Have you ever felt let down by those close to you? It may be a friend who didn’t go through with their word? Or a girl or guy you have been seeing who goes from hot and heavy to a cold ghost? It sucks but we have all been there. When this happens, it is a whirlwind of emotions. There is the feeling of disappointment which turns into anger followed by feelings of resentment towards those who have hurt us accompanied by the humiliation we feel for foolishly falling into their trap. Rationality goes out the window, and our negative emotions are now driving the bus.
In my experience, I have found that most of these unfounded feelings are the result of the expectations we put on those in our lives. When we make a connection, that feeling of being understood is almost euphoric that we become dependent on that connection to always make us feel that way. Yet, in time we are met with the reality of disappointment. They don’t show up when they say they will, don’t respond like they used to, or reject you altogether prompting you to question your own actions and feelings. Self-blame sets in and you begin to bully yourself for not being “enough”, and let’s not get started on the bitterness you feel for the jerk who let you down.
In the past week, I have had several friends and clients talk to me about the universal dilemma of dating. They meet a guy, they connect after a few dates, and after they get much closer physically and they have become emotionally invested, the guy becomes distant or even flat out ignores them. Most react with “WTF?” or start rationalizing the other person’s behavior.
When we try to connect, especially on an intimate level, we tend to believe we know who that person is in a very short amount of time. We expect the initial warmness of these new relationships to last and the relationships will continue to blossom and flourish. We project our expectations and fantasies on to that individual and only see the best in them through our rose-colored glasses. We begin to rationalize any flaws we make catch a glimpse of, and we say to ourselves “we/they will work on that”. But truthfully, we are in denial because that change isn’t up to us, and the truth is that people do not ultimately change for other people but themselves. The seeds of unfulfilled expectation are sowed, and anger and resentment grow. When we are constantly met with the same issues within a relationship, we end up questioning the other’s affections and wonder what we can do to get back the feelings we initially felt at the onset of the relationship. If you are asking these things, expectations have met reality, and the truth is that the fantasy you projected on them is tumbling down on you.
When I was dating, I would often hear in the very beginning of a relationship or courting period, “Why are you single? You’re so great! I don’t see why anyone would leave you.” When I would hear this, I knew it is over before it had even begun; they had already had set an expectation of me that can only result in me letting them down when they realize I am not the object of fantasy they have created in their brain. In long term relationships, I would always end up disappointed because I thought they could be more, do more, or try harder. I had driven myself crazy with unrealistic demands because I believed they would my requirements if they truly wanted to do it. What I failed to realize was that the demands I placed on them had more to do with my own insecurities and the expectations I had for myself.
Once I was open to examining my own failures in my relationships, I was forced to see how my own insecurities and personal expectations affected others. What I realize that it when I felt limited by my own expectations and was being my own worst critic, I was more apt to do that to those in life. Self-awareness, self-accountability, and self-acceptance of our own insecurities are key. To accept my own flaws and mistakes and the positive things that came from them led me to find the beauty in other people’s flaws and imperfections. I have personally felt so much more freedom and openness in not pushing myself to my own limits.
I’m not saying we don’t deserve the best or to lower our standards and expectations but we need to conscious of the realities of our standards and expectations. We need to be self-aware enough to acknowledge our own flaws and the expectations we have for ourselves and how this affects our relationships with others. We need to discontinue the vicious cycle of self-sabotage, with ourselves and our relationships, where we create illusions that cannot be met. Once we become gentler and more honest with ourselves about who we truly are, it becomes easier to do the same for those around us. It makes it easier to see others for who they are and not feel the need to control them by putting them in a box set by expectations. When you stop having expectations of others, disappointments become less and gratefulness flourishes paving the way for authentic relationships.