This Just In: How To Have the Right Expectations for a Lasting Friendship

Ways to Cheer up a Friend
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Nearly all of us have some sort of notion of what a friendship is supposed to be like, but when you set expectations too high, you inevitably end up disappointed. If you're having a problem with making or keeping new friends, your level of expectations for your friends may be to blame, but you want to find the balance. The lower your standards are, the more likely you'll put up with toxic behavior or find yourself in a bad friendship that'll end up hurting you. It's a fine line between expecting way too much and settling for those who treat you poorly. We rounded up some tips on how to manage your expectations and keep yourself in check.

Read on to learn how to manage your expectations for friends.

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Are Your Expectations Out of Balance?

Assess your current friendships. Are people you thought were friends behaving more like acquaintances? Do you feel an instant closeness to new people, and then become disappointed when they don't seem to think of you the same way? If you're consistently being let down by friendships, it's one sign that your expectations could be the culprit. "If someone is routinely disappointed by friends, it means he or she is probably expecting too much from them," says Fredric Neuman, M.D.

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Reasonable Expectations in a Friendship

While every friendship is different, there are some general expectations that most people have:

  • Your friend treats you with respect.
  • Your friend tries not to hurt your feelings.
  • You and a new friend get to know each other at a pace that is comfortable to you both.
  • You like friends who make you laugh or lift your spirits.
  • You appreciate friends who value you.

Beyond these traits, it's important to know your friend as an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses. If they're insecure, for example, they may not be someone you can rely on for external validation; in which case, they may be better at expressing their love another way. 

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Unreasonable Expectations in a Friendship

If you're constantly running up against conflict and hurt feelings, see if your attitudes on friendship match some of these unreasonable expectations:

  • You meet someone and instantly think you have a bond that makes this person a best friend.
  • When you like people, you share your deepest darkest secrets and insecurities within a short time of meeting them.
  • When you click with someone, you expect to see them right away again so you can start hanging out.
  • When you need to vent, you expect your friend to listen no matter what.
  • When you're lonely, you expect your friends to be there for you no matter what's going on in their lives.

Why are these thoughts unreasonable? Because in many cases they put too much pressure on a friendship. Or, they put too much pressure too soon. "In order for friends to stay friends, it is important to set limits," Neuman says.

For example, if you click with someone you've just met, that's great, but it doesn't make you instantly best friends. Some friendships develop quickly, but even in the case of fast friends, there needs to be a time of getting to know each other and bonding. Trust doesn't happen overnight.

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Expectations Are Reasonable, but Not Easily Achieved

Since friendships grow at different speeds, it's possible that what you expect to happen in a new friendship is different from someone else. You might have realistic expectations, but for whatever reason, your friend is advancing slower in your friendship. Perhaps you feel a bond, but they don't just yet, or you feel as if you want to spend more time together, but they aren't willing or able to make a commitment with time on the calendar. In these cases, your friend isn't wrong and neither are you, but you need to be patient until your friend feels the same way about the friendship that you do.

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