Eschewing Expectations

Expectations are a heavy load. They weigh a man down.

I’d go so far as to say that expectations are the main reason why relationships fail—in my life, anyway. I expect certain things from other people, and I in turn fear that they expect certain things from me. That’s why the relationship is fun at first, and then I go dark. I’m worried about being smothered by the expectation of giving what I don’t have. We have a good time, and then I worry about being expected to deliver that good time over and over again. But I don’t know that I can—or want to, for that matter. Either way, the imagined expectation puts a strain on the relationship.

That’s why I avoid people. I know I can’t meet their expectations. I am inadequate to them. That’s why I feel like a screw-up—because I can’t meet the expectations people have of me.

Expectation, expectation, expectation… Imagine if we did away with all this expecting. I suppose then I would be perfectly fine, eh?

Is that what I’m supposed to do? Turn off the expectation machine? That seems so hard. I expect so much.

I expect certain things to happen on certain days of the week, I expect to do certain things at certain times of day, I expect certain things to never happen: how can I not have all these expectations?

Would it be more realistic to turn the expectations off? I wonder if imagination is the enemy quite a lot of the time. In various ways, it leads us astray. Expecting is kind of like unconscious imagining—isn’t it? It’s quick, it’s uncreative, it’s taken for granted.

Going without expectations sounds kind of scary. It must be like floating through space!

Expectations give me structure. They give me a relative sense of security and stability. But maybe that’s a false sense. Besides—expectations make things a bit dull anyway, don’t they? And just how often are they wrong?

Then again, doesn’t expectation keep me from decision fatigue? If I wake up in the morning expecting to do certain things, then I can put all of my attention on simply doing those things, rather than also having to decide what to do as well. Right?

But I’m a bit skeptical of that. I feel like expectations don’t actually do that much for me. I can plan, I can have a focus, and I can be firm about what I am going to do. But I don’t need to expect anything in particular to happen. I feel like my expectations tend to ruin me more than they do anything else.

Is that the challenge I am being called to next? To eschew expectation—especially when it comes to interacting with other people? I think so.

My remaining concern is that without expectation, I’ll say yes to things that I really should not say yes to, because it will not be long before I say no to them. In other words, I’ll make commitments and promises that I can’t keep. I’m just starting to figure out what kinds of promises I can keep and which kinds I can’t, and I don’t want to throw all the progress I’ve made out the door.

But I ought to stop for a moment, and think about why I make such empty promises in the first place. Might it be due to expectation? Might it be because I expect that the other person expects certain things of me, and I want to be a people-pleaser and fill those expectations?

Why else would I make empty promises?

Is it possible to have any commitments at all without expectation? The best I can do is to commit myself to aligning to certain principles in this moment.

And, come to think of it, that’s about the only commitment I should be making anyway. To commit myself to something external is to commit myself to something fragile and impermanent. But to commit to principles, on the other hand, is the strongest and most stable commitment I could ask for, precisely because the principles I care about don’t necessarily require external stability. They just ask that I show up to my life each day with a certain approach and a certain attitude— an attitude of trust, and an approach of growth.


So, how does this apply to my relationships with other people?

The point is to have no expectations of the other person. I don’t always have to communicate that directly, but where it matters, it pays to make that clear. On top of that, I ought not to expect that they expect anything in particular from me, because I can’t be sure of what they expect from me unless I ask. Maybe I even could ask, if the relationship calls for it.

In general, I am going to curtail expectation. And as for the general situation of my difficulties in relating to and communicating with other people, I am going to enter a state of non-resistance. I am going to stop tolerating, and surrender. I will surrender to the difficulties. They are here- they are part of reality- and so, they are beautiful.


How much do expectations affect your relationships? Do they get in the way of you forming deep connections with other people? Have they ever brought down what began as a wonderful relationship? Are these expectations necessary to navigating your life on a daily basis, or can you let them go?

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