You get bread crumbs.
And you want the whole loaf. Sliced. Toasted. Buttered.
If you know what I’m talking about, you have been in a relationship with a parent, lover or child where you have had certain expectations that were unmet and it caused you emotional pain.
You want, no, expect your son to call on your birthday or mother’s day. You wait year after year for some sign that your mother is really proud of you, that you finally did things right. You need your lover to say the right words, give the right touch, generously respond to your loving gestures. You want your teenager to appreciate all that you do for her, to recognize, if even with a simple smile or word, that your daily sacrifices are noticed. You want your spouse to not take for granted that you do the laundry, groceries and toilets. Is that too much to ask?
We expect everyone to not only know what we want and need, but then willingly deliver it. Why not? Why shouldn’t I expect others to understand and meet my needs? I do it for them….ALL THE TIME, right? But, while I am busy ruminating on my expectations of what others should be doing for me, others are busy ruminating on their expectations of me! This is an unfortunate relationship set-up, of course.
I have been thinking lately about the pain that goes with this kind of “attachment”, and how attachment becomes a substitute for real deep and vulnerable love.
Attachment, in my view, is wanting to have things be a certain way, wanting others to be a certain way.
Love, it seems, is more about gratefulness for the way things are, just as they are.
Attachment throws us into focusing on our expectations; what we are getting that we don’t want or what we are not getting that we do want!
Love is not clinging or grasping but more a light touch that is willing to risk the pain of loss, receptive to the lessons learned all the while keeping the heart wide open.
Attachment leads to expectations. And expectations are self- inflicted wounds. If we could drop them and allow others to be as they are, give what they can and appreciate what they give, we could stop stabbing ourselves in the heart. If we could drop below the level of disappointment for needs and wants unmet, we might find an unfilled space, what Richard Rohr calls, “homesickness”. A longing for Union. But this longing cannot be filled with someone else spontaneously reading our minds and giving us what we think we want. It is a God-sized hole.
Virginia Satir wisely says, “Life is not the way that it should be. It is the way that it is. And how we cope with it is what makes the difference.” Practice dropping your expectations of others. Let go of needing those close to you to be the way you want them to be. Stop inflicting the wound. Easier said than done? Yes, of course. But just start with one relationship. Start with the one where your unmet expectations and the resulting resentment are beginning to erode a relationship that you truly value. The effort will be worth it. You might come to see a full loaf in every crumb, and then the salve of gratefulness will heal your wounds.
*This blog was written as advice to myself. If it also proves to be helpful for you, that’s great!