Login | Contact

When High Expectations Leads to Disappointments

signs-416441_1280Expectations can often precipitate disappointment; especially if they do not align with another’s plan. People usually come into most situations with expectations as to how things will turn out, or what a person will be like, etc. While I do not completely believe it is a viable option to enter a situation with no expectations at all – I do believe it is important to learn how to manage those perceptions to sidestep a potential conflict.

Recently, I experienced a conflict in expectations with my Mom. In January, my cousin will be getting married in Charleston, South Carolina. Being as we are from Maryland, it requires us to book flights to travel down or otherwise drive. My parents will be flying out of BWI which has direct flights to the Charleston airport. My husband and I have an event going on the day before the wedding and will have to fly out of Washington D.C.’s Reagan airport. Reagan has no direct flights to Charleston’s airport, so we will have a layover which will prolong our arrival, and we will miss the rehearsal dinner the night before the wedding which we were planning to attend.

When I informed my mom of this slight change in plans, she became upset and expressed her extreme disappointment as she was looking forward to a long weekend of visiting with us. Now, we would only be able to see them during the day before the wedding and at the celebration itself as our departing flight was leaving very early on Sunday. I was frustrated by her response initially because I felt it was unjust to be upset with me over flight times that I couldn’t control. However, upon further reflection, it occurred to me that my mother’s disappointment was an effect of the expectations she had for that weekend. I am very much like my mom – in the past, I set these expectations up in my mind, and when plans or people fall short I to quote my mom became, “extremely disappointed.”

However, I began to work on handling those situations better so I could better control my emotional responses. Here are some tips and strategies I have used:

Ask yourself, what am I expecting to occur? Just knowing what you are hoping to get out a situation provides more clarity. I like to ask myself this question so I can determine where I might need to be more proactive in making plans.

What do I mean by being more pro-active? I planned my husband’s birthday celebration a couple of weeks ago. Before the event, I determined what I was expecting to occur. I expected us to arrive promptly to the place we were going – which required everyone to get to our house, eat, and leave on time. Therefore, I determined the time of arrival and leaving time and communicated it to all the people attending to ensure we met timing expectations.

Communicate so everyone is on the same page. If you communicate what your expectations are then, everyone will know, and there won’t be any surprises. Back to my mom and I’s situation- I told her we had every intention of going to the rehearsal it just depended on our flights but I didn’t see any issue. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoken in terms that she could misconstrue as absolutes? Or I should have researched flight times a little more before giving a response, and this could have avoided her setting expectations.

Acknowledge that you will not be able to control everything and everyone. I struggle with this one regularly, because I like being in full control; however, that is unrealistic. I like to say to myself before any event, “what will be will be.” Just saying it to myself helps me to set a realistic tone for the evening and pushes me to enjoy things as they are and not expect any more from the situation.

Expectations are tricky, but learning to manage them as well as other can assist you avoiding conflict and being disappointed.

Abigail R.C. McManus

Apprentice

Leave a Reply


Family Holidays: Celebration Or Mayhem? How To Cope With Illness, Aging, And Unresolved Issues

joseph-nowinski“It was the best of times, the worst of times…it was the season of light…it was the season of darkness…” quoted from Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities. The holidays often remind us of our best memories and our worst family reunion nightmares. The holiday season alone puts a lot of stress due to high expectations of meeting long-held family traditions and conjures up past resentments and unresolved conflict with family members. So when you add into the holiday mix, an aging parent with care giving needs or a seriously or even terminally ill spouse, sibling or parent, then the stressors intensify.

How do you get ahead of the curve now? How do you plan and prepare to reduce the stress, release the anxiety, and manage expectations? Call in live to speak with Dr. Joe Nowinski, blogger for Psychology Today and past contributor to the Huffington Post to discuss your concerns and learn practical strategies to step it up, without giving yourself all away.

