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We find it easier to have expectations than we do to live healthy boundaries. It’s back to the topic of friendship in this week’s episode of The Baggage Reclaim Sessions. I delve into the subject of expectations and friendship because unmet expectations are the source of much pain, frustration, resentment and, at times, unhealthy friendship. It’s not that we shouldn’t have expectations but what we do need to ask ourselves is why we have the particular expectations that we do of that friendship and whether the way in which we’re going about trying to have them met is helpful or harmful.

Some nuggets from the episode:

  • Examples of some of the expectations that people have in friendships that become a rule or an obligation include:

A friend should never let us down.
A friend should always agree with us.
A friend should always be there.
A friend shouldn’t have boundaries (or have ‘too many’ that cause us to feel uncomfortable).
A friend should take your side.
A friend should boost our self-esteem.
A friend should want to talk about whatever’s going on with them (when they have a problem).
A friend should let us support them if there’s something going on in their life.
A friend should call/text X times a week/month or respond within a certain time frame.
A friend should be like us and shouldn’t change too much.

  • The difficulty with having this sense of obligation about what people should or should not do is that consciously or not, you’re going to put that rule to the test. For example, if you have this rule that a friend should always agree with you, whether it’s consciously or not, you’re going to place yourself and them in situations that put that rule to the test. You’ll get to validate yourself and be like, ‘Oh, look, they’re agreeing with me again’, or you get to validate something negative about you.”
  • A lot of the stringent rules that we have, especially the ones we remind ourselves of when we’re not particularly happy in a friendship, are the result of painful past experiences. We’ve created the rule to protect us from being hurt again in future. It’s like, “This is the rule about what a friend should do, and if a friend abides by that rule, then I know that they’re a friend and I can say “I am safe and I won’t be hurt”. And if they don’t abide by that rule, then I know that I need to go into my defence mechanism and protect myself.
  • It’s not that expectations are ‘bad’; it’s that when we’re focused on us, we’re not hearing or seeing the person.

  • It’s not wrong for us to expect to be treated with love, care, trust and respect within our friendship. But if we don’t choose the right relationships, and if we within our friendships are not being a good friend to ourselves first and foremost, but also, if we are behaving in ways that lower our self-esteem, we’re doing ourselves a disservice and it’s wrong for us to have the expectations that we do.
  • In the process of being a good friend to someone who isn’t a good friend to you, you’ve not been a good friend to yourself.

  • “When we have a big focus on expectations, it’s because we’re more comfortable having expectations than we are in having boundaries.”
  • Any expectations need to be specific to the relationship and based on who that person is.1. Why do I have this expectation?
    2. What happened in the past that I felt the need to create this rule and protect myself?
    3. No matter how benign my rule appears to be, how is it hurting me or damaging the friendship? e.g. A friend should… Also, what do you feel that breaking the rule allows you to do? e.g. If you believe that a friend should never let you down, what do you feel that you have the right to say or do as a result?
    4. Are all the things that you do to follow the rule in yours or the friendship’s interest? e.g. giving up good friendships to take the side of an someone who isn’t a good friend.
    5. What’s your threshold for friendship? What does it take for you to call someone a friend?

Links mentioned

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