“Expectations are premeditated disappointments,” was how my friend put it to me one day. I chuckled at this and I’ve definitely seen how expectations of things and people cause us unnecessary suffering. When I was a teen and young woman, I wanted my birthday every year to go a very specific way; after all, it was my birthday. I’d plan things, hope for things, wish for things, do my best to have a good time, and many times things fell through, I’d spend little time with friends or family, or I’d just have a bad day (think flat tires, losing keys, getting fired, etc.) I have long since worked myself out of birthday expectations, and over the last decade I’ve made it a personal journey to release expectations I have in relationships.
Many things in relationships are challenging that’s for sure. We are subject to the moods, actions, and lifestyles of others while in relationship. Sharing a home with others brings a whole new set of energies to learn to navigate with, or around. Being in relationship with anything, be it your mother, husband, child, friend, cell phone, or car – takes two things to mesh a bit into one. When we combine, we are in relationship of. It’s an energetic exchange.
So, if we are combining then there is a balancing act going on with my part and your part. We each interact, show up, and are part of this relationship, right? So having personal accountability (to explain actions or be responsible for something we took part in) is kind of an essential ingredient to the relationship complexity. You aren’t responsible for me angrily snapping at you, that was my choice. I’m not responsible for you not paying me back the money you owe when we agreed upon, that was your choice. Our own actions, behaviors, and reactions need to be put under the microscope instead of projecting things onto other people as is the wont of the human ego.
My mother has often told me that I’m the only person she knows that works so hard at personal awareness and self growth. I’ve heard similar things from a handful of others over the years as well. This does not mean that I am full of light, love, and kindness all the time, but that I have a desire to overcome the not so pleasant parts of myself. Much of my progress has been slow, some has been quick, but it’s always evolving; always moving. I know the freedom, healing and peace that can come from looking within oneself, and I never stop practicing that. So when I hear that my expectations are “too much” or that I shouldn’t have any, (I don’t appreciate being should on by the way,) I am aware that I have them and how I am feeling is bringing me unnecessary suffering.
Balance, contrasts, and another side of the coin exists in everything. Sometimes having hopes or desires for others to engage with common sense relationship skills and common courtesies is NOT about having too many expectations. To have a desire that those we love will behave in kind, thoughtful ways is NOT about having too many expectations. Nothing has to be 50/50 all the time; if it were, we’d be robots. We fluctuate with life and sometimes we take 20% while giving 80%, but then other times might have us getting 60% while our loved one gets 40%. It’s an exchange of love and energy when we actually move outside of ourselves to reach out to those we are in relationship with. When the status quo is showing the percentages consistently staying stuck in tired patterns, and it is no longer a shared experience of care, thoughtfulness, connection, and respect, then for those of us with big, huge, ginormous hearts……it stings a bit.
Yes, there are probably mystics and guru’s and calm people in the world that don’t let anything get under their skin, at all, ever. They have practiced detachment and freedom from expectations so they are happy in every relationship they have. Well, most of us aren’t there yet. Be patient with us.
Let the Scape Goat Escape
Our perspective of what expectations others may or may not have does not give us license to use them as scape goat to avoid personal accountability for how we actually do show up for others. Before we write off someone else’s experience, take a moment to ask ourselves:
Could I be doing more to show this person I care?
What have I done lately to cultivate this relationship?
What extra effort can I put into connecting with this person?
What kinds of things are important to them?
What might they appreciate from me? It might not be what you would like or might think they would like, so ask!
It’s true that a lot of the time our hurt feelings or irritation is about our expectations and when we have a lot of them that leave us feeling hurt and bitter all the time, or being unkind to others because of it, then it is on us to take accountability for that.
There are few absolutes in the world and this is not one of them; it isn’t always about expectations.
Every one of us has different ways of showing up in relationships. There are a myriad of ways that we show love, communicate, and express our emotions with our loved ones. Some people call, some send meme’s, some send correspondence and cards in the mail, private emails with deep conversation, some send flowers, come visit, run an errand, plan an outing, give little gifts, babysit our kids, or meet for coffee as ways to show up, show care, cultivate and maintain relationships. It takes work to develop and keep relationships alive; it takes ACTION.
Why do we think people get SO happy and emotional when someone goes just a touch out of their way to do something thoughtful? Because we are hungry for more human connection!! Real time. Face to face. Something other than text messages, Tweets, and Facebook posts. Technology is but only one piece of the relationship puzzle, but too many use it as the only means of connecting.
Get real. Connect in more profound ways. Don’t let those you love pull away or even pass away before you look back and realize that you wished you would have done more.