Play

Read, Listen, Share »

Leave a Reply


The Battle with the In-Laws: When the Holidays Aren’t So Jolly

 

Argument 2

Photo Credit

The holidays, whether they are birthday celebrations, the 4th of July or religious events, are a tough time for many people in biologically related families, let alone adding in-laws and extended family members into the mix. For most of our holidays, my husband and I spend time with our families separately, and then, my husband comes back home to spend time with myself and my dad and brother. Why? The reason I do not go over to my in-laws’ home is due to ongoing conflicts between myself and his parents.  This dynamic is not ideal. As newlyweds, this is not the way it is supposed to be. My assumption after we got married is my husband, and I would spend time together creating happy memories, enjoying special traditions, and spending time with those we love and who love us. However, my husband is very close to his family and in the past, he has wanted to spend most or all of his holiday time with them. Our time apart caused many issues in our new marriage.  Recently, he has chosen to balance his time during holiday gatherings as he realized that this was hurting our relationship.

Another issue that places a hardship on our situation is the time it takes to travel to the in-laws home and the cost of traveling there. Although I have spent much time there while my husband and I were dating, I feel we have established our home and feel it is unfair to continue to be expected to make all the sacrifices…expenses, travel time, missed time with my family, and to top it off, to experience the stress of the ongoing conflict. It is to the point where I cannot just hold my tongue and pretend this is not a problem in our relationship. I cannot continue to avoid conflict or communicating my needs or how this makes me feel quite sad. When I avoid communicating my concerns and needs, it has only led to poor relationships and misunderstandings.

So, what do you do when you find yourself in this situation especially when you are not off on the right foot with your in-laws after marriage? Do you just suck it up and continue to pretend it doesn’t bother you? NO! For me, this only built anger, resentment, hurt feelings and escalating conflict distancing myself further from my in-laws and damaging my relationship with my husband. In thinking through and weighing various options, you have to be cognizant of everyone’s needs. What are they? Knowing this will greatly assist in how you can negotiate what might work moving forward. For example, I know my in-laws have eight children to consider. They would consider it a burden to leave their home just to visit us when they have other children to consider. My husband’s need is to be with his family and continue to honor the family’s special holiday traditions. And of course, if/when we do decide to have children, we will have much more than just their needs to consider for our situation. But it varies situationally, and so thus, there are many considerations regarding needs and concerns of the entire family.

Once you have identified the major needs of all involved, then consider these additional recommendations to reduce or manage conflict at holiday or special events between your spouse and in-laws.

  • Discuss expectations with your new spouse (before marriage if you can). Holiday family traditions and how to spend time with the two separate families is often a concern for many newlyweds. Will you be okay with how your spouse chooses to spend his/her time? If not, then you need to communicate an honest view of your expectations. 
  • Make a plan with your spouse to have a challenging conversation with the in-laws. You and your spouse need to decide if both of you or your spouse alone will communicate the concerns and your needs for a respectful engagement. This conversation needs to be done well before the holidays or special event.
  • Create a backup plan with clear boundaries. You can do all of the planning ahead of time, but what if this doesn’t work? You can’t change anyone. They very well might continue to criticize, pass judgment, and make hurtful or embarrassing remarks. You have to decide what are the boundaries, and how will you respond when they do. For me, I might say “I can no longer be a part of this conversation.” and then, walk away. Later, convey in a respectful manner that the remarks hurt you. For example, “I had to walk away because I felt hurt and embarrassed.
  • Ask your spouse what role he/she will maintain during conflicts with his/her family towards you. Will they be a mediator, an avoider, a fighter, or a peace-keeper? This role is important to determine as you do not want to pursue an uphill battle alone. You also want to know how you should approach the conflict since this is not your family of origin, and you may be unfamiliar with their communication style.

Try to enjoy the holidays as best as you can while showing your in-laws that both sets of feelings do matter. For tips on how to manage conflict like this without avoiding it all together, listen to the Texas Conflict Coach® ‘s radio program episode Repairing the Damage of Conflict Avoidance with Pattie Porter and Stephen Kotev!

