Recently, a good friend wrote to me about feeling hurt, angry and disappointed with her adult son. He has stopped being in touch, has missed birthdays, neglected to check in about health events and has not even given her the courtesy of letting her know when Christmas gifts arrived until finally emailing and at first joking they were damaged in the mail.
I feel and understand her hurt and I listen to all that comes up for her and the many emotions it stirs.
And along with listening I also offer perspectives and practice for this journey of relationship.
Relationships, whether they are family, friends, romantic or work, are intricate and complicated. They ask us to come into knowing ourselves more intimately than anything else.
I have arrived at a place in my life where I know I have expectations of people in my life. And the truth is that I want to have expectations of others and for them to have them of me.
The key here is the layers of knowledge for accompanying these expectations to prevent anger, hurt, frustration and the perpetual feeling of banging ones head against the wall.
First, comes the need for communication both with yourself and the other person. You need to be aware of your expectations and communicate them to yourself…..have a sense of their depth and what they mean to you. Then, you need to be able to communicate this to the other person, if not as a general practice, then certainly during the times where the nature of the expectation involved causes stress.
Second, you need to ask yourself if you would want to continue to have this person as part of your life if they cannot meet your expectation. You need to discover what the ‘line’ is for you. Ask yourself what you feel is essential in the relationship and for your overall health…..basically, what is a ‘deal breaker’. When you understand this in yourself you are more able to choose whether or not to participate in the relationship or how much to participate.
Third, if there is a not a ‘deal breaker’ involved then you to need practice gentle love and compassion for yourself and the other person. We cannot change the other person but we can shift our responses. This usually involves a widening of perspective and expansion of the heart. (Again, this is true when their isn’t a ‘deal breaker’ with your boundaries and needs. This is not about being self deprecating through imbalanced altruism.)
We get to practice not taking everything completely personally and realize that each of us is unique and complicated. We get to have our expectations AND if we ‘choose’ to have the relationship…. then we must also accept these expectations might not be ‘met’ and we might feel disappointed from time to time. That once we accept the nature of the ‘dance’ we have to let go of a sense of being ‘right’ and placing blame. (which we often like to do when we feel hurt or vulnerable.)
For myself, I figured out that I need to cultivate loving people ‘where they’re at’ while continuing to learn what my needs and boundaries are.
I need to stay clear in what I know about myself while loving them as they are….even if they never shift their behavior. (And that can be challenging.)
I also get to choose if I want to keep them an active part of my life and/or how much connection I might want.
People are complicated…
This example might help to illustrate……
If someone is bedridden can you honestly get mad at them for not taking a walk with you?
We all have certain ‘handicaps’……some are more obvious than others (whether they are physical, emotional or other).
If your immediate need is to walk with someone perhaps don’t choose to be with the friend who is unable to walk right now……
Honor your needs and honor their abilities….find where those meet.
Along the way we might need to release our emotions and let our frustration move through us before we can get there….great, then find out how to do it without pointing the finger at someone else. Know what you need to do to clear your path.
Let yourself hear all your feelings, listen to them, understand them and hold them lovingly…….
Then gently move into a widening circle of compassion as you find where you and the other person can genuinely meet……..perhaps with expectations that no longer create a setup for both of you feeling hurt, frustrated or shutting each other out.
Not always simple………. but insightful.
Why not nurture yourself and end any patterns that don’t serve you feeling fully enlivened?