I'll be the first to admit that over the years, I've gotten into the habit of having extremely high expectations for the people in my life. I'm someone who gives a lot to the people I love while rarely prioritizing myself. It's honestly pretty toxic, and it's led to some form of disappointment in almost all of my relationships. Luckily, I'm more self-aware than I used to be, and it's something I've been working on through therapy.
I was recently venting to my therapist about the people who I feel have let me down in some way, mostly by not loving or protecting me in the same way I would for them. My therapist validated my feelings but also gave me a piece of advice that completely transformed the way I look at my relationships. She said, "You cannot expect someone to give you something that they just don't have to give."
She said, "You cannot expect someone to give you something that they just don't have to give."
She went on to explain that we're all on different journeys and have our own burdens that impact the way we love, protect, and interact with the people in our lives. You can be frustrated with someone you care about for not treating you how you feel you deserve to be treated, and you can choose to remove those people from your life, but you can't project your expectations onto someone and demand a certain type of treatment if they genuinely just don't have that to give to you. There are certain things we have to realize about ourselves in order to be evolved enough to give love, and if we haven't faced our demons, sometimes the love we give isn't always easy for people to receive. My therapist explained that the people in my life love me, but maybe they don't have it in themselves yet to give me what I'm looking for.
This advice has caused me to really look at why I'm not satisfied in my relationships, and one thing I've learned about myself is that I have a very difficult time verbalizing my feelings. I've been relying on others to just know what I'm thinking, which isn't fair and puts a lot of pressure on my friends, family, and romantic partners. I don't ask for what I want, and I expect people to know how I need to be loved, how they've hurt me, etc. without actually telling them. Most of the disappointment I've felt has come from this internalization and inability to communicate.
Applying this advice to my relationships has already begun to change my life. My biological father and I have had an extremely strained relationship for the past five years, and I very recently told him where my frustrations and apprehension to spend time with him stem from. I explained that I feel he doesn't care about me, and he explained he thought I just enjoyed my space and didn't want him to butt into my life or be intrusive. We've spent so long on rocky terms simply because he wasn't giving love the way I wanted him to, but now I know that maybe he doesn't have that to give to me. Now we're communicating better, and I can alter my expectations of him to be more in line with what he has to give.
Moving forward, I know I have to tell people what I need and then understand what they have in their emotional capacity to give. I know I don't have to settle for people who aren't giving me what I need or deserve, but I'm looking forward to communicating with the people I love most to make sure our relationships are satisfying and functioning at their highest potential. Also, if someone can't give me their all, I can be aware that maybe I don't have to give them my all, either. And that's OK.