Expectations and Relationships

“What are expectations but premeditated disappointments?Rod Stryker

Let’s go back to expectations, shall we?

Is it impossible to live without expectation? If we are really living the in present moment…does that mean we have left expectations behind?

It’s a puzzle to me.

Frequently I obsess about this since a conversation with my son almost two years ago: Expectations are inextricably linked to acceptance. Without expectations, acceptance would not be necessary. But, when I thought about the link between expectations and gratitude, it brought up an entirely new premise. Because perhaps expectations leave no room for gratitude.

And how do our relationships – that deserve so much gratitude –  suffer from that?

Because expectations come into every relationship, don’t they? Our concepts of relationships are built on everything from family examples to the absolute fiction of novels and mass entertainment. Social media has done nothing but add to our (false) concepts.

Whether we are happy with our lives doesn’t have so much to do with possible joy in the present moment as it does with whether our friends and family smile and nod when we tell our stories. And our stories are filtered – relating what we deem as acceptable and tolerable to our audience and to ourselves, perhaps not having to do with exact truth of situations or our remembering of them.

Our satisfaction with friendships and our love life rests on the tottering images that we have created from the snippets that we have cobbled together throughout our lives.

My idea of what and who my children should be is a construct created by sociological norms that we are not even aware are embedded in our hopes and dreams.

Thinking back on myself as a parent, I never saw myself as having expectations for my children. In fact, I think I denied that possibility at one time. But in retrospect, did my high expectations cause my children to have done more and be more than I ever asked. Could that have happened without expectations?

Well, certainly who they are is their own possibility, having nothing to do with my parenting. What they have done has been of their own doing, too. Where does that leave the discussion?

I want to see all of the people I love without expectation. I want to accept them as they are and love them. (I won’t say, “no matter what” because that implies an expectation, doesn’t it?) I want to live in gratitude for the people who make up my life and what they add to it.

Can I do that without expecting certain behaviors? I’m confused just sitting here thinking about it.

I know that my expectations are much more in control than I think. They are certainly capable of leading me away from joy and gratitude in a life that should be filled with both.

(Should???? Really????)




  1. I think that only saints can be totally without expectations. As a normal human being, I do have expectations in relationships and get disappointed when what I expect does not materialise or something else materialises. The trick is in accepting that this can happen and get on with life without tying myself in knots. Not easy, but given time, can work.


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