 

Have a Great Day!

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore

Leave a Reply


Wedding Woes: The Results of No Communication With In-Laws

relationship problems no attribution required cc0 public domainI always wanted a perfect wedding. I endured a lot as a young person. My parents’ marriage ended in separation after three years and divorce after only six years. Even though I saw two people who could not get along and stay married, they still cared for one another and even spent time with each other. They never married again for the sake of my brother and myself. This really impacted my life, seeing two people work together despite their inability to completely reconcile the relationship. Therefore, I have always held the idea of marriage with great respect. Coming from a faith-based background, I was also influenced to believe marriage was a sacred and holy commitment. My own wedding occurred a little over a year ago. I really wanted it to be a certain way. However, I can say that while it was quite a beautiful wedding, a splendid ceremony, and always a cherished memory, the day was far from free of discord, dissatisfaction and even from sadness.

Let me first start by saying that I was terrified to get married to my husband. I love him so much, and while he is someone I do want to spend the rest of my life with, I was so afraid the night before that I almost called it off. The fear of failure, of a potential divorce, and of not being able to resolve issues with him almost totally swept me away. The idea of commitment was so scary that I almost backed out of this after nearly three years of being with him.  We also have had our differences for a long time but I decided to take a chance. These fears influenced my behavior during our wedding ceremony. Individuals can see that I was not myself when they look at my facial expressions in the ceremonial pictures. So, my fear was a source of conflict that contributed to my wedding woes.

My second source of conflict came from my parent’s concerns.  My mother was one of the best friends that I ever had. After her death, I missed her being at my wedding. She did not exactly approve of our relationship at the very end of her life. There was this force that was tearing at me internally saying: “Is this the right choice?”, “Are you sure about this guy?”, “Are you making a mistake?” that echoed all throughout my engagement, and again up until the wedding. My dad who is still alive also questioned this relationship. So, the parental influence was a strong source of conflict over this decision and contributed to the wedding woes for me.

In terms of my in-laws, they consist primarily of my husband’s parents and his eight siblings. I have never had a positive relationship with his parents. They and I simply do not see eye to eye. I did not want them to contribute financially to the wedding, as I knew there would be strings attached. Even though they did not contribute to our wedding, they still took advantage of us as they invited many people that I did not even know, and they did so through my husband’s generous nature, as they had him invite all of them for them. Regardless, there were a number of differing expectations each of us had of the other based on family tradition, religious values and lifestyle attitudes. Previous disagreements and values clashes limited my communication with my in-laws and prevented me from expressing my true expectations. This lack of communication only caused more tension, the need to control aspects of the wedding event, and my increasing anger that my needs were not met. The fear of judgment and angst caused me to emotionally and physically distance myself from them during the reception. I spent my energy focused on what they would say or do against our wishes, that the day was filled with stress and sadness instead of the joy you wish for any bride and groom on their special day. Upon reflection, my advice to engaged couples whether in private conversation or during marriage prep is to discuss expectations, and there are many. First, you need to determine your expectations of the groom, bridal party, parents, siblings, in-laws, vendors, etc. and discuss them with your fiancé. While I communicated this with my husband, and while the women, priest, organist, and photographer all assisted me with much love and concern for what I wanted, it still was not REALLY what I wanted. My husband really had NO expectations, meaning that he would be happy regardless. I had many needs, but I held low expectations of this whole situation, actually, due to the way that life has gone. My problem was that I did not exactly communicate what I wanted out of this experience and just expected others to know  what I wanted without me telling them. I would pose the following questions to you in order to illustrate what I learned, and what I believe would be helpful for your situation:

