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This summer, I’m distancing myself from a guy friend who I struggle with having stronger feelings for. I have not initiated communication with him and have not seen him since May. My hope is that I’ll be able to slowly let him back into my life after some time to process and free myself from consistently being distracted by him. But, for now, I need space to protect my heart. I’ve been reflecting a lot on our friendship during this time. I realized that over the past few years, I’ve set completely unrealistic expectations for him.
HIS expectation = to be friends.
MY expectation = to grow our friendship into being more than friends.
HIS expectation = to catch up with each other once in awhile.
MY expectation = to be in continuous contact with each other.
But, these are not the expectations I have for my other guy friends. Why do I do this? I know why. It’s because I’ve wanted our relationship to be more than friendship and so I expect the same level of intimacy and consistency of interaction as I would if we were dating. I get sad and angry when this doesn’t occur. How unfair to him is that?! It’s my own doing. It’s my false reality. It’s me putting him on a pedestal that’s impossible to stand on. It’s me setting unrealistic expectations. And, then I fall into a cycle of getting my hopes up, only to have them crushed when expectations don’t become my reality. What a blessing to have this time and space, free from distractions, to bring about clarity in this situation.
When you don’t set expectations, then you can’t be disappointed.
I’ve heard this statement many times and see it as a shift in perspective. When I set selfish, rigid, all-about-me expectations for something or someone, then I will always be disappointed. If I don’t hold on to MY expectations with a gripped fist and I gratefully enter into experiences and relationships, then disappointment does not exist. There’s something almost freeing about the statement. I always set expectations. My expectations. When people don’t react the way I think they should; the way I want them to. For upcoming events; for interactions with others; for how something will play out. Why do I feel the need to set expectations for others and then grow disappointed when they don’t follow through with my unwritten ‘rules?’ It’s unfortunate that I sometimes base my own happiness on the actions, or inactions, of others. Why do I set higher expectations for some people in my life and not others?
I expect others to be mind readers. When they don’t ask me about something that is so important to me. When I yearn for acknowledgement and for others to show interest. Sometimes I just want others to share in my excitement. When I’m excited, I feed off another’s mirrored sense of enthusiasm. It’s like it validates my feelings or something. I want my energy to be contagious. I want others to be passionate about the things I’m passionate about. It’s almost like I want them to take on my feelings so they understand just how much something means to me. When others don’t reciprocate my energy level, I feel my enthusiasm deflate and melancholy ushers in. I shut down.
He was swimming in a sea of other people’s expectations.
Men had drowned in seas like that.
~ Robert Jordan, from New Spring
Setting expectations for others is dangerous. Other peoples’ reactions, or lack there of, should not dictate my feelings of self worth or determine my mood. So, why does it bother me so much? It’s like I’ve already predicted how something is going to go, set it in my mind, and then when things fall short or don’t go as I want them to, I get grumpy. This is not fair to me, and especially not to the other person. Others may have expectations of me all the time, for which I fall short of. And, they may be disappointed in me…and I never knew. I don’t count it as my fault that I didn’t respond in the way they had hoped. I will never go through life having others behave in a way I think they should or want them to. It’s a recipe for failure. I can’t control it. It’s selfish. And, I can’t base my happiness on what others will or won’t do. If I always seek another’s affirmation, then what does that say about my own self confidence and ultimate source of acceptance?
Trying to put this into words is difficult. It’s more about feelings and emotions than finding adequate words to describe it. I can identify what it is NOT easier than I can find the words to name what it is. It’s not fishing for compliments. It’s not wanting others to agree with me all the time. It’s not wanting everyone to be happy around me. It’s not superficial praise. I can’t quite put my finger on it. What I do know is that I feel let down the most when the essence of who I am is ignored. It’s receiving words of affirmation at a time when I’ve shared a deeper part of me. When this doesn’t occur, I take it personally. Very personally.
But, there are blessings within the burdens. I’m thankful for NOT receiving this earthly affirmation I sometimes crave so much. Who do I turn to when I’m sad and frustrated by this? God, of course. He’ll never let me down. He reminds me that it’s not all about me. HIS expectation is that I live through each day in love and service for him and to others; to love others for who they are, for they are the very reflection of Him.