When you have too high expectations of others, it harms you. There is one thing that keeps us unhappy, disappointed, and resentful in relationships more than anything else. As we get more secure within the relationship, we begin to treat the other person differently than we did at the beginning.
It starts when we label the others as our friend, boss or spouse. These labels give us a feeling that we – in some unconscious way – “own” the person or have the permission to treat them differently than others.
When we “label” the other person we begin to expect a certain kind of behavior from them.
We say, she’s my best friend so she should always support me and have the same opinions as me.
Or he is my boss so he should care more about the job I’m doing and appreciate me more often.
We think things like you’re my spouse so you should always be nice to me.
What do all of these examples have in common? Expectations.
What are too high expectations of others?
It’s normal to expect certain behavior from others. By no means, I’m talking here about taking any behavior from others and letting go of our standards.
We should always be very clear about what we want in life, from ourselves, and also from others.
Yet what I mean here is imposing our unfounded expectations on others. Especially the ones which are too heavy to carry. This sort of expectation are crushing relationships, and no relationship can survive them without harm.
How too high expectations of others damage relationships?
Let me share an example of how having too high expectations for others have impacted the lives of my two coaching clients.
Amy has been married for ten years. With each new year, she used to increase her expectations of her husband. Amy was expecting him to provide for the whole family financially and also to support her in her hobbies.
It often happened that when she was upset and moody, she let him walk behind her in a shopping mall, ignoring him all the way to home and then expecting him to treat her nicely. After all, he is her husband so he should be able to put up with her moodiness, right? Wrong.
Susan, on the other hand, had too high expectations of her best friend. Susan’s love life was like a wild ride on a roller-coaster, and she expected Mary to always be there for her when she was crying over yet another breakup. Although Susan’s relationships patterns used to be the same and it felt tiring to Mary, Susan still thought that when the breakup happened, Mary should have understood her pain. Again.
When Mary stopped asking Susan about her love life, Susan would get upset and felt like Mary wasn’t the best friend anymore. Once Mary put up some healthy boundaries, the best friend relationship was gone.
Let me give you another example to make it visible why too high expectations damage relationships. Mike has always loved the universe and engineering. There isn’t such a book about space travel that he wouldn’t have read. Mike always has like he would have been programmed to be fascinated by the universe. He couldn’t have fought against his fascination.
Unfortunately, his parents had other plans for him. Their big dream was seeing Mike graduating from a law school. After all, being a lawyer is something special and fancy, and other parents would surely envy them. There was no room for discussion about studying something else. Mike had no choice but to go to study law. He was afraid of losing his parent’s love and approval.
Although Mike became a lawyer, he’s miserable and stressed every day. Each time when he visits his parents this unspoken pain lies between them. He is very resentful towards them, and although he would love to, he has never allowed them to find a way back to his heart.
Too high expectations of others always take its toll. Sometimes it’s evident, other times it’s rather something one doesn’t talk about.
When others have expectations of us, we feel trapped, without freedom, and unhappy. The tension is in the air all the time.
When we have too high expectations of others, we make them feel the same way. As a result, they begin to withdraw and change. They smile less frequently, and they try to avoid certain situations and topics that would make us pressure them again.
These harms on relationships might be subtle at first, but later they become unbearable.
Therefore the one thing you can do to make your relationships thrive again is to give others the freedom to be themselves. If their true free self works for you too, then, it’s amazing. If it doesn’t then it’s perhaps time to shift your mindset or let the relationship go.
Why do we have too high expectations for others?
When we dare to look one level deeper, it’s inevitable to see why we have too high expectations of others. The biggest reason is the lack of self-confidence.
We unconsciously believe that we have to control others, so we make sure they stay with us. We lack the self-confidence to know our worth and be at ease with others having complete freedom, exempt from our expectations.
Having expectations is a way of our ego to keep us stuck in our fear story.
We project our lack of self-worth onto others. Expecting them to change so we’d feel more comfortable around them.
Another reason is that we’ve lost sight of balance and we’re so wrapped up in ourselves. It’s like in the case of Susan and Mary. For Susan everything is about her love life when Mary doesn’t want to talk about it anymore – or at least not so often – Susan stops being in contact with her.
Some people want attention, and they enjoy drama. For them being in the center of attention equals love.
In both cases, these kinds of relationships aren’t balanced and equal. Therefore, one of the people involved sooner or later wants to leave. And that’s probably exactly what’s the best thing to do.
How to let go of your expectations of others?
There isn’t a quick fix or seven-step program. Some things take time to get out of balance so naturally they also need some time and dedication to healing them.
Letting go of expectations of others is a practice that requires repetition. Notice when you go to a place of expectations and choose to release them. One expectation at a time.
A great daily practice is to say out loud or writes on paper:
I choose to let go of my expectations of_____. I choose freedom for myself and others.
You can choose the same process also when you have too high expectations of yourself.
For instance, when you want to lose weight – preferably yesterday – and you begin to worry if it’s going ever to happen. You can say out loud this sentence:
I let go of my expectations of myself to_(lose weight)__, I choose to release the pressure I put on myself and see myself with peace.
The most important while letting go of expectations is to become aware that you have them and then consciously choose to let them go. Knowing that they don’t bring you anything positive and release yourself from the fear town.