There is one thing you can be sure binds us together when it comes to relationships …and to be clear I’m talking about all relationships here, not just the intimate ones. And that is this ..we’ve all been disappointed at some point.
That’s not to say that every relationship will let you down, but in the main there will have been a falling short of the mark that caused us to retreat, sob, lick our wounds and sob some more in the worst cases, and to shrug our shoulders in resigned acceptance in less severe instances.
When we invite people into our emotional space we attach hopes to them in terms of their behaviour and consequential outcomes, we hope, will weigh heavily in our favour. The more we like a person, the more hopes we attach. It’s like planting a garden. If it’s of critical importance to you that it blooms to perfection then you’ll tend it regularly, ply it with fertiliser, stand and wait for green shoots to appear. If on the other hand you don’t care one way or the other, you might chuck a few seeds about in homage to whatever BBC2 gardening bonanza caught your eye as you channel-hopped one evening.
Hopes, dreams, aspirations … if you hang on to them for dear life and fail to implement a qualification process that tells you whether they are realistic or not, they become one thing. Expectations.
Some where deep down we might start to conjure pictures of a happy ever-after with someone we just met or else we possibly imagine our child opening his practice in Harley Street thirty years hence as he walks into his new classroom on his first day at school. If you’re really adept at this process you will imagine these things happening before there is a “someone we just met” or before you’ve even taken a positive pregnancy test.
We like to dream, we should all live in hope (despite there sometimes being no apparent reason why that’s a good idea) and aspirations gave birth to the profession that is marketing. Expectations, however, seem to be the root of disappointments and let-downs, dashed and disregarded like insignificant pieces of flotsam and jetsam floating on the cruelly hostile sea of hope.
Now I can’t hold my hands up as a visionary on this subject for I too was practically olympic-standard at imagining the “whole roses around the cottage door” scenario when it came to fledgling relationships. And then after what seemed to be an indeterminable number of gargantuan bitter pills my friend Ullie spelt out my solution in brilliantly simple terms…
“You should never enter any relationship with expectations. They are the seeds of misery. Rid yourself of expectations and you will enjoy the relationship for what it is in real terms, not what you’re willing it to become”
Ullie was unequivocally correct.
Only yesterday I had a vivid reminder of how ignoring this advice can play out when I was targeted with a nasty little message left “anonymously” on Facebook.
Some time ago I became aware that a chap had taken a liking to me, he wasn’t my type in any way shape or form but he could be mildly amusing so we occasionally swapped banter. Every time I reaffirmed the distance between us, he seemed to ramp up his attempts to preen and parade himself in front of me like some prize-winning bull, often in front of his easily amused friends.
It became harder to feign a smile in front of Mr Jack T. Ladd, especially when he proclaimed pearls of wisdom like “You and I are so alike. We both have an air of mystery about us.” Explaining to him that it wasn’t mystery in my case, it was indifference felt like it possibly would have popped his balloon with a force he wasn’t ready for. So I chose to dodge him at every given opportunity, often very unsubtly.
My opinion on events like this is quite straightforward. If you like somebody and you throw out bait several times which they chose to ignore, then they don’t like you. Simple. And when if you’re a man throwing said bait, be in even less doubt. Continuing to puff your chest up that bit more and plunge in once again is only going to ensure that when the realisation sets in that the interest is not mutual, the catastrophe will feel so grave it should make the six o’clock news headlines.
And so Mr J T Ladd went on and on and on. And I backed off and off and off.
And then yesterday evening to my Facebook Honesty Box question “Tell me something you probably wouldn’t say to my face” I got this (anonymous) response ..
“I think you are a coward which i find disappointing. I would never have a problem saying that to your face mind you, just never got the opportunity.”
Now anyone who can’t be bothered to capitalise “I” isn’t worth a huge amount of bother anyway, but that just happens to be a bête noir of mine that I battle with constantly amidst the many grammar and spelling affectations that haunt me.
And, in case you are wondering, I knew this to be Mr Ladd … for one simple reason. He and people like him can’t just let their expectations go because they think everyone is waiting for their next promised installment, so when they sense the game is starting to run away from them they seize on that critical match-winner … the last word, preferably a nasty toxic one.
Building expectations is never advisable, particularly when you have no knowledge of the person you’re constructing them around. Which is why Ullie was spot on with her advice.
But if you really can’t help yourself donning a hard hat and erecting some scaffolding in preparation…. then learn to let them go gracefully.
Or even better … live in the moment and let the rest go hang.