Great Expectations

Several years ago, I read an article in which the wife of a long-married couple was asked what she thought was key to her happy marriage and she answered, “I learned early on to lower my expectations.”  Personally, I sort of wondered just how much longer her happy marriage was going to last after her husband read that article.  And I thought that she was being a bit harsh, or had perhaps married a man who was simply not right for her.   But lately, I’ve come to believe that if I put her words into the context of simple human relationships, she might have been much more perceptive than I realized.

The older I get, the more I think that most of the conflicts we have with other people stem from the simple fact that they don’t live up to our expectations.  They don’t act the way we think they should act, or they don’t treat us the way we expected them to treat us.  And because they don’t, we find ourselves feeling hurt and angry, sometimes even lashing out at the people we think have failed us so miserably.  If we’re not careful, the problem can escalate from there, causing permanent rifts in our relationships with family and friends.

Sadly, this seems to happen in all aspects of our lives, and not just in the close relationships we have with family and good friends.  I once angered a fellow blogger because I commented on the photo that accompanied his post rather than the poem that he had written.  This was a person I had never met, but the fact that my response wasn’t what he had expected obviously stung.  If it’s that easy to hurt feelings of someone I barely knew, just think how easily it happens with those we know best.

I think the key might be in remembering that while our expectations always seem reasonable to us, that doesn’t mean that they are reasonable to other people, and it most certainly doesn’t mean that other people will meet them.  The fact is, we all look at things just a little bit differently, and so what makes perfect sense to us often seems completely illogical, or even rude and insensitive to others.  Sometimes I think we just need to take a step back, remember that the slights we perceive are rarely intended, and that the best thing we can do might actually be to “lower our expectations.”

I have come to the belief that lowering expectations is actually both a good and necessary part of how we handle our personal relationships.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t expect good behavior from others, it simply means that we stop projecting our ideas and values onto people who usually have their very own ideas about what is and is not appropriate.  It means that we put our own egos aside and learn to love and accept people as they really are, and not as who we may want them to be.

Which actually means that our expectations haven’t been lowered at all.  They’ve simply been expanded, and that’s a good thing.

65 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. That is such a complex subject and many times I think that I am a bit harsh. However, I recently decided that if something bothers me and hurts me I will speak up. And I also find that if my basic expectation are not met then probably me and that person has no future going further.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Actually, I think that speaking up when something is bothering you is a good thing, if it does without anger, because then things can be cleared up before they escalate. And I understand what you mean about basic expectations, and agree with that. But I have found that I tend to have too many expectations that people look at things the same way I do, which means that when they don’t react the way I want them to I think that they are being deliberately rude or dismissive. And often that’s not true. It’s just that their expectations are different than mine. Thanks for bringing up a different perspective! I always enjoy our comments.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Ann, you touch on a number of very good points here. I would add that we are bombarded every day with people living perfect lives through social media. Of course this is not true, but so many people are left feeling that somehow their lives or the people in them just don’t quite measure up.

    A very insightful post!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I agree! Some of our expectations are unrealistically high due to social media, and that just makes things even worse. I honestly think one of the hardest things to accept these days is that others just don’t always see things the way we do, but that doesn’t mean they are necessarily bad people. Thanks, Lynn!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. This reminds me of when we built our house. Our builder was forever falling short of his given deadlines for finished work. I soon discovered that once I extended two weeks onto his deadlines, I was a happy camper and from then on, rarely disappointed. This is a humorous example, but I think you hit on the key above with the word intentional. Most often people do not set out to hurt others; we often do, but not on purpose. That, and your other point about individual perspective, is what we need to keep in mind. Nice reminder. 🙂

