Relationships & Great Expectations

relationships Oct 24, 2023

No matter how positive the intention or authentic the feeling of love, it is impossible for any other person to meet our unconscious, cumbersome and great expectations.

Relationships add color. Ties with family, friends, personal and professional connections of all kinds, enduring or momentary, bring depth and interest to our lives. Romantic attachments fill our days with meaning and purpose and are amongst those we most highly value. Central to our lives, relationships are also home to some of our toughest experiences. In fact, without the challenge of interpersonal dynamics, we might find that life wasn’t so hard after all. Learning to unlock the relationship code is not insanely difficult but holding the key steady day in and day out takes practice. Required is a willingness to look within, learning to recognize the hidden internal factors that, when understood, return us to our power. There is so much wisdom in learning to change our understanding of relationships, not just of our particular partner or dynamic, but of the entire proposition. It begins with recognizing why relationships are so challenging. The answer to this most important question is that of expectations.

All relationships have expectations, but the closer and more significant the relationship, the higher the expectation and the greater challenge in its navigation. At its most foundational level, relationships are a contract. While mostly unconscious, we make a determination of what each party is owed for its agreement. At first glance, this seems to be quite reasonable. Having a conscious awareness of what one desires in a partner or friend is healthy. Kindness, responsibility and integrity are all intelligent and appropriate needs. Needs are not the problem, exactly. Rather, the trouble begins with the expectation that our needs will be met and even more importantly, what it means when they aren’t.

Outside of the relationship we have with our parents, those that carry the highest expectations are romantic partnerships. In the quest to find “our person” we are searching for support and security in addition to romance and joy. Most of us have some sense of these basic needs impelling our desire for a partner. Yet there are significant unconscious motivations also present. The ego demand for worth through validation gets a bit tangled up in the idea of love. Physical attraction, romance and intimacy are extremely powerful experiences of validation. Danger arises when we begin to expect that the wonderful experience of ego confirmation will continue to be provided for us through the actions, behaviors and choices of another. These powerful unconscious needs and the corresponding expectations set us up for an inevitable struggle. Because no matter how positive the intention or authentic the feeling of love, it is impossible for any other person to meet our unconscious, cumbersome and great expectations.

Given that even our conscious expectations may be unrealistic, depending on another person to consistently meet our unconscious need for validation is preposterous. And furthermore, reliance on the actions of another, regardless of how close we are or how much they love us, is a process of personal disempowerment. Through our intrinsic worth, we already have everything we need to take care of ourselves emotionally. The goal of human interaction is not to depend on each other, but to learn to move past mutual errors, understanding that everyone is on their own journey and the choices they make (good and bad) have everything to do with them and nothing to do with us. So then, should we avoid relationships at all costs? Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Humans are innately relational. As such, it will be difficult to thrive if we dodge opportunities to interact and connect with others. Good life management requires engaging in healthy relationships of all kinds. Friends and lovers bring us joy. They offer camaraderie, support, teamwork, fun and the opportunity to experience both profound emotion and our greatest potential. In other words, relationships are essential. And wisely having a game plan around this important part of our life creates the argument for reasonable needs and expectations. Complicated, complex, and undoubtedly a challenge; needs and expectations are simultaneously necessary and problematic. It’s not surprising we struggle, but the paradox is part of the journey.

Difficult or not, there is no getting around our responsibility. It matters who we choose and why. We should seek to select those who have the ability to participate in a healthy relationship. Yet, we tend to connect to others who are similar in the depth of their emotional wounding. All relationships include an unconscious element of connecting with people who will force us to address the very psychological or emotional wounds we most desire to avoid. There is a reason for this, as ultimately full and complete healing is our soul’s purpose. At whatever point we might realize that the relationship dynamic is innately unhealthy or past fixing, it is important to allow for closure. Forgiving errors doesn’t mean that we should accept behavior that is cruel, demeaning or consistently disrespectful. In fact, embracing our intrinsic worth empowers us to end relationships that aren’t healthy, but at the same time enables us to tolerate those that are imperfect.

What about the idea of trust? Should we work on trusting others even if they will fail us in the end? Learning to trust others is an important emotional goal and core to a healthy relationship. There is absolutely room to develop trust while remaining aware of lurking expectations. We can consider a three-pronged approach; choosing partners who are able to participate in a healthy relationship, honoring ourselves with appropriate boundaries and finally, allowing for human error, recognizing that the hurts of others don’t warrant a negative reaction, spiteful response or the building of resentment. We can trust that others will do their best to support us and enjoy the benefits of companionship without depending on anyone else to confirm our value.

The need for validation is an expression of wounding to our soul. The soul is the part of us that transcends both the body and the part of the mind that is the personality. And the extent to which we no longer look for validation from others is the extent to which our soul has both grown and healed. Or, alternatively, it is the level to which we are aligned with our intrinsic worth. Many of us are in the earlier stages of this journey. And our unconscious need for validation is often triggered by what we perceive as the failings of others. While feelings are inherent to our humanness, the extent to which we flow through negative emotion is connected to the depth of our expectations, which is correlated to the journey of our soul. Paying attention to what is happening internally is vital to learning how to successfully navigate our relationships. Learning to release expectations and move past the errors of those we love will positively change the dynamic. At the same time, holding due honor towards ourselves gives us permission to move beyond unhealthy attachments. Within is where lies the fundamental answer to all of our relationship woes.

My loving suggestion is to explore the expectations you have for your partner or another important person in your life, and how they might be related to deeper unconscious needs. It may be helpful to write down the needs and expectations you are able to identify. Bring an awareness to the expectations that drive your negative feelings. Consider whether or not you are willing to work on releasing the expectations you carry.

You are light. You are love.