Do you have high expectations of your friends?
Last Tuesday I had dinner with a close girlfriend. Fairly soon into the evening, we began to discuss friendships. I relayed the details of two complicated friendship events that occurred in the last few years. Both cases involved women whom I trusted and believed to be my go-to humans. My girlfriend looked at me and said, “you need to lower your expectations of other people.” I let that soak in for a minute, fighting against a compulsion to say BUT. “This is not about you,” she continued. “It’s just who they are or where they are in their lives.”
Do I really have high expectations of my closest buddies? Shouldn’t we all? By high aspirations, I mean I want to be treated with kindness and respect. I want to be surrounded by a community of people who love me back, ones I can call in the middle of the night when the shit hits the fan. If I have a tragedy or a bum knee or a bad day, I want a text, a coffee or a check-in call. I want my birthday acknowledged. I don’t want to be lied to (even the white ones are damaging.) It is what I do for others. It’s a tall order. According to my wise girlfriend, however, I am not always going to get these things from my friends. That is when I ask myself, is the friendship really worth it?
According to Ashley Fern of Elite Daily, “one of the keys to happiness lies within the management of your expectations of people and circumstances. If you do not have expectations, you can never be disappointed. Often we tend to believe that the way we treat others will be the way we are treated in return. But, unfortunately, this does not always happen.”
But how? I wanted my friend to give me the answer that night, to lessen my disappointment and give me tools to avoid these pitfalls from happening. In reality, that is not her job. (I had to manage that expectation on the spot.) It is up to me to understand why I want these people whom I consider the cream of the friend crop to meet me in the same place. I don’t want them to be carbon copies of me. I love each of my tribe members for their brilliance, heart, zaniness and warts. Maybe I need to take into consideration that some of this hurtful behavior is not intended but simply a byproduct of a challenging time in their lives.
Elinor Greenberg, PhD, CGP, says there are things that we can expect and deserve from our friends – they don’t betray our confidence, throw us under the bus for their personal agenda, that they tell us the truth when we ask about something or just tell us they can’t talk about it with no lying involved and last (but not least) they have our back if they hear something disparaging said about us.
Fragility magnifies disappointment. Six months post my mother’s passing, I feel vulnerable when I think about what these friends did. Although I play the strong-willed, life-loving card to the world, I am in need of support, kindness and friendship more than ever. When these two incidents occurred I was ready to walk away. I did not because of our powerful connections. Now I want to find the right way to meet them wherever they are.
Inspirational speaker Mel Robbins posted this advice on Instagram: People Treat You How You Let Them.
You make the rules, she goes on to say, you don’t have to be treated badly. “Define the behavior you won’t accept,” says Mel. Maybe there is a way to keep the relationship and my feelings intact, but let these friends know that what they did is not OK.
No one is perfect and I don’t expect my friends to be, because that would be boring. We all have “stuff” to work on and we all make mistakes. Mistakes can be hurtful but they can also be teachable moments. As long as my friends have my back, don’t lie, keep my confidence and love me, I shouldn’t expect much more. And when they do hurtful things, it’s my job to tell them promptly and work it out. I hope they will do the same if and when I ever fall short of being anything but the best kind of friend.
What about you? How do you handle expectations vs. the reality of a friendship? Please post your thoughts in the comments section below.Read More From Mimi
Mimi L. Golub is the Co-Founder and Co-Editor of Living the Second Act, an online magazine for women in their 40s and 50s who are seeking the truth. Mimi has written for numerous publications including The Huffington Post. She is the author of the someday-to-be-published novel, Boxed In. Mimi is also the writer and a staff editor of From Our Kitchens, a nonprofit cookbook that was released in 2018. In her spare time, Mimi loves to workout, drink tequila, and volunteer with many local causes. She lives in Newton, MA, with her husband and has twin girls who have left the nest. You can find her former work on: tequilainbed.com