I had a couple of different situations this weekend that both dealt with the topic of the expectations we have of other people. I’m starting to think that unfulfilled expectations are the source of a lot of the distance that grows between family members and friends.
The first was a visit to my mother’s house for crepes and for Max to open his birthday presents from her. She asked my wife if she wanted to look at my old photo album, and dug it out. While I was keeping an eye on our wild young man, my mother became a little miffed that I wasn’t looking at the photos too. She wanted me to focus on her, and I was focusing on Max. During this time, he had asked her to do a jigsaw puzzle with him, but she never got around to doing it. My expectation is always that the little dude will be the focus of all of our attention, so I was disappointed that it wasn’t happening. For the record, Max was the most delightful and wonderful boy you could ask for. If you didn’t want to smootch that kid and give him piles of candy, then you’re probably a robot.
The other situation was a coffee talk with an old friend of mine. Like me, he’s been thinking about the relationships in his life and what he wants out of them. We were trying to have scheduled gaming nights to get the fellows together and have fun together, but like any attempt to organize and motivate our social circle, it fell out of favour and died a slow death. He’s found a new group of people at work to play with occasionally, but a big difference is that he refuses to attend the an event at anyone’s house. He doesn’t want to deal with the expectations that come along with that increase in familiarity. I wonder if that’s a tenable long-term approach to take, though.
What we want from people, and what they want from us, is a basic part of the relationship bargain. It would be comforting to be able to control the equation and limit what someone wants from you, but that’s not how the game goes. The best way we can handle it all is communicate. If you’re frustrated or hurt by someone’s actions, take a moment to consider if they even know what you wanted from them. They cannot read your mind, and it’s a tad bit arrogant to think that someone should know you well enough that they can anticipate your expectations.