Expectations and Relationships
If we really think about it, most of our concerns and daily conflicts happen within the context of relationships.
We are constantly connecting with people at different layers of intimacy, and yet it seems like we always have to deal with unfulfilled expectations related to these connections. It might be a loud neighbor, a demanding client, a lazy colleague, a child who is not doing well at school, a partner who doesn’t seem to understand us, or other stress-inducing relationships.
In other words, we expect others to be in sync with how we anticipate and experience situations, and consciously or not, we expect them to help make us feel complete. Unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. The higher our expectations, the more isolated we tend to feel.
How can we develop healthier, more fulfilling relationships? By introducing us to the completeness of the present moment and giving us the space to be more aware of our projections and expectations, mindfulness meditation can help us get back in sync with our natural goodness. That’s who we really are.
Falling in Love with Our Projections
Our love lives are usually a good example of how this process of projecting works. How many times have we fallen in love with the most amazing person we’ve ever met? And how long did this feeling last?
Much of the information we receive from advertisements, songs, television, movies, etc., on a daily basis reinforces a glamorized, idealized version of romantic love that doesn’t actually work for anyone. These imprints unconsciously shape our expectations of romantic relationships and what we project onto them.
Yet many of the people who come to see me in my practice as a psychologist say that they have everything they need to be happy in life… but their relationships aren’t very fulfilling. They have unmet expectations. Their partner is no longer the person they fell in love with.
Scientific research has found that when we’re in love – which is clinically considered a temporary state of mind – our perception of the object of love is distorted. Heightened neurochemical reactions are taking place in our systems, and we become addicted to the fabulous feelings they trigger. We are hooked on the sensation of loving and being loved. We project our feelings onto the object of our desires and believe that the other person is the source of these feelings. Thanks to our continued fascination with the projections we’ve created, we experience pleasurable sensations and cling to them. But these projections and feelings are arising within our own minds! Without a doubt, the process of attachment, when unexamined, sows the seeds of future conflicts, unfulfilled expectations and frustrations—in brief, the expressions of basic dissatisfaction in relationships.
Mindfulness Meditation Leads to Healthier Relationships
If we can let go of these concepts, we’ll have the space we need to connect with our true selves, our own sources of happiness and our inner wealth. Mindfulness meditation shows us how.
When we practice meditation, we train in not grasping the concepts that appear in our minds, including the thoughts, images, sensations and emotions that color how we experience the world. We can perceive situations more accurately and our true selves can be revealed.
By not clinging to the misperceptions we have about others, by being able to recognize and let go of them, we discover that there’s plenty of space. We have the space we need to connect with our own innate qualities of wisdom and compassion. This leads to a healthier, more genuine ability to love. The irony is that the qualities we seek out in others are already within us – it’s the projecting outward that brings about codependency and dissatisfaction in relationships.
We don’t need others to “complete us” – we are already complete. This is our true inner wealth. From a place of completeness we can connect better and more profoundly with others. We are able to leave clinging, expectations and dependency behind and embrace genuine openness and appreciation. Mindfulness meditation is the simple, yet profound, method that makes it possible for us to love better.
This article is adapted from “Love & Relationships,” a Mindworks Mind Talk by Maria Camara. This Mind Talk and more are available through Mindworks course Improving Relationships, along with guided meditations, progressive meditation programs and more.