minute, then he'll deal with it/maybe learn to ask quicker.
* I know this is hard to do with a husband, but seriously, don't just leave your time free constantly waiting for him to come around and then being disappointed when he flakes. Occupy yourself, and if he's around, it's a nice bonus.
* If money has officially been paid already for something and then he bails, free free to yell at him, because that is especially bad on commitment-breaking.

I'll admit that this kind of advice isn't great for a relationship (especially a married one!), but then again, being a flaky pants isn't great for a relationship either. It's not wrong for you to want to make plans and spend time with him, just because he doesn't like to stick to plans or commit until the last second. He really should be growing up on that one.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:37 PM on June 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Best answer: So from this question and your previous question you:

Are actually married to your boyfriend, but are keeping this secret for various reasons.
Feel that he was verbally abusive to you early on in your relationship -- saying you were too fat to be attracted to, that you were holding him back etc.
He denies that he was ever abusive to you and can't remember any of this.
He flakes on you at the last minute and gets upset with you when you complain.

Honestly, I don't think you should learn to "expect nothing and appreciate everything." You have every right to have your needs met in a relationship and should have high standards for your husband's behavior. I'm seeing a lot of bad signs here.
posted by peacheater at 1:52 PM on June 8, 2012 [18 favorites]

Leaving aside whether "expect nothing and appreciate everything" should indeed be your goal for your marriage-- I have found that a helpful way to cultivate this attitude is to read, reread, and memorize Alice Walker's poem, Expect Nothing.
posted by willbaude at 2:31 PM on June 8, 2012

This is not a good maxim for relationships - in relationships you need standards and accountability.
posted by mleigh at 3:53 PM on June 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

I don't think "expect nothing; appreciate everything" is a healthy place to be in a true partnership, so I don't think you should strive for that. If he's not meeting your needs--and your needs are not unreasonable, IMHO--then he's the one who needs to change. You need to enforce it, though.
posted by elizeh at 7:51 PM on June 8, 2012

Buddhism has as an implicit goal "learning how to expect less, and appreciate more". However, you may find once you get there that your desires in the relationship weren't that unreasonable after all, and you deserve someone who will meet them better. I'm not saying the ubiquitous "DTMFA"; just that he doesn't sound like a genuine peach, and you don't sound that overly needy (in this short explanation I've read).
posted by IAmBroom at 7:03 AM on June 9, 2012 [3 favorites]

« Older Noise mitigation in an apartment with only partial...   |   My mind is blank all the time? How do I fix this?? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.