The bitter taste of unmet expectations

A good friend of mine, who also lives abroad now, has texted me last week with an unpleasant (for her) piece of news. She has been fancying this guy at work for quite a while now and even felt a connection, but they never dated. However, apparently he told her he wasn’t in a relation, only for my friend to recently find out he is moving in with his girlfriend. She wrote me “how do I get over this bitter taste?”

The first thing which sprang to my mind was that, actually, he’d done nothing wrong. Many men, especially at work, prefer not to discuss or give much detail on their personal life whatsoever. Many of them only talk about any such matters with very close friends. Although I do feel for my friend, I see how her disappointment has little to do with the guy himself, but more with her own unfulfilled expectations. He probably didn’t even lie to her, considering, as she’s also told me, that he valued setting a clear limit between personal life and work.

Now I need to say I have known my friend for many, many years. She is the sweetest, most delicate introvert, with a sparkling sense of humour, which actually shelters a very shy, sensitive and emotional person. And, after years of not being in contact, we found each other again on, yes, Facebook and have kept in touch better via Viber and Skype. It feels just the same as in those days past when we sometimes confessed to each other by writing letters.

The bitterness which she possibly felt quite overwhelming we all experience, heavier or lighter, over and over. Every time an unmet expectation strikes us, it seems like the natural feeling, a little less heated than anger and a little more obvious than frustration. But then, at the same time, whichever the range of emotions, we can stop and ask ourselves: does this actually have anything to do with somebody else treating us unfairly or not? Did they do anything wrong to us, after all?
The more we think they did, the more difficult will be for us to get over it and move on.

Of course I am speaking out of experience. I do know a lot about lingering in the drama, about feeding my own frustration and keeping the flames of my own anger high. But I have also come to realise what I have probably read over and over again, and was told by some of the most helpful people I’ve met, that others do not have to react, behave or relate to me in the way I want or would like them too. As long as it is not offensive, what they do is their own choice and has nothing to do with me.
Once we realise this, we do not take things so personally any longer. It doesn’t mean our first reaction would be different or we would lose all of the bitterness, frustration or anger when our long learnt and practiced pattern has been to feel hurt, disappointed, mislead (if not, plainly, lied to), pushed aside.

However, in time and with good practice, we can come to understand that the way people behave has little to do with us. It has much to do with themselves, their life circumstances, their past and background, their life experience, their own state of mind.
Wherever we are, whatever the situation, it comes to us to consider our options and where we want to shift our attention to. Just the same as it is the others’ own business to deal with the consequences of their own behaviour, choices and expectations.

Writing about this made me think of a Paul Valery quote, which I knew in an approximate form in Romanian. According to Goodreads, this is what the French writer said: “Our judgements judge us; and nothing reveals us [or] exposes our weaknesses more ingeniously than the attitude of pronouncing upon our fellows.” 

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