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Sometimes in relationships we have to realize that the person you are involved with was raised differently from you and had different encounters in their lives before they even met you. So why should you decide how they should act or react to a certain situation. Our everyday actions are based on past experiences. So how can you expect someone to react the same way you would or the way you want them to? If you do, your expectations for that person will never be met. It’s not about setting your expectations too high. It’s about expecting someone to mirror your thoughts and feelings to a tee.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Very true! I read recently had a discussion about this in our book club, and someone pointed out that when we look at other people, we often only see a mirror of ourselves. And then we wonder why they aren’t thinking and acting the way we would. Thanks for the comment!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. We all just want to accepted and loved for who we are … so why do we go around trying to change other people and ourselves to be something different.
    Letting go of expectations is the answer and being open to the other person.
    Accept them as we would want to be accepted.
    💛

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I might take it to an underlying level and suggest that most conflicts are due to miscommunication. That could be facilitated by people not hearing what they expected to hear or wanted to hear. I don’t know if lowering expectations is the key as much as being open to others perspective when they say something.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Yes, we do need to hear what others are truly saying, and I think expectations sometimes get in the way of truly hearing others. We tend to hear, or not hear, just what we assume, rather than really listen to another person’s perspective. Real communication is so hard, and I agree that the lack of it is probably the underlying reason for so much conflict! Thanks for pointing this out!

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I used to think like this before going to see a film. Generally if I expected a film to be great, because of all the hype, I’d be often disappointed. Once I lowered my expectations, not took as much on board and formed my own opinions, more often than not I would be pleasantly surprised.
    And now I find I do that with my relationships as well. I try not to judge or have preconceived ideas. I simply accept. Life seems less complicated when we don’t expect so much from other people and we simply accept them for who they are. Wonderful post as usual Ann.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Miriam! Sometimes I oversimplify, but it helps me to think of it as, “Other people don’t owe me a thing. So whatever they do give me is a gift, and I need to be grateful for that.” I know it sounds a bit harsh, but it does help me keep my expectations of others in check, and when that happens, I am so much less judgemental and more accepting. Which, of course, is what I want to be.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! Sometimes I waste so much energy trying to change people, or being offended because they aren’t acting the way I think they should, when all I really need to do is work on my OWN reactions! It’s hard sometimes, but so necessary!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I think we are on the same wavelength! That is exactly how I choose to look at it, as I mentioned in a comment above before I read yours. I know we aren’t supposed to look to others for validation, but darn, sometimes it really does help to know that others have studied a problem and come to the same conclusion. Thank you for that…. and it really all is a gift, isn’t it?

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Nice photo…no, seriously, someone took exception to that? They must have felt a bit insecure or uncertain of their post, I would have thought. Anyway, I’m not sure about lowering expectations, but over the years I have come around to trying hard to live UP to my wife’s expectations.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Lowering my expectations gets me through a lot of relationship issues. It sets me up to be frequently pleasantly surprised rather than let down at that same rate. It sounds like giving up or not speaking up for your needs, but it is really consciously easing back on your needs from other people.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree! I think that we have the responsibility to make ourselves happy, rather than look to others for that. And then anything extra they give us is truly a gift. Of course we never tolerate abuse, but that’s not the same as simply recognizing that other people aren’t always going to do what we want them to, and that they have the right to make their own decisions too. Thanks for the comment!

