We are starting a new book for the Bloom Book Club this week, called Strong Women, Soft Hearts by Paula Rinehart. Angie and Jessica have done such a great job of getting women together and involved in these books… if you haven’t been following the Bloom blog, you should really start. They do video discussions of the chapters and then the discussion moves over to the Ning site they created for the community.
I’ve been doing some behind the scenes organizing stuff with Bloom for awhile now, and am going to be on the Ning site a little more actively as we discuss the chapters and some questions they pose. As I’ve been reading some of the responses to questions about how we handle relationships, one word keeps running through my brain:
In reality, very few people have mentioned the word in their comments. Instead, it just feels like an underlying theme I can’t seem to let go of as I read about people holding back in relationships because of the fear that past hurts or disappointments will rise up and happen again. Or about diving 110% into relationships despite the anticipation that you won’t be fulfilled or the sentiment won’t be returned.
And it has me wondering… when you look at relationships in your life, do you view them in terms of the person, or do you view them in terms of the criteria you think a relationship should meet?
I think there was a time in my life when I thought relationships met criteria. I thought people cared about me because I did the right things for them, I was available to them, I didn’t let them down. But, at the same time, as much as I expected all of those things back, I guarded my heart because I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
People disappoint. It’s human nature.
At some point, though, I started realizing that relationships were about the people. About where they were in their journey, their personality strengths and weaknesses, and their own views of what was expected in a relationship. When that happened I was able to strip away the definitions of what I thought a friend, a mother, a sister, a brother, a father or a companion were supposed to mean, and see that people simply did the best they could. They did what they were emotionally and physically capable of doing.
And I started adjusting my expectations accordingly.
And my relationships began to blossom.
I have needs in my life that are met by so many different people, and I’m so grateful for the gifts they’ve brought to my life. Something you think you should get from a friend… maybe that actually comes from your mom. Or a comfort you want to have from your mother, maybe a sibling steps up and fills that role. But I think the beauty in my life is that once I stopped looking for a need to be filled in the textbook way we are set up to believe life is supposed to happen, I opened myself up to a whole flood of relationships that are simple and fulfilling.
Because I’m not expecting people to be something they’re not.
This was really brought home to me in the past few years as I’ve become less and less able. I used to be the helper. I used to be the one who showed up for people. I was the one who traveled to see family and friends. I made the effort to be there.
But I can’t be there anymore, and I was afraid that some of my relationships would be lost because of it. And a few of them have been.
But mostly, I learned that the people who love me chose to adjust their expectations according to my capabilities. They let go of their ideas of what I could be for them and allowed me to be who I can still be for them.
How much simpler and happier and more content do you think our lives would be if we could all do that for each other? To tear down the expectation of how we define friendship and start looking at relationships in terms of who we are as people, and who we are capable of being in that moment?
I’m still getting used to my new role in relationships, and I’m adjusting the ways that I can do and be for people. But it’s been good for me to experience this so I can continue to realize the expectations I’ve had for others as well. It’s been good for me to take a step back and see people for who they are instead of who I expect them to be.
What about you? Do you struggle with letting the expectations dictate relationships, rather than letting each person develop a unique role in your life?