Expectations are the Root of Disappointment…This I believe
No one could tell me anything when I was seventeen. I had enough life experience, so I thought, to know what I did and did not want in life. I was ready to go in search of the life I had planned for myself and, if something didn’t fit into my plan just perfectly, it obviously had no place in it. For me, prevention was the key to avoiding disappointment, and I was very careful which people I would let in my world. I held high expectations for myself and had no reason to set the bar any lower for another person. I had this recipe for life, and if I didn’t add certain ingredients in my cooking, I was not going to withstand the disappointment of the meal becoming a complete disaster. But really there were so many factors, some out of my control, which I didn’t anticipate.
One particular place that I found high expectations to be dangerous in is relationships, specifically marriage. At the beginning of my relationship with my husband the infatuation was so intoxicating that I never imagined that the man I was falling in love with could ever disappoint me. Throughout our marriage, I constantly made excuses for the things my husband did that caused me pain. He would say that he wanted one thing but then his actions proved that he wanted something completely different and he was unfaithful numerous times. After his many indiscretions, I would talk myself into believing that he could still make me happy and that he wouldn’t disappoint me anymore. Yet, the truth was that I had continuously lowered my bar of expectation to a level that I, honestly, couldn’t accept. When my husband finally left, I realized that all my expectations had been squashed, that I had lost focus on who I was, and that I had sacrificed my self respect just to be with him.
Life has so many variables. It never occurred to me that, because my world was ever changing, my expectations too would undergo modifications. I thought they were concrete things that would remain stable and the same forever. In my marriage I had the expectations of faithfulness, trust, and friendship; but as time moved on I noticed that slowly my bar of expectation became lower and lower. Marriage had created a change in my desires that I could not foresee, let alone plan for. Though faithfulness, trust, and friendship were what I continued to crave, I wanted so badly for my partner to fit into the recipe I created. So after continuous disappointments, I would lower my expectations so that my partner could fulfill one of them, affirming my marriage to him.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines expectation as the “act of expecting – usually involving the idea of preparing or envisioning”. How can someone envision something that involves the mind of another human being? Should people then abandon expectations completely? Certainly not. The key to expectations is to keep them realistic and make certain that the other person has the capability to meet them. The safest person to hold expectations for is oneself; people know what they are capable of and their particular needs and wants. They can only control how they behave. If they disappoint themselves, then they can always improve and move forward.
I have learned a lot about my expectations in the past year, and now when I hear the word, I cringe. I think about all the disappointment and frustration I created by having too high expectations. The Roman philosopher Epictetus once said, “Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens.” With that, I will take the power I have over my reactions to any situation I may encounter and redirect myself onto an unforeseen path, hoping that I have learned never to have expectations in anyone but myself and accept people for who they are and what they are willing to offer.
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