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The Rough Seas Of The Roles We Inhabit And How To Calm The Waters – Part Three

Life role expectations; how to avoid incompatibility


Your own subconscious expectations


One of the most subtle but debilitating ways our life roles can destroy us is by the subconscious emotional baggage that each of us carry, suddenly exposed when we take on new roles. I encountered this when in my previous marriage, but only recognized it as such in retrospect.


Has anyone ever told you that marriage changes everything? Well, this is what they are referring to, even though they may not be consciously aware of it. In truth, if you are an agnostic or atheist, marriage is just a piece of paper. However, beneath the surface often lies a psychological battle waiting to manifest itself once you sign on the dotted line. The good news? Once you are consciously aware of it, this battle loses all of its power over you, rendering it redundant.


The psychological battle and emotional baggage I am referring to? The subconscious expectations you place on yourself for each life role. Naturally you will have conscious expectations as to how the new role will play out however what I am speaking of goes much, much deeper.


In the case of marriage it originates from what your notion of a ‘good wife’ or ‘good husband’ is but it doesn’t stop there – the subconscious notions of what constitutes a good wife or husband stem from your parents, from how they modeled this role, to how happy their marriage was and even to how they spoke about it.


Indeed, the ways your parents modeled these roles to you have provided you with things you subconsciously believe to be a good wife or husband, or may have given you the belief that in order to be a good wife or husband you must avoid certain behaviors.  If neither of your parents were married, this might have subconsciously modeled indirect messages of what it means to be married, impacting how you see marriage itself.


The same fate can happen to new parents or even when you land your dream job and reach the level of success you desire. Indeed, this awful phenomena can occur with whatever life role you can imagine, triggered when you adopt the role for the first time.


Others conscious expectations


Though you are unlikely to discover others subconscious expectations of your new life role in relation to them (unless you give them this article to read!), you can easily reveal others conscious expectations of your new role. For example, how do they believe their wife, the new mother of their child or the family breadwinner should behave? What expectations do they have from you in relation to this new role?


This can even extend to burgeoning friendships, are your expectations of a good friend the same, for instance?


A handy exercise to do when others may have expectations of your life role in relation to them is to sit down and have a calm, diplomatic conversation with them regarding their expectations of your life role. Ideally do this before you enter the life role, though do it now should you already be inhabiting the role. Below are some questions to help get you started…


  • What do you think makes a good [insert your life role]?
  • What do you think makes a bad [insert your life role]?
  • What would cause you to be disappointed in me as a [insert life role]?
  • In what ways do you think our relationship will change now I am [insert life role]?
  • Do you want me to do anything differently now I am a [insert new life role]?


Depending on the answers you receive, you may choose not to enter into the new proposed life role (such as marriage or planning to start a family) or it may bring up hidden compatibility issues caused by expectations that you can proactively work upon. Equally, it might confirm you are compatible in terms of your life role with them – bonus.


Obviously our family life roles such as daughter and sister are set, however this discussion can also be useful to do with family members, providing the conversation remains calm, diplomatic and sensitive to others. Should any incompatibility issues arise, working to find a mutually agreeable set of expectations can be extremely beneficial, saving you countless conflicts moving forwards.


However, before you embark on any such conversation, I would strongly suggest reading my article on rights titled ‘How to Free Yourself and Asset Your Rights’ as this will inform you as to what personal rights should not be violated – even by family – making you aware of what constitutes unreasonable expectations in advance.


Top tip: read the next Monday’s installment for assertiveness techniques to help when discussing our life roles with friends and family!


Did you uncover any subconscious baggage with relation to any specific life roles? Did reading today’s article trigger a memory of when you entered a new life role which came with emotional baggage? Do you agree that being conscious of the emotional baggage attached to life roles can ease the detrimental effects they often cause? Please share your thoughts in the comments below to gain encouragement, insight and support from our community, we’d love to hear from you.


Stay tuned – next week I’ll be discussing how to assertively talk about your life roles with friends and family so the nasty subconscious emotional baggage (both ours and others) has nowhere to hide.

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