  1. Ask yourself, what do you want to clearly communicate to your in-laws? Clearly communicate what your expectations are to your in-laws as soon as you become engaged. Share with them the type of wedding you desire, limits to how many people can attend the wedding versus the reception , and exactly how you want it to look and feel like.
  • Ask them, what are your expectations about your role during the wedding event? Communicate to your in-laws that this is a very special day for you and your soon-to-be husband. They are welcome to be a part of it. Make sure to discuss what you don’t want to happen. 
  • Ask yourself, what are your boundaries or limitations of unacceptable behaviors from your in-laws, parents or family members? Identify what would really cross the line for you and ensure that you are respectful but firm in your communications. Always show kindness in the midst of anger and discord. 
  • Ask them, what would mutual respect look like at the wedding? For many parents, it is hard for them to let go of their children and therefore a challenge to treat their children as adults. Communicating with your parents or in-laws about what respect looks and sounds like is critical if you don’t want to feel like a child again at your own wedding. They very well might have had different experiences from their own wedding which they might impose upon you.

Here are two additional tips for when things go wrong at the wedding:

  • If mom and dad are rude at the wedding and/or reception, simply pretend like they did not make the remark and walk away until you are able to communicate to them in private. Do not cause a serious scene which only lends to embarrassing yourself, your parents or in-laws and others.
  • If your parents or in-laws invite too many or unknown people to the ceremony and reception, and you are concerned about additional costs or food shortages simply tell the officiant to check in the approved invited guests and politely inform uninvited guests  they are welcomed to stay for the ceremony but unfortunately, will not be able to attend the reception.  This allows those folks to still be a part of the day but preserves time and money at YOUR reception.

All in all, remember not to let the hurtful behaviors and remarks of others determine your mood, reactions and ultimately your happiness for this special day. You will regret it for the rest of your life otherwise. For some tips on managing expectations, listen to last week’s podcast from the Texas Conflict Coach® on avoiding wedding conflict: Common Conflicts and Peace Practices for Engaged or Newlywed Couples  featuring Michelle and Dan Joy!

Have a Great Week,

Ann Margaret Zelenka

Graduate Student Intern

University of Baltimore, Negotiation and Conflict Management M.S. Program

 

Leave a Reply


Managing Impatience – Recognize What Triggers It

traffic-jam-688566_1920-1I am a very impatient person. I think I’ve stated this in more blog posts than any other negative trait of mine because I have found it has caused many conflicts in my life. I observe on a daily basis that I am not the only person who struggles with patience. I hear people honking car horns when traffic is at a standstill or sighing heavily when the line at Starbucks isn’t moving quick enough. I have watched people hit an already lit elevator door button several times in hopes that the extra pushes will get the elevator there that much sooner. I have seen and heard these acts of impatience, and I will admit I have done these things myself a time or two.

I have over the last five months become more patience in certain situations and owed it all to my husband, and I’s puppy, Alvin. But, I wanted to learn more about impatience, and I found an excellent article recently on Psychology Today by Dr. Jim Stone that outlines, The 7 laws of Impatience. I won’t go into all seven laws, but I want to focus on the first two that resonated something for me.

  1. In the first law, Dr. Stone describes impatience as ” a very particular mental and physical process that gets triggered under specific circumstances, and which motivates specific kinds of decisive action”. He is stating that impatience can arise in anyone; some people are patience in some situations while others are triggered and react impatiently.

I found this to be an important realization because at first my husband had much more patience than I did with Alvin. I felt guilty every time I got agitated with Alvin and my husband didn’t. I even found myself questioning my dog parent/ future parenting abilities. However, according to this article my husband and I have different triggers that sent off our impatience, and that is entirely normal. Recognizing what your triggers are is important when learning to manage them.

  1. The second law Dr. Stone explains is, “Impatience is triggered when we have a goal and realize it’s going to cost us more than we thought to reach it.” The idea of not reaching our goal when we thought we would is what triggers the impatience.

I never thought that my impatience stemmed from not meeting a goal, I thought of it as a flaw in my personality. Nevertheless, it turns out in every situation there is a goal I am trying to meet, and when I realize it will take longer to achieve it, my impatient behavior is displayed.

