5 Ways to Manage Expectations After Divorce

Expectations are part of our everyday reality; It’s hard to live a life without them. We have a vision in our mind of how we think things “should” be, how we “should” feel, and how we want others to show up in our lives, and when things don’t go according to this vision, well that’s when we experience an expectation hangover.

What is an expectation hangover? Life coach Christine Hassler says an expectation hangover “is when things don’t turn out as planned. Or, when things do turn out like you planned, but you don’t feel like you thought you would…or life just throws you an unexpected curveball.”

Divorced parents are thrown many curveballs, aren’t they? We have expectations and dreams of how we want to raise our children and how we want to spend time with them. We have expectations that our ex-partner is going to respect us and value us as our child’s mother. We expect that co-parenting should be smooth without any conflict. We expect that everyone is going to “do the right thing.”

Let’s get honest with ourselves for a minute. How often have you had any of these expectations, only to find yourself frustrated because things didn’t turn out according to your plan? I will be the first to admit that I sure have!

I can give you countless scenarios in a divorce where we may experience expectation hangovers, not to say that your disappointment isn’t valid.

Let me give you a few common scenarios you may have experienced from just this past Mother’s Day:

Did your ex have the children for his weekend this past Mother’s Day, and you wondered whether he would bring the kids home?

Have you expected that your kids would make you feel a certain way when they came home (happy, joyful, appreciated), only to find it all felt a little flat?

Did you have specific plans for the day, but something derailed it, allowing the day to go south real quick?

These are just a few possible Mother’s Day expectations let downs, what about the rest of the year?

I remember a time after my divorce when I would pick up the kids on Monday from school after their dad had them for the weekend. I expected that they would be super excited to see me after so many days when they got in the car to go home. Nope! It was never quite how I imagined it to be. Instead, there was the typical transitional period where they were adjusting being back home with mom, and things were a little awkward at first.

At the time, I didn’t understand that this was normal; that kids need a minute to adjust. I took it personally and started creating a story in my head that something must be wrong, “Did something happen at your dad’s house?” Once again, I had expectations that we would reunite in perfect bliss, only to find myself drowning in a sea of expectations.

Because I had so many expectation hangovers, I realized that my children could never fill the gaping hole that divorce left me. Frankly, it wasn’t their job. They had their own emotions they had to work through. It was up to me to stop the expectation insanity.

  1. The first thing I had to do was to become aware of my expectations. It started to become clear that most of my hangovers were because I was so rigid that there wasn’t much room for flexibility. I wanted things to look and feel a certain way, and when they didn’t, I wanted everyone to be aware that mom wasn’t pleased. I had to allow room to breathe, and when I did, most often than not, things always seemed to work themselves out on their own.
  2. Don’t concoct stories in your head that only make matters worse.  This is what I did when I picked the kids up from school on Monday mornings. I created stories in my head that something must have happened over the weekend at dad’s house when, in reality, they just needed a minute to adjust. Us mama’s love to create stories when expectations have gone unmet. Why not spin the story in your favor and make it an empowering one, even if it isn’t entirely the truth.
  3. Never assume anyone knows what’s going on in that head of yours.  We expect everyone to be mind readers, and when they don’t live up to our vision, we feel disappointed. Communication is key! Learn how to communicate your needs instead of expecting everyone to know automatically.
  4. Next, I had to stop taking things so personally. I get it! It’s hard not to take everything personal in divorce. It’s as if you are looking for evidence to prove your point— If your kids don’t roll out the red carpet, they don’t appreciate you, if your ex brings the kids late, he’s spiteful. If your friends don’t want to hear your complaints, they aren’t supportive. Maybe, just maybe it isn’t about us.
  5. Pick your mood in advance. If your thoughts create your mood, how about deciding how you want to feel, and what thoughts should you  think to feel that way? If you want to feel more joy, what do you  need  to focus on? Ultimately, you are in control of how you respond to situations.

Learning to navigate through expectations with these tools will help empower you instead of cause you to react to unexpected situations. Unexpected situations are inevitable, but you don’t have to let them own you.

Click HERE for an exclusive interview with my attorney who guided me through my divorce. It will go over tips that I wish I had known about while going through a divorce.


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