January 26, 2016

Expectations in Love—When what we Want to Eat isn’t on the Menu.

girl reading menu sunglasses restaurant dining

We live in a world filled with culinary choices.

If you had a craving for Chinese food, would you go to a Mexican restaurant expecting egg rolls instead of enchiladas?

Of course not. That would be silly, and yet it is what we often do in our relationships.

We may have an expectation that because we want certain behaviors and words from those in our lives, they would deliver as if we called for it—a knock on our door would occur in 30 minutes and containers of delicious treats would await us.

I have heard it said that expectations are pre-meditated resentments.

How then, do we satisfy desires with people in our lives, whether they are romantic partners, friends or family members, especially if there is sometimes an unspoken agreement that interactions are to look and feel certain ways? We can ask for what we want, knowing that they may or may not respond as we would like them to.

One of the workshops I teach is called Cuddle Party and much of this three-hour experience that involves nurturing non-sexual touch among p.j. clad adults is about communication, consent and saying yes to what we want and no to what we don’t want. Although I have been offering this experience since 2006, negotiating for wants and needs in relationship is still one of my greatest stretches. Who doesn’t want someone to say yes when they ask those people to change what they perceive as a pattern in the relationship and then follow through on what was expressed?

Back to the restaurant metaphor…imagine that you do walk through the door, sit at a table and peruse the menu. It has items that you find appealing and others that you wouldn’t enjoy and want to pass by. You place the order with the server and within a short time, he or she brings a plate that contains what you didn’t order and only a bit of what you said you wanted.

You have a choice. You can pick around the unappetizing components of what is on the plate as you find as much of what you like as possible and deal with it, since you reason that some of what you want is better than nothing. You can remind the server that you asked for something else and request a new plate that only has on it what you want with the reasonable expectation that your wishes would be met. You can leave the restaurant, never to return and let your friends know that these folks can’t get it right.

Which one would you be most likely to do?

The co-dependent I was (who is now in recovery) would have just accepted what was offered, not wanting to make the server or cook feel badly about it. The woman who is now writing these words, would ask for a do-over and a new plate with only the items I ordered with the anticipation that it would indeed happen.

In life, it doesn’t always play out that way, since people, their habits and patterns are not so flexible and what we want may not be on the menu.

Do we train ourselves not to want what we can’t have at that restaurant? It is then that we get to decide if we want to frequent that establishment.

Another concept that comes to mind is the way in which we might run our restaurant that could differ from how someone else might conduct their business. What could feel welcoming for one diner, may be a complete turn-off for another. We have our own vision of how the eatery should look and feel when customers walk through the door. How do we keep from holding the people in our lives to our standards when they have their own?

In conversation with a long time friend recently, we were discussing what he refers to as the “TV dinner tray” division of friendship with each person in our lives representing different compartments. There are some with whom we engage in social activities such as parties, some are work-out buddies, others are movie going friends, while still others are the ones we know we can call at all hours for support and solace.

Rare is the person who is all of these in one package.

I asked him what item I was on the tray and his answer was “exotic fruit salad,” since I introduce him to ideas that he may not have considered before. It took a few days before I could come up with a response as to what food represented my interactions with him. One is a few pieces of veggie sushi and other is dark chocolate. Both are delicious nibbles, but small samplings and not generally an entire meal. No matter how much I might want more, that is what is on the menu at his café. As long as I remember that, I can choose whether to go there.

Another bit of word wisdom that helps at times when I question my connective culinary choices, is the idea that we don’t eat the menu and that the proof is in the pudding.


Author: Edie Weinstein

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Chris Clogg/Flickr

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