Relationships – Having the Right Expectations

I used to think I was too sensitive. It is certainly true that things seem to bother me more than other people. I “read” people and situations very well, a blessing and a curse. For the longest time, I thought it was a curse. After all, I’m the one whose feelings are hurt, right? I’m the one taking things to heart, right?

Wrong.

Lately, I’m coming to appreciate my sensitivity albeit I still wish the volume was turned down a little. It dawned on me today that there are people in my life who would no longer be in my life were I not sensitive enough to identify some issues between us. Of course I realize that the loss might not have been of the same magnitude to them as it would have been to me. Why is that, do you suppose? Why is it some of us seemed doomed to experience more disillusionment than others? Is there something innately wrong with us?

I don’t think so.

I’ve often thought how my life might be different without my sensitivities. Yes, I wouldn’t have been hurt as often but I also wouldn’t have loved as much, cared as much, invested as much. Which is worse? Too care too much or to care too little? I think not caring is certainly easier and less tumultuous. Maybe those people who seem “hard” are that way because they, too, have been hurt. They adopt an “I don’t care about anyone else” attitude. Kind of like a shield. Keep everyone away and live for yourself.

I have to be honest; I’ve tried that lately. It’s not working.

I can no more give up caring than I can give up my five o’clock cappuccino. I’ve even said,”I don’t care anymore.” “I’ve had it.” “I’m not going there again.” Sound familiar? But what’s the alternative? Not caring? Maybe authentic living is all about:

Caring enough to be hurt.

I really wish I were different. I’m just not. My husband says it’s my greatest strength-the caring part, but he also says it keeps me from enjoying my own life at times.

There is a person I know who sails through life. I swear if she ever had a deep thought, I’ve not been privy to it. She has an uncanny ability to keep her life focused on herself. She’s been very fortunate in her career. She’s survived cutbacks when everybody else is getting laid off. She’s had at least nine “career” lives. She’s pretty high maintenance but she’s also a lot of fun to be around. Always says the right thing. Hands out compliments like they were candy. I think down deep, I envy her. A part of me would like to just like her.

I wish I could make my life more about me. I mean that. I really do. I would certainly feel less stress at times. I’m one of those people who takes life and responsibility a little too seriously. Consequently, I’m too vulnerable. I guess I’m stuck with me. The me God created. “Hey, God, don’t you think you could have made me just a little tougher?”

I’m trying to think why this post and why today? I’m having a good day. I think it might be because of a few blogs I’ve just read. It seems that there are many “sensitives” out there, people sensitive to a fault. You think deeper than most. You evaluate your relationships more than most. All of these are really good qualities. I’m a firm believer that “the examined life is the only life worth living”. It boils down to this:

You want to feel an intimate connection with the people in your life and when you don’t, you’re hurt and confused.

There you go. That’s it. That’s it for me. I want to know the people in my life that I care deeply about, care deeply about me as well. And I want more than words. Can I just say, words can be very cheap. They’re also easy. Words by themselves, no matter how loving are simply not enough to sustain a relationship.

I want the phone calls.I want to discuss things. I want others to share with me when they’re struggling. I want to be invited over. I want to know I’m thought about. I want to know what’s going on in their lives. I want to just “chat”. I want to have fun with them. I want to feel I’m a part of their lives, etc.

Are you wondering if I follow my own guidelines? I do.

So maybe this post is a wake-up call. Maybe there are some of you that are struggling with some of these same issues, but when you look at your own behavior you realize there’s some things you need to be doing. Maybe you’ve been waiting for others to always come to you. From one who does do the initiating, I can tell you that always being the initiator gets really old, really quick.

Of course we need to be aware when we’re too sensitive. Being a sensitive person means we care and, of course, that’s a good thing. But we have to be careful that we aren’t so “nitpicky” in our relationships that we expect too much. From another’s perspective, that can get old, too. We don’t want to find only the faults in a relationship. I’m not talking about that. What I’m addressing here are those behaviors in others that are causing us continual confusion and hurt.

