“I thought you would…”

“But you always used to…”

When you care about someone and know they care about you, it’s only human to have expectations.

And we have all kinds of expectations for our family members and friends. Simple things such as remembering important events like birthdays. And then not so simple things, like understanding what we are trying to say without having to do a lot of talking. And knowing what we need when we need it, if not before.

These expectations develop over time. All part of the rhythm we develop with the people we are closest to. We become predictable to each other, based on what we can expect and also what we can’t expect. We learn to interact with each other in our own version of shorthand.

So what causes that shorthand to turn into mixed messages and missed opportunities?

Chronic conditions can mean continuous change, including changes in what you need from the important people in your life and what you can give back. You’d think they might step up and help. That seems logical, right?

Well, maybe not.

Love does not equal mind reading.

We all know what happens when we make assumptions. One of the lessons that chronic health conditions teach us is that people don’t always anticipate what we need, how we need it, and when. They may not automatically offer the help that we might need. Or automatically understand the best way to accommodate any changes in shared activities. Or how to help us feel better emotionally.

Asking is hard.

Can’t other people get it without my having to ask? No, unfortunately they can’t. Chronic conditions can leave us feeling vulnerable. And a harsh reality of living with a chronic condition is that the people around you may not be prepared to offer it. But look at it this way: Just as you have had to adjust – and continue to adjust – to the demands of your chronic condition, so do the people in your life. They may need you to help them to help you. Including a few new vocabulary words to replace the old shorthand.

Get real with yourself.

We aren’t in control of how other people choose to think, feel, or behave. Use some mindfulness by taking a step back and looking at what you can and can’t expect from the individuals you have depended upon in the past. It may take some time, and a few disappointments, to figure that out. Let other people be who they are, give them some breathing space. To demand what others can’t give is to set yourself up for disappointment. One way to reduce the pressure is to think out of the box and open yourself up to additional sources of support. You don’t have to go it alone.

Loosen up on the expectations as you learn to adjust to the demands of your chronic condition. Don’t beat up on yourself with the “shoulds.” And while you’re at it, cut your loved ones some slack. In a word: compassion. We’re all in this together.