No, you should not give everything you have and expect nothing in return. You should give everything you can and expect as little as possible.
and Kolisha said:
I feel that A. is being realistic about curbing our expectations - but perhaps we need to clarify that those expectations are fluid & often change over the life of a relationship AND over the course of a healing process.
Here is my very big problem with lowered expectations at any phase of recovery/ relationships.
No matter who is asking that a partner lower the expectations of the survivor, the message underneath is a LACK OF TRUST IN THE SURVIVOR.
I have seen survivors and F&F alike display this lack of trust in the form of lowered expectations. Some examples are:
A partner who takes on or wishes s/he could take on recovery work that must be done by the survivor, because "he needs my help" or "he has always relied on me for advice/stability/to fix things" or "he knows I am a take-charge person and wouldn't have told me unless he wanted me to do this" -- or a survivor who holds the partner responsible for his success/failure in his own recovery work
A survivor or partner who excuses continued abusive/ disrespectful actions because of SA history
A partner who dwells on and continually brings up past wrongs or acting out
A partner who goes without his/her needs met for extended periods of time in the relationship as an "act of love" or "committment", or a survivor who demands this from a partner
A partner who focuses all of his/her positive energy on the survivor instead of meeting his/her own needs, or a survivor who demands this from a partner
It is my very strong opinion that all of these are a piece of the same thing, and it boils down to a lack of trust.
We have to trust-- believe, and expect, and not obsess-- that the survivors we love will do their own recovery work, will live up to their potential as honest, caring partners, will ask for and accept forgiveness when they are ready to deal with the pain they've caused us, will maintain their own boundaries and respect ours.
If we lower our expectations, we are sending the message that we do not trust the survivors to do these things. We are disempowering them-- taking the power OUT of their hands, when we and they should be demanding that they regain the control and mastery of their lives that was first taken from them when they were abused.
Let's face it-- as important as the role of a loving partner is to some people's recovery, as much as we all need others-- Survivors got to where they are today because of their own inner resources. There was a time in each of their lives when they handled this on their own. If they were so weak and untrustworthy as we would make them out to be when we are trying to rescue and justify, they wouldn't have ever gotten to this point.
If I may make an analogy of my own:
If I never ask my daughter to help me clean her room, or demonstrate how it should be done, but wordlessly pick up after her while she is playing or asleep or at school, how will she ever learn to clean the room herself?
If I never pick up anything of hers, and neglect her room until it is too messy to play in and all her toys are lost and broken, is it fair of me to expect that she would just figure out how to clean it herself if she really wanted it clean?
Cleaning a room may not seem like a big deal to an adult who's lived in relative order for much of his/her life, but it requires a set of skills, some of which are over a small kid's head.
As a parent, I had to learn what was realistic and appropriate to ask of her at different stages of her development, and be patient but firm in asking her to meet my appropriate expectations. As she gained the ability to perform more complicated tasks, I raised my expectations.
Of course my boyfriend is not a child, and it is not my responsibility to teach him communication (or housecleaning) skills as I do my children.
When partners come here, they should be learning how to set and re-evaluate expectations that are both realistic and trusting. At times, in the beginning, we can have expectations that are too high and we should examine that. But I think mostly we set expectations too low and get upset (or complain, or nag, or blame) because we magically want the survivor to act above the level at which we trust him and give him permission to act.
Believing that a relationship where all is given and nothing is expected will mature and grow stronger is, in my opinion, about as sensible as believing that a child who is never expected to pick up her toys will wake up one day wanting and knowing how to keep a room clean all on her own. It is also about as loving.