I’m glad that when I was writing this chapter in my book, I actually took some time to define what I want from a relationship. It keeps me from getting caught up in a shallow relationship that’s only one-sided. I read something several years ago that has served me well. It goes something like this: “When you’re in the beginning of a relationship and there are some behaviors in your friend that really bother you, you have one of two choices. Talk to them about it. They may or may not change and if they don’t, one thing is for sure, this is how the relationship is going to go.”

We have to realize that no matter what we want, some people may not be able to give it. Or they have a different criteria altogether. That’s a hard one. A really hard one. How far can we go with that? Do we want to stay in a relationship where we’re carrying most of the load? Is it worth it to us? It might well be. There might be enough other good aspects of the relationship that more than make up for the fact that it doesn’t fit within our definition of friendship.

I think each of us has to decide when a crossroads has been reached. When the hurts outweigh the hugs.When the balance of the “reciprocity scales” never tilts to their side.We can put up with it until we decide we’re tired of being hurt and they’re not going to change

OR

We can decide to re-invent the relationship and start all over putting different parameters in place. If it’s a relationship worth saving, it’s worth giving it a try. I’ve had some “newborn” relationships that I’ve completely let dissolve.The reciprocity wasn’t there from the beginning and I decided I didn’t want a relationship like that. I decided to cut the cord before there would be too many hurt feelings.

I’ve had others where I’ve been willing to change some of my own expectations because the relationships are that important. There’s a lot of history.They haven’t knowingly hurt me, they simply haven’t defined friendship the way I have.

The issue then becomes how to be true to who we are and yet back away a little so as not to be put in the same situation over and over again. I think that what we do is fine tune our expectations. Wipe the slate clean and start over. We are not obligated to tell anyone what we’re doing. It’s all from our perspective anyway. We continue to give but we’re just a tiny bit less generous. We hold back a tiny bit. We initiate a tiny bit less. We make sure that whatever we give is given freely and we entertain fewer expectations.

We back away a little in the hope they will come forward a little.

If they don’t, we learn to overlook it and not let it consume us. We let the relationship find its normal set point, like water seeking its own level. This is NOT easy. It goes against our very nature. But for our own sake, it needs to happen. If it’s a strong relationship, it will survive this “settling”.

Life is all about relationships.The best ones are open and honest, with shared responsibility. But even those that are not ideal might be worth keeping. You are the only one that can decide that. Take your time. Give it much thought and if you pray, give it much prayer. No one should give up on any relationship unless they’re one hundred percent sure it needs to end.

I’ve been there. There is one particular friend that I’ve made it a point to mention her lack of reciprocity. Twice in fact. Over many years of friendship. She is better but she’s not quite where I would like her to be. Did you get that last part “not quite where I would like her to be”? It’s me that it is bothering. I finally decided that there were many other things about our relationship that are important to me. I’m not going to let it disintegrate. Oh, I will still initiate a little less, call a little less, etc., simply because that keeps me from feeling resentful when she doesn’t.

Depression plays a big part in this discussion. When I’m depressed, I’m even more sensitive than usual. Depression seems to do the thinking for me and so I have to watch out to make sure depression isn’t also doing the “talking” for me. Depression invades every part of our lives and most certainly our relationships.

I hope this article helps if you are struggling with some relationships in your life. If you’re not, I would question the depth of those relationships because I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t shared that particular person in their life that they seem to struggle with. I take that back. I have met ONE such person. I didn’t like her.

One thing is for sure. Don’t keep circling the wagons. Don’t keep rehashing the same thing in your mind. Make a decision. Take as much time as you need but intentionally bring yourself to a place where you define what a healthy relationship means to you, how much you are willing to accommodate, how much you expect to be accommodated. It’s not easy cutting someone out of your life. It hurts. We’re afraid we’ll be left all alone if we do. But you know what? There are lots of people in the this world that would love a friend. The universe will provide them if you make room for them.

(This discussion has been about friends and family members but not married couples. A marriage relationship deserves far more consideration. Didn’t want anyone bailin’ on their spouse due to what I’ve written.)

Navigating a relationship can be tricky especially when there are different expectations from each party. We don’t need to end up hurt. There are things we can do. That’s what this article is all about.

Good relationships also need parameters but that means we need to decide what those parameters are. This requires some thought and reflection.Whether or not the other person has done the same makes no difference. We need to do our thinking and ask ourselves what a healthy relationship looks like to us.

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