Have you noticed one strange thing? People usually fall out, don’t get along or get offended just because of their own expectations.
Since childhood, we start getting the idea of a “perfect relationship” (which involves friendship, romantic/family/social relationships) through literature and tv. Throughout the time, our ideas get stronger and stronger, and whenever we hear the word relationship or friendship we already think of that phenomenon in our own specific way. You’ve probably seen people getting asked “what’s the most important trait they look for in a friend or a partner“, or “what’s the ideal relationship in their opinion“. There are some cliche answers like being honest and sincere, mutual trusting and understanding, but if you dig just a little deeper, you’ll see that people have lots of expectations about their partner or even just a friend, without even having that person in their lives. Which means, that when they meet someone, who could potentially become a part of their lives, people already judge them, not based on who that person really is, but how they imagined him/her to be.
And that’s the first place, when things get messed up. Because not everyone understands that their expectations don’t always coincide with reality. The perfect example of any kind of human relationships portrayed in books and movies is a highly exaggerated and sometimes even unreal thing. Sometimes (or quite often) we need to actually understand that life isn’t a film or a book. Yes, we do say that we know life’s different, but do we actually mean it? Understanding and accepting are quite different.
And before judging someone for not being what we wanted them to be, we need to understand that we’re also not ideal, and that the person standing right in front of us also has their own expectations about us, and there’s a 90% chance that we don’t correspond with that. The examples can be endless here. The first and important one is when parents have a child, and want him/her to do what they want, what they imagined him/her to do, to have some particular hobbies, interests and skills, to study what the parents wanted, or marry someone, whom the parents will 100% like and approve. Why is this the most important? Because parents’ standards lead to lots of problems of a child in future and create an infinite loop of expectations that goes on and on in unbroken circles.
Another big example is in a romantic relationship, when two people just start dating, both having their own ideas of how the other person should behave and how they should be like, how the guy should be a perfect gentleman, how the girl should have the perfect upbringing and behave like a lady from a royal family etc. Same in friendship, your friends expect you to have the same interests they do, to want to do the same activities they wanna do, to go to the places they wanna go, to always be free when they need it, to agree and support them, even if for you it’s quite controversial…
And lastly, I mentioned social relationships, by which I meant the one we have with all people in general, our colleagues, neighbors, relatives, classmates, and other acquaintances. Because even in those cases we have some expectations for them to be nice, to say what we wanna hear, to always be polite. And these are just a few examples from many more.
Can you see how screwed up this is? And who’s to blame? Only us. No one else is responsible for me, having my own expectations, except for me. And same for everyone. There’s a good famous proverb, that says “people won’t notice the log in their eye, but will notice a little thorn in the eye of another person“, and it’s so true. Before judging someone, imagine yourself in their shoes. But even before that, try to understand and accept the fact that you’re also not perfect.
I once realized that all my friends or relatives have their own apprehension of me, and most of the times I don’t correspond with that. I’m by no means the perfect friend, perfect daughter, or cousin, or neighbor, classmate, colleague… So how can I expect my own friends, relatives, parents or anyone else to be someone that I’m not? How can I blame and accuse them for doing something that I might not like, when I myself constantly do what others don’t like or accept? Yes, I’ve had my own ideas of how friendships and any other relationships should be, and sometimes they can be too noble and worthy for our real life. And I’m not trying to praise me by saying that I have such an elevated idea about relationships, in fact it might bother me more, than if I didn’t have it at all. So my own expectations might become a disruptive reason, as I always put a bigger and high-minded meaning in a word friend, but I understand that these are purely my expectations, and no one is to blame for not complying with them and hence I try to not let them interfere with the relationship itself, because these two don’t always go along. They sometimes go in parallel lines and never ever intersect.
Another common mistake is when someone understands that the person in front doesn’t coincide with their own ideas and tries to drastically change them. When two people get married and one of them (sometimes even both) tries to make their partner become another person, quit their habits, interests or change their way of thinking and acting, even their appearance. Same in any other type of relationship. In those cases think for yourself, would you change for someone just because they don’t like you how you already are? It’s okay when two people date, are friends or are married and through time they gradually start changing little by little, by being more flexible, acquiring new habits or mindsets together, but you can’t just make a brand new person from someone. You can’t just buy a cat and make him become a dog. You might train the cat step by step, to have some of dog’s traits, like playing fetch and bringing the ball when you throw it, give his paw or sit/lie when you say (and it’s not even a 100% fact that you’ll succeed) but you can never make the cat bark instead of meowing. That’s it, that’s how simple it is.
First step of solving the problem is understanding and truly accepting it. Most people already know what I’m talking about, they’ll even agree with every single word and say how horrible this whole thing is, without realizing that they also are in this list. Same for me, I’m not perfect either, and sometimes I see how my expectations can become an obstacle for me. Most of this phenomenon happens subconsciously, so you have to be very attentive to see that you might also be acting wrong. Just broaden your mind, look at every situation objectively and not subjectively, try to see the whole situation from above, and not only from where you’re standing. Reduce your expectations, try to accept your close people just the way they are, even if there are things that you don’t agree with or don’t like. Look at people and try to see them not as you want them to be, but how they already are, and appreciate them for that. Acknowledge the fact that no one is your puppet, everyone is a living human, with their right to be and do what they wanna do. Same for you, do not yield to anyone’s expectations for you, live the way you want to live, and don’t give a crap if someone will not be on board with it. You’ll see how getting rid of expectations (and not only about people, but life events as well) will ease your life and improve your relationships.