Unlikely we would ever evolve at all had it not been for our relationships. It is often quoted in memes that the dying regret of many people is that they wish they had fixed broken relationships rather than pursue money, fame and glory. Be that a noble thought as it may, relationships can be a huge mojo killer and pain the proverbial ass. I am not against them. Have never been despite the revolving door of my life seeing plenty of entrants and exits.
I remember my dad telling me for many years “familiarity breeds contempt”. He is 76 now and happy mostly on his own. My parents’ lives have orbits around each other in some places. In others, they fly solo. But like in all relationships, there is a big unmissable flashing billboard at the entrance of the relationship, “beware, expectations ahead”. They’ve spent 45 plus years together now. My longest relationship run was my marriage that lasted 10 years, not counting the 3 years we lived in together. What bogged me down was expectations. Especially the unspoken ones where the energy of it from the other is big enough to want to leave the room. So does familiarity breed contempt? Perhaps an old cut and dried way of seeing it, yes. Is it avoidable feeling that way? Yes! This can change. But first things first.
I had a client call the other day. While many parts of her were getting neatly sorted in the course of our sessions, one big one remained. Her disappointment of people closest to her. Her unmet needs. Her unmet expectations. Her list of demands that were never put on paper and presented with urgency. She isn’t able to speak up about what she wants for the fear of being disappointed. We all gather this mass of energy of the aforementioned tangled up ball of expectations, unmet needs, demands and tantrums. And we have our default states of sulking, anger, sharpness, coldness when it’s all not interpreted magically by the other. Almost like people are supposed to know my needs, demands, expectations no? How can they not? After knowing me all these years. They have to have a magic radar that picks up every nuance in me. Right? I have no responsibility whatsoever to clearly state my needs, desires, wants, demands, etc so the other may consider it and choose whether they want to deliver for me. And if they don’t the cycle continues. And it goes something like this:
“I want them to meet me where I am. Every time. Else, it means they don’t love me, they reject me, they judge me, they don’t accept me, they don’t appreciate me. I will not move a muscle to meet them where they are at.”
This core belief system is the approval-seeking software in our overall iOS that resides in each of us and like everything else, unless we shine a big bright light on it, it will continue to have unconscious power over our thinking. The only way to liberate ourselves and have any kind of freedom in relationships is to observe ourselves while we interact with others. What is the conversation going on in our heads? What is that list of demands we are energetically throwing at the other while we pretend to have other surface-level conversations?
What is meant by meeting people where they are instead of expecting them to meet us where we are?
It is about shifting focus. About inclusivity in thinking rather than being self-centric. It’s about observing you and the other.
You can follow these steps or get awareness from these questions to create this shift:
Not everyone evolves and parks themselves at the same point in the life curve. Where are they parked at? How far or near enough from you are they? Is it an over-reach for you both to bridge something here? Or is it a lost cause? Or should you revisit this later when you both have changed a bit more?
If you are a person who constantly works on themselves, it’s unrealistic to expect that others do. Not everyone is committed to changing and transforming the way you are. To create a more harmonious relationship, it maybe is an easier task to meet them where they are at instead of the other alternative. You are making it less cumbersome on both of you. You get to drop your demands of them, you see them for who they really are, you accept that this is how they are until they choose to change. And you get to be lighter.
Alex and Ami are in a relationship for close to a year. Ami is the entrepreneur, have-it-all-together ambivert, likes hanging out with friends and needs her time off too. Alex is a freelance writer who needs his space, his time and is an introvert. Both love working on themselves, although to different degrees. Alex is more the guru following disciple while Ami prefers to learn from life. When they both don’t see eye to eye, it’s an ice-cold mountain between them. Neither communicates exactly what they want from each other. She, for the fear of being judged by him. He, for the fear of coming across as weak. Days pass with one being the Incredible Sulk (Alex) and Ami stepping out of the house to avoid his silent tantrums. He feels even more rejected. She feels unappreciated. Both feel unloved. Their conflict does not affect him too much as he gets to have his own space and peace to do his work. Ami finds that she meets him more where he is as she likes to have peace between them. It’s the only way Alex is willing to reconcile as he has very set spiritually idealistic ideas about life and living. Years pass. She is tired of making the journey to where he is. She disconnects more as days pass. And cannot meet him anymore where he is. She’s spent a decade doing that. She knows he will not come to where she is. Ami leaves the relationship.
Balance is the key. Even if you are willing to meet the person where they are, you need to voice that you’d like them to meet you where you are too. While it may seem nice to be the bigger person, it lays the foundation for resentment if you are forced to do it to have the relationship at all. Success would be when you lose count of who met whom, when and where. And it doesn’t matter then. Being together beats it all. You cannot be a beast of burden carrying around other people’s expectations every time. That’s a one-way relationship. Becoming aware of them and saying no is also clarity.
The clarity in communication is simple. State exactly what it is you want. If you want love and attention, say exactly that. “I know you are busy right now, but I’d really want some love and attention from you. Can we do something together or just talk?”
And don’t hang on to that expectation being fulfilled instantaneously or have an energetic charge around that expression. If the person says that they don’t feel like giving you that right now, don’t sulk or get upset or angry. Everyone needs their own space and saying no to you at that moment is NOT a rejection of you. They’re just preoccupied. Else, that’s enforcing them to meet you where you are. You want to invite them, not hold them at gunpoint. If you are met with a no, say ok, thanks and go find something else to do with your time. Or perhaps they’re busy and could use your help with something. Ask instead “is there anything I can do for you or help you with?” That would achieve you spending time with them, meeting them where they are and getting something accomplished.
Being open, flowing, communicative, honest, raw, vulnerable and innocent may not get you what you want every time, but you will continue to invite the other closer to where you are at while letting them think you are meeting them where they are. Having togetherness supersedes an individual’s egoic list of demands.
After all, who are we without our relationships?
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