Teaspoon of Happy Know and Love Sarah May Bates

When a loved one constantly disappoints you time and time again: a friend, parent, sibling, spouse; someone you have in your life that you can’t exactly ditch, a profound fact about this relationship is that it can be cured. Not in the way we think it should be, but in a new way that allows us to protect ourselves, stay happy, loving, supportive and still keep them in our lives in a way that rewards us. It’s one of the toughest things to do but it’s also hugely rewarding: to accept people as they are, on their own terms, and let go of our expectations.

One thing I realized about myself late in life was that I constantly set myself up to be disappointed by loved ones, not because my expectations were necessarily unrealistic or outlandish, but because I always had distinct ideas of what I thought they should do to be loving. Whatever we want people to want has very little to do with what they want in reality. Most have no idea what is going on another person’s head, so how could we blame another for our disappointment and perceived lack of care or love or whatever else we might feel motivates their actions? I remind myself of this every day because I catch myself setting up expectations around what I think others will do. For example, if a person doesn’t call you back in a timely manner your perception might be that they don’t care about you or respect you. Their perception might be: I should probably do laundry soon, I’m out of underwear. Meaning, the least likely scenario is that they don’t love or respect you, the most likely is that they are clueless to this social expectation or they don’t perceive it to be meaningful in the way that you do.  *An exception to this example would be that they really do wish to hurt you by not calling, in which case that would be manipulative and you should not keep them as a friend. You’ll know soon enough because they usually manipulate in other ways, as well.

Even those who have a brilliant insight into humanity, who are sensitive and adept at understanding how others feel or think, should not fall into this trap. Your expectations and wants still have nothing to do with how another person sees the world, and as soon as you try to make them see it your way, you won’t be accepting them as they are. You’ll be attempting to change them. What happens over time if people are boxed into behaving as something they are not is that they grow resentful and unhappy – something that you would never wish for anyone you cared about. Unmet needs in any relationship only create a void, causing people to blame one another for their discontent.

A common conflict in a friendship is when one person is upset and saying, “They should have done this.” At the same time, the other person is also upset and saying, “They should have done that.” Both have totally valid feelings based on their own terms, but both leave out the part where everyone has their own values. Simple communication will solve a problem like this, but when it comes to the bigger, deeper needs, it can take years to truly accept and understand someone despite the way you wish they were.

One example is a loved one that is incapable of changing something that is extremely hurtful to you, whether they’re abusive or ill or just completely insensitive. Maybe this person has done something completely unforgivable by all measures. Even then there is a way to accept them as they are so that you can have a relationship with them. It will not be the relationship you thought you wanted, it will be a new one that incorporates into it who they really are. It will almost be like you’re getting to know them for the first time: them minus you.  Despite the sadness of having to let go of what you wished they would be or could be, what you will get back in return is having that person in your life in a way that will reward you. You will grow to know that they care about you in their own way, and you won’t be hurt or disappointed by them anymore. This is the ideal – much harder to achieve when you’re still in a painful place.

When you stop to separate yourself and your expectations from another person and their actions, you feel a great amount of relief at the very least. It also can allow you to see if this person and who they are is not someone you want in your life. The best scenario is that your acceptance of them and their differences allows you to know them and love them still, in a way that allows both of you to stay true to yourselves.

I hope you all have a warm and dry Sunday with a delicious breakfast! xox Sarah

 Featured image © All rights reserved by wee3beasties on Flickr

 

comments

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  1. thank you sarah, what a beautiful post, you give me strength on a daily basis and inspire me to be a better person.

  2. This article is quite thought provoking. I have recently realized not only that I set VERY high expectations for the people I am close to (which I’ve known for quite some time) but that I need to learn to reel this tendency I have in. This holds true especially with my mother (who does things I don’t agree with) and even more so with my boyfriend. He makes me so happy but I get annoyed and even nag at him sometimes when he already treats me like a princess. Because this idea of letting go and accepting people just as they are is so new to me, I’m still having a hard time fully grasping the concept, and more importantly, how to implement it into my life. I’ve been doing better with my mother but I’m not sure how to do this with my boyfriend, maybe because it’s a different kind of love that I share with him. So, how do I “let go and separate myself from my expectations of others,” as you said?

    • Ha! I hear you dude. Your reaction is exactly like mine was when someone gave this advice to me. Basically the first step is wanting to stop setting unreasonable expectations for others – which you already do. The next part of the process will take constant effort, but you will eventually see where the difference between `your expectations/them in reality’ lies. I think where you can start to focus your efforts though, is to write to yourself whenever you are upset at something your bf has done. It sounds like you’re really open/honest with yourself so I think you will find the answers you seek will come very quickly to you. This sounds weird but the last posting I wrote might give you some ideas on the bf sich. (Relationship toolkit.) It’s about being honest with yourself about who a person is – which will maybe help to see what his intentions are vs. what your expectations of his intentions are. Hopefully this is a start! xoxoxo

  3. Wow, this is so awesome that I came across. My sister and I are both coming into our own and being so close in age we tend to have a lot of differences. We had a conversation last night about accepting each other for who we are. So seeing this blog really put things into perspective and I sent this to her to read as well. Hopefully we can settle our differences and be best friends like we were when we were younger. :) So thank you for this.

