Expectations and the Pedestal

I used to have a friend that was constantly three hours late for everything except work. The fact that she worked two or three jobs at a time made some of the tardiness excusable. But after a while, we had to adjust our scheduling as a group to accommodate this. If the event started at 7PM, we’d tell her it started at 5PM and she’d show up fashionably late. It was a running joke for a while, but tardiness bothers me when it’s repeatedly done. To me, it says, “My time is far more important that you are. I’ll get there when I get there and you’ll just have to deal with it.” Now, I know that’s not how the thought process works, but it felt that way.

We all have those people that hang on our periphery that just don’t quite make the inner circle. It’s not that they’re bad people, per se, just that they may have habits or ideals that don’t quite fit with our own. Maybe they’re disrespectful of your time by being perpetually late or they find the bottom of a bottle far more interesting than taking care of their children. Whatever the reason, they are still called a friend, but aren’t close enough in our emotional commitment to be able to stop by any time. Cull the herd. It is unnecessary to hold on to people just because you worked with them 15 years ago. Letting them go doesn’t mean a confrontation, just a silent goodbye and an unanswered phone call. It’s okay to allow that relationship to organically decompose.

But what about family members? Those are far more tricky to deal with because of the blood-kin ideal that family is family. Remember, at least the black sheep is an honest hypocrite. We all know at least one that is of questionable views on the world (I push that boundary so I labeled myself the dark gray sheep), but even if they aren’t living life like everybody else tells them they should, they’re making their own choices.

It is my opinion that loving them does not mean enabling them, criticizing, or judging their every action, but realizing that they might not be ready for the kind of love you have to give. Being supportive doesn’t mean that you have to rush to get them whenever they fall down, it means listening when they talk to you about their own wants and desires.

I’ve recently had to relearn this. It was extraordinarily painful because the person in question was throwing out thousands of dollars to the lowest bidder, giving away a free education, and walking around in a drug induced haze while doing nothing to further his life. I was furious with the choices he was making. No matter what I said or did, he kept making the worst possible choices in my eyes. But my tactics weren’t working and it was driving a massive wedge between us. Communication had broken down to the point of stony silences and terse comments. Something had to give.

I took away all expectations and started from scratch. Chores have to be done on these days because that contributes to the family. Three days a week. Daily stuff included being respectful, not using at my house, and sharing responsibility for our four legged friends. I made that change three weeks ago. Things have become our normal at our house. We joke and laugh. We all seem to be happier. When I removed the expectations about his life and kept them to expectations of family responsibilities, it worked out a lot better overall.

Relationships are complicated enough without, what I call, THE PEDESTAL! When we place expectations on other people to say, behave, or be a certain way, we set ourselves up for major disappointments, resentment, anger, frustration, and confrontations. I have to ask myself this question, “Is this them being a human or is this them being a jerk to me?” It helps me narrow down the field and realize that my perception of them is skewed by my idea of who they are or should be in my mind. With practice, it becomes easier to let them be who they are without making them justify every move or action.

I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have found that culling the herd, communication, taking the pedestal out from under them, and living my own life has made a dramatic difference in my happiness level.

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