I don’t know how or why I had started to believe that having expectations of people in our lives is a bad thing.
Perhaps it happened during the time when I was in an emotionally abusive relationship, when it was constantly reinforced on me that I was wrong to have expectations.
It’s not like I have never had expectations of people before. In fact the very people who are my closest friends are a testament to that fact. I’ve also let go of very close friends when my expectations weren’t met. Back in high school when my boyfriend cheated on me with one of my closest friends at the time, I let them both go. I set bars. I set expectations.
My last relationship though, even after he cheated on me, gaslighted me at every turn, I allowed the relationship to continue for 7 long years. I sometimes ask myself why I let that happen. My therapist told me it is important for me to find out why that happened.
I’ve been thinking about it for a while now and I believe that I was in a vulnerable situation when my relationship had just started out. My family and I were dealing with a personal tragedy of great magnitude at the time. Because my partner was a friend for a few years by that time, I trusted him and he took every opportunity to tell me how horrible I was and how wrong I was all the time.
I’ve always hesitated to call my relationship an abusive relationship. But I’m learning to call a spade a spade now. Because unless I can put responsibility where it belongs, I’ll continue to burden myself with it.
So, is having expectations that wrong?
In the past few weeks of working with my therapist, I’ve come to realise that having expectations is not wrong. What matters is the kind of expectation one has.
Like, it isn’t wrong to expect that the people you let into your life will be there for you during the good and the bad times, will care for you, will wish you well, will love you, be honest with you, be supportive of you, will not cheat, will not do things to harm you, and so on and so forth.
What is wrong is to force people into doing those things. And although we don’t have any control over what people do or don’t do, what we can control though, is who we let into our lives and who we allow to stay in our lives.
While it is important to not judge people, we don’t have to continue to lower our expectations for people who cannot meet the minimum. When we continue to lower the bar, we keep devaluing ourselves. And in devaluing ourselves, we give other people the opportunity to devalue us and to use us like the proverbial doormat or tissue paper. And it just becomes a vicious circle.
It’s better to let such people out of our lives, and to make more space and time for people for whom we don’t have to keep lowering the bar in order to keep them in our lives.
I feel that we need to be assertive about our needs, and not allow people to take us for a ride in the fad of having no expectations of people, of not putting the pressure of expectations on people.
Yes, I have expectations out of my relationships. And I will not allow anyone to tell me that my expectations are wrong or are putting pressure on them. If they feel my very basic expectations are too troublesome they’re free to leave.