  4. Good morning Sarah! A little late but I’ve finally had a minute to sit, relax and read your article. Which thought-provoking to say the least… I’m sure we all have some people in our lives who with we are not comfortable just because we want to see in them something that they are not. This is what happens to me with my brother (yes, you nailed it again!). He can be as cold as ice and very mean sometimes “for my own good” he says. Though I know he loves me very much it hurts. I’m not asking for a teddy-brother, but he moved abroad for work a few months ago and everytime he visits I end up wanting him to go away because he’s been mean in a way or another. I miss him so much and when I feel this way I feel very very guilty… I just wish that the little time we can spend together he wouldn’t be as cold and reserved as he is. The thing is that he is not like this with his friends, why can’t we have a good time? (I’m rambling, I know…) Help!! (please) *

    • Wow that’s tough! I can imagine how painful it is, especially when you love him so much. I don’t think you could ever know why – it’s probably a mystery to even him. What you can do is set up some self-protective rules for when you do hang out. Like, “If he is mean I will tell him that I love him but I can’t be around him when he acts this way toward me, and then I will leave.” If a rule like this is too tough, perhaps weigh weather or not it’s worth it to be around him. If it is worth it, spend as much time preparing yourself: he will be mean and cold, etc. and know that you will be okay. (When you prep it seems to hurt less because you know it’s coming and you’re ready.) If it’s not worth it to be around him, you can love him in your own way: send letters or even positive thoughts. I sometimes write to others in a diary – just so I can know I mean it, and that it’s real. On some level, I think they can feel it too. xox

  5. This article is awesome!! I agree with a lot of it, well all of it, actually. I recently had to not only let go of my expectations, but let go of my BFF… It was really sad, but also, as you mentioned, if the relationship becomes abusive one should have some boundaries as well. For so long I had put up with her attitude and all, and though I could take it, I couldn’t bare watching her treat everyone who cares about her as if we were just dirt, or only there to revolve around her. And her excuse? ‘Oh, I’m trying to change, I’m a monster’. She knew it was wrong but she just doesn’t care. I am not expeculating that she doesn’t care, I know she just doesn’t, and that’s the saddest part. And then I realized that it wasn’t in me to change her attitude, but I didn’t want to be her floormat, so I changed. I let go of her and decided I deserve a better friend. And I know that when she realizes her actions really do have consequences she will try to become a better person, although I already thought she was pretty awesome, I mean she has so many thngs that are great about her, except her attitude. Regardless of that, if I don’t respect myself in that way, she will never respect me, either. And that’s something she will have to accept.

    • Damn girl, you sound very wise and self-aware. I hear you and I know exactly how you feel! I know so many people like that – who I can see so much good in but they are still damaging to be around. It’s so sad, but I think if she were to ever change, losing you might be a part of that process. Thank you for sharing that xoxox

  6. this is so true. very insightful. and this what I’ve learned greatly since last year. Do not have great expectation of a person in any sort of relationship. Do not assume things that is not concrete. Thanks Sarah for this great article. And yes i too “remind myself of this every day because I catch myself setting up expectations around what I think others will do.”
    And I also agreed the most in your last paragraph “When you stop to separate yourself and your expectations from another person and their actions, you feel a great amount of relief at the very least. It also can allow you to see if this person and who they are is not someone you want in your life. The best scenario is that your acceptance of them and their differences allows you to know them and love them still, in a way that allows both of you to stay true to yourselves.”

  7. Everyone always says to have no expectations for people in your life but why shouldn’t I? Why shouldn’t I expect more from those I care about and them of me? i refuse to let people treat me however they choose just because they are a parent or my BFF from kindergarten. I expect more from those closest to me and I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I definitely see your point and as far as casual friends, work acquaintances, or strangers goes I would totally use this advice.

    • You sound like a healthy thinker Ashley. I agree you should expect good treatment from those around you. If you lose someone in your life because of this – and you want them back but at a safe distance, this might come in handy. Thanks for your comment x

  8. so much of this rang true for me. you’re a great writer and very insightful. thank you!

  9. Hi Sarah,
    I agree with the portion where we shouldn’t impose our own expectations on people, especially onto our close ones. But swinging the other extreme of not expecting anything is just pure detachment, and at best, avoidance. A wife expecting a husband’s fidelity is healthy. A wife is NOT expecting the husband not cheating is just…a lack of commitment. This is my two cents worth: a love relationship comes with a certain expectation of reciprocity and fidelity. Break any of those two and EXPECT one of the parties to be hurt. But if neither party is bothered by it, something is really wrong, don’t you agree?