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  10. I like your approach here, Ann, and the seemingly contrarian tease. Where do these expectations come from? Some are acculturated through ideals promoted in marketing and the media, but some are also conditioned in as a result of the courtship phase of relationships. What happens during this 18-month long (let’s say) phase, is that both sides make massive compromises: lips are bitten, interests are feigned in faux empathy, the positive is always accentuated, the negative invariably seen as anomalous. The biological imperative outweighs reasoned objectivity, because loving and being loved (both human needs), as well as the procreative impulse (similarly so), have become raised in the evolutionarily created pecking order. All of this feeds expectation, being as we are creatures evolved to create and seek out patterns – both in the wider world and within relationships. The problem is that these patterns as regards our partners have been constructed on what is largely false evidence. Is all this too cynical?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I don’t think it’s too cynical at all! Especially when we’re talking about our partners or spouses, where there is, as you say, a certain “biological imperative” involved. Beyond that, our friendships can follow a similar course, in that when we’re making a new friend, we tend to “put our best foot forward” and deliberately overlook traits in the other person that we find annoying or even a bit alarming. But that phase doesn’t last forever. I think that is why long-term relationships, whether marriages, friendships, or whatever, often require a certain amount of forgiveness and the awareness that you really can’t change people unless they want to be changed. Thanks for the insightful comment!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Sometimes I think that more than anything we set the expectations bar highest on ourselves. We strive to rise to these unrealistic expectations about what we can accomplish on any give day, week, year, life. Then, as someone mentioned previously, we project those expectations onto others. And when they fall short, it’s like a reminder of how we, too, fall short. It’s all so complicated. You are correct that when we lower (or even let go entirely of) our expectations of others, we ourselves are a lot happier.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. This is beautifully perceptive and I completely agree. I think expectations can ruin much. It certainly ruined many relationships for me. Maybe we don’t need to lower them, expanding them is a nice idea or keeping them loose.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Wonderful post! I would add that none of us are mind-readers and yet we expect our nearest and dearest to know what our expectations are without communication. I have been happily married for decades, and things always go best when my spouse and I simply tell each other what we hope for or expect.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I found your post interesting, Ann. It gave me something to think about. I guess I’d say we have to be realistic in our expectations. I agree that this means not holding people to impossible standards or being unthinking in our assumptions about how they should behave.

    However, I think being realistic applies in the “other direction” too. That is to say, I don’t think we should fall into the trap of expecting nothing but the worst from people either. That way lies nothing but the bleakest kind of cynicism.

    Incidentally, Ann, I’d just like to add how much I admire the wonderful photograph in your header.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. I think we often have demands of others, which leads to disappointment. If we give up our demands, our expectations change too. My happiness is not your problem, it’s my problem, but I hope that you can play a part as well. Hope, not demand. It’s rare that someone is going to be our saviour, and once we give up that expectation we might just find that our enjoyment of them increases. They’re not so bad after all, and their failings aren’t so crushing, because my life doesn’t depend on it. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! That is exactly what I was trying to say, but I struggled with the phrasing, and hadn’t considered the hope aspect. But you are right, hoping someone is able to contribute to our happiness is so much better than expecting it. Because we are in charge of our own happiness. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Insightful as always, Ann.
    For too many years I found people disappointed me. They would say or do things or not say and do things I anticipated. Eventually I realized I was a lot happier if I didn’t expect anything from anyone and accepted people as they were, as flawed as I am. We can’t expect to put people in the kind of box we feel suits our needs. It’s not fair to either of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly, George! I have a huge diversity in my friends and family, which is mostly a good thing, but the problem is that also means that sometimes those I am closest to don’t always react the way I think they should and then I get my feelings hurt. When I remember to just take them as they are, we are all much happier!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I think if we’re feeling needy in ourselves, we expect far more from others than they can give us. And the reason they can give us less than we want is because they are, themselves, vulnerable beings. I try to accept people for what and who they are, and I try to remember that vulnerability. It’s difficult to do, sometimes, but I keep trying.

    There is a wonderful series of videos, Ann, of invented words that describe our human experiences. Here’s just one that I think relates to your post:

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Reblogged this on Inner Ramblings Boulevard: and commented:
    As a teenager and young adult I lacked patience. BIG TIME. As I matured, parenthood forced me to cultivate some along the way. As I grew my business and discovered projections often fell short, I perfected the ‘fine art’ of having a ‘Plan B’. As my children grew, I later learned a ‘Plan C, D, E, F and G’ were necessary too!

    As a firstborn, people – pleasing, over-achiever, the expectations I placed on myself were often outrageous but the problem was I held others to those standards as well. Result? Constant disappointment. No one wins!

    Over time I’ve learned to loosen the grip on perfection I tenaciously clung to in an effort be more realistic and accepting of others. In essence, if I wanted to be accepted for who I am, I needed to accept others the way they are.

    Say hello to Ann, one of our loyal followers. Her following post shares a small story on this very subject and has affirmed within me that we are never too old to learn something new. Have a read and see if you agree. Enjoy! 🌷

    October 23 2016 (Showcase Reblog)

    Liked by 1 person

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