An example is I grow more and more agitated every time Alvin jumps up on the kitchen table, and we have to pull him off and tell him “No.” My goal is for Alvin not to jump up on the table and while it would be splendid if he got this concept right away, that’s not realistic. Rather than becoming frustrated by this, I need to reevaluate my expectations and examine what I could do differently to help meet my goal.

When you feel impatient, ask yourself what is your end goal? Are your expectations for managing your goal realistic? Take some deep breaths and ask yourself if getting agitated will assist in solving the problem or will it make the situation worse?

I have already begun doing this in my day-to-day life with Alvin, with my husband, and with people at work, and I found it to be very helpful in managing my impatience.

 

Abigail R. C. McManus M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

 

Leave a Reply


Ducking the Boomerang: Tips and Tactics for Adults and Adult Children to Engage Effectively

Jesan Sorrells-1With even more Millennials and young people between the ages of 18 and 34 returning home to live with older parents, there are all kinds of issues that arise around expectations, assumptions and stages of life.
According to a recent Fortune Magazine article, the share of younger adults living at home has increased from 24% to 26% over the last 5 years, while the number of young adults living independently has decreased by two percentage points from 69% to 67%. (The Pew Research Center Study)

While there has always been a population of younger adults living with their parents, this has become more acute since 2008, leading to the term “boomerang kids.” (Financial Literacy Tips for Boomerang Kids)

There are three actionable tips that both younger adults—and their older adult parents—can do to make this situation less conflict prone:

• Discuss and establish expectations early
• Address issues on an adult-to-adult level, rather than on a child-to-adult level
• Focus on individual situations as they happen, rather than attaching them to a family history, or a shared set of experiences that may no longer be relevant

Play

Read, Listen, Share »

Leave a Reply


What goes Wrong after “I Do”? – Tips on How to Not Become Apart of the 50 Percent

wed-default-icon1According to the American Psychological Association, “40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce.” Twelve weeks from now I will be getting married; therefore this statistic could be discouraging. My mother married once before my dad, and she often says, “No one enters into a marriage thinking they will get a divorce.” I have thought a lot this week about what having a good marriage means and why a couple might resort to divorce, and I compiled a list below.

  • Communication- Majority of the reasons that I will provide for why couples divorce, all come back to communication. I learned in school that when people stop talking that is when the issues arise. People are not mind readers, so if a couple stops talking with one another, there is no way of knowing what their partner is thinking. Lack of communication is a breeding ground for conflict; therefore, I have always stressed open communication with my fiancé. We make a point to catch up on one another’s day, talk issues through, and constantly keep communication channels open.
  • Trust- A lack of trust can destroy a relationship. While I recognize trust also requires a certain level of vulnerability, and if someone has hurt you in the past, this can be especially difficult. A marriage will only be successful if you trust your partner. I took a lot more time to trust than my fiancé because I was hurt in the past, but I found that once I allowed myself to be exposed, our relationship ran much smoother.
  • Rushing- Many couples may get divorced because they rushed into marriage. Women worry about their biological clock, men may feel aging pressure as well. Couples do not take the time to get to know one another and take the position that they will figure it out as they go, which isn’t always the best route to take. Although, I’m sure there are exceptions. I think it is important to understand the person you are committing to and not shy away from the tough topics. When my fiancé and I say, “I do” we will have been dating eight years, we started when we were seventeen and eighteen. We essentially had to grow up together, and we each had to adjust to one another changing, as neither of us are the same people we were as teenagers.
  • Expectations- Humans have expectations for people and their relationships. When a significant other, the relationship, or both, don’t live up to the hopes placed on them, things fall apart rather quickly. My fiancé and I have spent a lot of time discussing this topic. We both feel a way to avoid failing to live up to standards, is to be confident with who we are as individuals, and to check consistently in on one another’s needs and wants.