    Thank you Sarah for sharing.

    • I think I agree, Jeremy – perhaps we are talking about different parts to a healthy relationship. I think when people expect things that are not accurate to the person they are expecting them from, then they will set themselves up to be hurt. I agree we should expect certain treatment from those we choose to marry, etc. and that will be based on having shared values. This posting is more related to those who are incapable of reciprocating our values (for example fidelity) . If we expect something like this from a person who is incapable, then we end up being hurt. It just means resetting expectations to include this truth, so that we might figure out a healthier way to relate to this person (for example friendship).

  10. Wow…thanks.

  11. Thank u for writing.

    Andy. I feel the same way bout my parents too. They r so strict Asian parents. They always beat me up badly for grades. I haven’t seen them for almost 4 years. I’d rather stay this way. I’ll never be close to them.

    Liz, it has happened to me quite a few times too. My BFFs and I, if we cant be as close as we were, I chose to not talk to them at all. I understand I’m being passive aggressive. But I can accept that we are not best friends, or even good friends any more. We r more like acquitances. So I chose to cut all the ties cat once. It’s very painful and hard. But something I kno I have to do for me to move forward in life!

    • I hear you Jing – we all have to make those calls and sometimes it’s much better for us to cut off altogether. Thank you for your comment, and for sharing that. xox

  12. Hi Sarah. You’re article sums up the relationship I have with my father. Growing up, my father ruled the house with a iron fist. (He never actually hit us with his fists, but he did administer spankings.) Everything was his way and there no discussion allowed. We were all terrified of him, and his only interaction with us children was dealing out punishment. I avoided him as much as I could. As I became an adult and parent myself, I came to realize that my father wasn’t the ogre we thought he was. He just didn’t have any idea how to be a parent. He truly thought he was doing what he was supposed to. He now realizes how wrong he was, and, though I’ll never feel especially close to him, we do have a manageable relationship now. We talk a several times a month and go out to dinner every few weeks. He’s told me how much he looks forward to our dinners, which is something he would never have said when I was young. For him, that’s a big step, and I respect him for that.

    • Wow – that’s pretty profound Andy. You sound like you’ve lived many lives to be able to feel the way you do about him. You’re very impressive as a person. Thank you for sharing that – and for your comment! xo

  13. Unconditional love.. the act of giving, without expectation of receiving anything in return..

  14. The Four Agreements
    1. Be Impeccable With Your Word.
    2. Don’t Take Anything Personally.
    3. Don’t Make Assumptions.
    4. Always Do Your Best.

  15. This is definitely something I need to work on; I constantly find myself expecting people to act/react in a certain way and when they don’t I find that I am confused or disappointed. Very insightful article. Thank you :)

  16. thank you so much for this wonderfully written post – this is just what i needed to hear and what i should be telling myself – i always set my expectations too high and so even when something is good im disappointed it isnt great!

  17. I feel like you’re living inside my head and just feeding all the things I need to hear to make my life better and happier. I really appreciate that! Thanks Sarah. :)

  18. I swear that you’re in my mind and writing these posts each week to address the issues I’m having. This has been a big one for me recently. My BFF just got married after a whirlwind romance of one year. She planned the wedding in four weeks (it was very small) and I wasn’t able to make it (we live on opposite ends of the continent). We used to be so close and then she basically disappeared when she fell in love. I felt deserted and then ashamed for feeling that way because I WAS really happy for her. Just recently, I have come to accept that our relationship has changed and that she’s still my friend, but the friendship has been altered. And there’s nothing I can do about that except be happy for her and let go of my unfair expectations.

    • That’s so true Elisabeth! But at least you can handle everything as it comes up – she’s lucky to have a friend so mature. Even across the continent! xox

  19. I really needed to hear this. Thank you :D

  20. This is something I have been learning greatly over the years with my parents. But its hard because you have to keep reminding yourself that when you make progress with whom ever you are going through with this, you have to keep at the same mindset because it is so easy to think oh yay we have come so far maybe they will see my side of things but in reality it was just you being able to let go of all the negativity they bring and accepting who they are and what they cannot bring to your life. Thank you for this, it was a reminder to myself that everything I am going through right now with certain people, it is all just going to take time and letting go of expectations that I know will not ever be met, accepting that, and being okay with who they are and remembering only myself can make me happy at the end of the day. So thank you for this. I think with family this is hardest struggle, I mean even with friendships you get but family I feel it can be a true battle.

    • So true Alycia – I know exactly that “yay” moment you’re talking about ! It’s tough. It’s a process that sometimes hurts, but it sounds like you’re doing awesomely. xxoox