my emotions know about my expectations before I usually do.
relationships are difficult, and I often do not know what is appropriate to expect in them. this ignorance irrationally licenses my complete disregard for setting expectations, standards; and even denies that I have any expectations at all. I enter into relations with the thought of ‘not overthinking them’ and just ‘going with the flow’, lest the intrigue of my ignorance stifle and ruin a natural thing.
but my emotions always bring me back to center. usually, they are the negative ones — anger, frustration, disappointment. I get angry when someone fails to return my texts or ask me about my day, disappointed when we rehearse the same three topics of conversation again. sometimes my joy enters the scene as relief, as when someone waits for me to catch up while walking in a group, or remembers something I said long ago. but these are rare instances, and the centering my emotions provide tends to be painful.
our emotions respond to our expectations, and our negative emotions in particular, respond to their violations. just because I don’t want to think about the expectations I have of other people, doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. I am the woeful child that plugs their ears and eyes, and hopes the world will disappear if they can no longer see or sense it. but this is childish, and our emotions remind us that we are expectant beings, we are wanting and desiring; this nature does not leave us simply because our object is a human being rather than a career, a dinner choice.
these reminders can be a bit humiliating. there are costs to not thinking through what you should be able to expect, and in turn, what others can expect of you. it allows cliches and uncritical expectations to be the ones you actually hold. growing up with a strong sense of fairy tale romance, you expect your partner to perfectly anticipate your every need and want and never slip up. armed with 90s sitcoms where issues resolve themselves in neat, 25 minute slots, you expect your friends and family to listen and fix your problems (no matter how deep they might be) quickly, easily, seemingly without effort or burden. we find that we expect these ridiculous things, because life rolls around and our partners, friends, and family disappoint and anger us. Why can’t you read my mind? Why must you have your own life? Why aren’t you able to fix me? these thoughts pour through our head, and find themselves as the epithets we throw at our loved ones. we question their love and commitment and dedication, because if they were ‘real’ friends, family, partners, then they would not have violated our expectations. we house these accusations in our anger and disappointment; these are the vehicles which deliver our expectations to us, and perhaps regrettably, to others.
I don’t take this as an indictment of our emotions. they aren’t to blame. they bring our inadequacies to the fore, and make them significant. they say, you haven’t thought through what you want this relationship to be like, and this lack of reflectiveness will not serve you long. they force your hand, as you see yourself embroiled in them, saying things you’re not even sure you mean. and I suppose without them, we could live in peace in our ignorance. perhaps we could exist more peacefully with our uncritical expectations, if our emotions never made them into insults. but I still operate under the general naïve tendency, that it is important to rectify your ignorance when possible. our emotions, albeit painfully, force us to recognize the ignorance we have of the way our relationships are supposed to go. they tell us about the thing we’ve been avoiding. and understandably, many of us run away from these deliverances. it’s hard, really hard, to come to have expectations of others that are good. if you haven’t been raised with these considerations in mind, you scarcely know where to begin thinking. and even if you are able to develop these expectations, then you have to do another terribly difficult thing and stand by them. you have to say, when others violate your expectations, that they have done so. you enter confrontational settings, and are met frequently with the derision that you are too uptight, that you need to let go, ask less, stop being a burden, grow up, be self-sufficient, and generally, let your expectations simply float away.
I don’t have much helpful to say on what your expectations are supposed to be, and I even agree that sometimes, another’s expectations can be unwarranted. but to return to our emotions, I think their value in relation to our expectations lies in setting us up, putting us in the position, to critically reckon with our expectations, perhaps for the first time. setting us up is not the same as doing the critical investigation for us, that much is true; we can always choose to ignore our emotions and what they enable us to do. but we can also choose to take them up, and work upon the base they provide for us. they tell us what whacked out shit we expect from others, and now that we know, we can question whether we want to stick by those expectations or not.