While there are more than four reasons why people may resort to divorce, these were the ones I thought to be the most important. My fiancé and I are not, like my mother said, entering into matrimony with divorce in mind. We are not even entering into marriage thinking it is an option. He and I have talked extensively on this topic, and we both established that should we start having issues we will continuously communicate and if need be, attend counseling. While it may seem as though we have a negative outlook, I think it is always best to have a game plan for future events that could occur.

 

Abigail Clark, M.S Negotiation and Conflict Management

Apprentice

Leave a Reply


Being open-minded after I do – A discussion and tips on the blending of an intercultural relationship

blogIn six months, I will be getting married and one of the Pastor’s requirements was to meet with him and discuss how we plan to handle certain topics such as money, parenting, and marital expectations. The meeting was fairly easy as my fiancé and I share similar views and values on most of the topics covered. The other day at school, I was speaking to a friend who is also getting married around the same time as me, to a man from a completely different religious background. My friend is Catholic and her fiancé is Hindu. She will be blending two different religions into one household; I couldn’t help but think to myself how challenging that must be for a couple. Religion is one of those dinner party topics you are supposed to avoid because of the conflicts that often arise when they are discussed. However, a couple that is about to get married does not have the luxury of avoiding such topics. I began to research the challenges intercultural marriages face, and the majority of the information I found discussed the ability to learn, understand, accept, and adjust to one another’s cultures.

In an article found on Marriage Missions International, initially written in Steve and Mary Prokopchak’s book, Called Together, they first caution intercultural couples to “Know each other’s culture.” Intercultural couples must have an understanding of one another’s culture, beliefs and values, as these are part of what makes up a person’s identity. A lack of understanding has the potential to raise fierce conflicts later on in marriage.

Herbert G. Lingren, an Extension Family Life Specialist, warns a value conflict may occur if, “two people have different attitudes, beliefs, and expectations. These differences may interfere in making decisions if we are inflexible and hold rigid, dogmatic beliefs about the ‘right way’ to do things.” Communicating, understanding, keeping an open mind, and respecting one another’s beliefs and customs can alleviate a lot of the disagreements an intercultural couple faces.

In an article originally published in the Washington Post, Rebecca R. Kahlenberg, a freelance writer, suggests “Negotiate and renegotiate dicey issues. Ideally, the time to discuss and make agreements about intercultural topics is before the wedding. What are each of your commitment levels to your culture?” Prior to getting married it is imperative that an intercultural couple discusses in detail what cultural expectations each has and how they will address differences as they arise.

Lastly, Steve and Mary Prokopchak encourage “Accepting and appreciating as many of the differences as you can will serve to enhance the marriage relationship. This experience is not to be viewed as all negative. The differences are something to embrace and value in one another.” While the blending of two different cultures may seem challenging at times, the positive outweighs the negative when looking at the big picture. An intercultural couple learns to be more open-minded and tolerant towards other people’s values and beliefs. If the couple then chooses to have kids, their kids will also grow to be more tolerant and open minded, which in today’s society is absolutely needed to make the world a better place.

My aforementioned friend said that despite the challenges she and her fiancé have and will face, she has come to love and appreciate Hindu customs. She said she looks most forward to kids and sharing with them all of the wonderful elements that both religions have to offer.

 

Abigail Clark

Graduate Student, University of Baltimore –

Negotiation and Conflict Management Program

Leave a Reply


Multi-Generational Family Business – A Guide to Successful Succession

Mary WhitesideRick Segal

Family businesses are unique and complex differing in many ways from non-family businesses. For those family businesses preparing for the next generation to transition and succeed, they need to expect all kinds of issues to arise that can cause conflict. Family members have questions and expectations: who is moving out? Moving in? Moving aside? The new generation has ideas and strategies which could very well be different from how Grandpa used to do it.  Succession planning is key to this transition process. Change does not happen over night.  Support from family business experts can frequently facilitate the way to a productive succession.

Play

Read, Listen, Share »

Leave a Reply




  • Podcast Library

  • Subscribe by Email

    Join our mailing list to receive our newsletter and blogs!

  • Recent Posts