Thursday, March 13, 2008


So I was walking home from school today with a friend and we were having kind of an interesting conversation. It was about the idea of friends. We talked about how sometimes with some people, you try so hard to be friends with them because it seems like everything is great between you when you're around each other, but often times you have to do all the work as far as being a friend. Friendship can be a rather difficult thing. We wish that we all could just be great friends all of the time. But that just doesn't always happen. There's so many factors to take in. Time is really one of the biggest one. Sure, we've always got plenty of time for lots of things and lots of people. But at some point we do decide who or what is worth more of our time and we end up removing other things or people from that time in response. However, I think the biggest guiding factor of friendship is like any other relationship, it really boils down to the idea of expectation.

We form expectations for EVERYTHING in life. They can be really simple and stupid, like we expect that when we play with a bouncy ball, it will bounce. Or we might form more complex expectations based off of theories we have formed or what not. So in the case of people, our expectations fall a bit more along the lines of the latter. Of course expectations when it comes to people are a bit different. The examples I spoke about are more of an expectation based off of an action reaction kind of thing. However, our relationships with others is really a lot more about preference. We find traits in others that we prefer and have expectations relative to that. I think for a large part our expectations of others is rather similar from person to person. Now a lot of what guides our expectations of others is dependent upon what sort of relationship we have with others.

Obviously our expectations of others is severely diminished in the case of individuals that are simple acquaintances at best. I think we typically have an expectation of at least some civility when we meet random people on the streets, but that expectation is so low that it doesn't usually bother us too much if these people don't quite meet that expectation. But this progresses further and further as we develop a stronger relationship. In the case of friendship, this is kind of an interesting subject. With friendship, there really are so many different levels. We all have people that we would consider friends, but maybe we don't ever talk to them outside of a class or work or something like that. I think there's an expectation of being friendly, but not really an expectation of going out of our way to be a friend. Of course everybody's expectations of their friends can differ. I think there's two major problems we run into with all of this. One, people aren't always going to meet our expectations. Maybe our expectations are too high, or maybe their expectations are not quite the same as ours, or maybe they just don't do a great job of thinking outside of their own person and seeing how their actions would violate their own expectations. Needless to say, a problem is created because of a difference in expectation. Two, we can misperceive our relationship with this individual, which in turn creates a different expectation level. This really can go both ways. We might perceive that they are better friends with us than we are with them or vice versa. Either way, if the level of our perceived friendship doesn't match up, we are not likely to have the same expectations and somebody is likely to get hurt.

Now to complicate matters even further, picture all of this mess in a romantic relationship. The stakes are higher in the game of love and we've raised the level of expectation and the level of the relationship in general. It seems like to me, one of the absolute biggest problems in a romantic relationship is that people are not on the same level as far as what their relationship is. That's really kind of a funny idea because it is hard to really see different levels as far as a romantic relationship is concerned other than maybe the extremes, but they are certainly there. So I guess there lies another problem, it's hard to even perceive what these levels are. Also, you've brought even more expectations to the table because this person is so much more a part of your life than just a friend. Expectations to everyday living become a lot more important than they are with your buddies you just hang out with on the weekend. It all becomes so complex that it really is amazing that anybody can work it out.

A friend of mine once related the idea of a romantic relationship being kind of like a game of tug of war. What we tug on is trust and we're trying to get more trust out of the other person. I think this trust is relative to our expectations. We yank thinking that as we pull harder we can trust them more because they will meet our expectations more fully and this is a constant cycle. Now the problem is if we give up too much of that trust, they win the game and we get burned. It's a delicate balance. The trust must have a balance and so must the expectations. Obviously the balance isn't always going to be perfect, but if we let it go too far one way or the other, we lose the game.

The funny thing about all of this is in my life I don't know if this is just a lesson that I haven't really understood until recently or if I have done a lot better with meeting my expectations more than one would expect. As far as friendships, I think I do a pretty good job of feeling out what the friendship is and I don't typically feel too burned. I know I've had my times where I thought my friendship was something more than what it was, but typically it didn't take too much to realize that this was a misperception and I wasn't hurt hardly at all by it. Romantic relationships are somewhat of a different story. I've lost that game of trust a few too many times. But as far as a lot of it works, I don't know that it was too drastic of a problem as far as our expectations matching up. I can think of an instance in which my expectations were not being met in the least and so I had to let go because it was too difficult for me to maintain something like that. That really can be a hard and unfair place to put someone in, so it's something we definitely need to look out for when we might find ourselves in those kinds of circumstances.

Just be careful how you relate to other people's expectations. By no means does that mean we always have to bend to their expectations. Sometimes we set up faulty expectations so we do them no favor by maintaining improper expectations. But we should be aware of such things and realize that just because their expectations don't match ours doesn't make them wrong. I think the only wrong we commit as far as this is when we too blatantly disregard the expectations and in turn the feelings of others so as to be quite crushing to them. I know very few people anxiously pursue a course meant to hurt others, so that's why we need to be sensitive of others in every way possible. We need to be sensitive to those expectations, and if things be right for us, if the relationship (friendly or romantic) is what we want, be willing to help meet their expectations as much as possible.

1 comment:

Michael Powers said...

I think romantic relationships sometimes involve, or at least at some point should involve more trust than a typical friendship. The reason for that is that the investment is higher.