Expectation Hangovers in Friendships
When I saw that my friend Christine Hassler was celebrating the launch of her new book with a book party in NYC when I happened to be in town for another event, I quickly signed up to be there, one more woman celebrating the completion of such a huge goal in her life. While I went to support her and cheer her on, it hit me as I was sitting there listening to her workshop on dealing with disappointment that I actually need her book! Ha! I left there excited to read Expectation Hangover: Overcoming Disappointment in Work, Love, and Life.
This season of my life feels full of unmet expectations, unattainable hopes, and discouraging responses. I try to cheer myself up with thoughts like "Now Shasta, you know grief and and crisis and this is no where close to that," and "Seriously, your life is good, stop feeling discouraged. Focus on all that you have!" Sometimes those little talks give me the perspective I need, but often they just leave me feeling guilty that I even felt bad to begin with. The truth is that with many unmet expectations comes a bit of loss, which naturally leads to sadness.
And it got me to thinking about how often we have expectation hangovers in our friendships, too.
Unmet Expectations in Friendship
I know I've felt them before, and I've heard from many of you that you, too, know the feeling of wanting those friendships to be easier, faster, or more meaningful.
- After a great time together, you hope she'll reach out and she doesn't.
- You wrote her an email and she didn't write back.
- You went to a ConnectingCircle hoping to make new friends and there was no one you really clicked with.
- You've known her for months now, but it never feels like your friendship is progressing deeper.
- She said something that felt judgmental when you really just hoped for an evening where you felt supported.
- You leave a dinner party and think it was a waste to go since there was no deep conversation that happened.
- You hang out with a friend but she doesn't ask you about your life.
- You were moving and hoped your friend would offer to help pack boxes but she was too busy to notice.
- You keep trying to be friendly to everyone you meet but never quite feel like you're making real friends.
You know the feeling. Sometimes we don't even think we have "high expectations" but in the aftermath of an experience, we feel weary, depressed, and more discouraged than if we hadn't even tried.
Transform the Hangovers
Far be it from me to try to teach in a blog post what took Christine an entire book to teach (she does a fabulous job of helping readers not just want to "get-over" these disappointments but to transform their lives through processing them on a spiritual, emotional, mental, and behavioral level) but I asked her if I could at least share an excerpt from her book with you that might be of value in your friendships:
Excerpt from Christine: Don't Go to a Chinese Restaurant Looking for Nachos!
"If you were craving nachos, would you go to a Chinese restaurant? No! Because you know that in a Chinese restaurant, they don’t serve nachos. In fact, they probably wouldn’t even have the ingredients to make them. If you really wanted nachos, you would go somewhere where they serve them, right?
Most of the time, we know what we are craving when we reach out to someone else. If someone in your life has consistently reacted and responded in a way that has not satisfied your needs, chances are they do not have the ingredients to do so. Continuing to go to that person, hoping that someday what you are hungry for appears on their menu, is like continuing to walk into a Chinese restaurant when you want nachos. You may get fed, but not with what you truly wanted to eat. And now the only leftover you have is an Expectation Hangover.
We cannot change people. I repeat: we cannot change people. This can be especially challenging when you really want a significant person in your life, such as a parent or romantic partner, or best friend to be able to satisfy your cravings. However, sometimes they just don’t have the ingredients to do so. Other people are not wrong if they don’t live up to your expectations; they are who they are. Accept what they do have to offer you.
Think of some of your common “cravings” that involve being supported by others: someone to just listen; an objective resource for feedback; someone to laugh with; someone you feel safe to be vulnerable with; a person who will offer time and physical assistance when you need help with a move or project; or someone who is encouraging. Now consider which people you go to for those things but who you come away from with an Expectation Hangover. Make a commitment to yourself that you will stop going to them when you have a craving for something they cannot dish out. Love and accept them for who they are; they are doing the best they can. Consider the people who do match up with some of your cravings — there may be a lot of cooks in your kitchen that you might not have been aware of because you were hanging on to expectations of others. Being conscious and proactive regarding our expectations of others is how we get desires and needs met in healthy and expectation-free ways.
It is true that we can be catalysts for another person’s change, but in most cases in order to be that catalyst, we have to be totally unattached to being it. Working and endlessly hoping to change someone else will not only lead to an Expectation Hangover, but it will also distract you from doing your own work. Often it is detachment, acceptance, and honoring our own truth that inspire others to find the truth within themselves.
Now think about who you go to when you are craving support, encouragement, guidance, unbiased advice, loving feedback, or acknowledgment. Do you go to people who are consistently able to dish out what you are hungry for? Or do you find yourself going to people who do not have what you need on their menu and then find yourself consistently discouraged and disappointed?"
I believe entirely that many more friendships could be fulfilling if we saw them for who they are, rather than wishing they would be someone different. May you love your friendships for what they are, while continuing to be on the hunt for the "restaurant" that serves the best nachos in town!
p.s. Christine is still traveling to LA, Chicago, Austin and Dallas for the rest of her book tour. Use the code CHRISTINEFRIEND to save $10! You get a whole 2-hour workshop-- super good!
p.s.s. I LOVED all the interaction on the post last week! Makes me happy to connect with you. Share with us an expectation hangover you're going through, or what's helped you transform disappointment into learning-- and I'll come comment as much as I can! xoxo