Nearly all of us have some sort of notion of what a friendship is supposed to be like, but if you notice that people you thought were friends never seem to be there for you, perhaps you're assuming some things about friendship in general. If you're having a problem with making or keeping new friends, your preconceived level of expectations may be to blame.
Here are four tips on how to watch your expectations, but be careful. You don't want to lower your standards so much that you end up with bad friendships. It's sometimes a fine line between unreasonable expectations and settling for people who treat you poorly.
Are Your Expectations Out of Balance?
The first place to determine if your expectations are reasonable is with the friendships you currently have. Are people you thought were friends behaving like more of an acquaintance? Do you feel 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.
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 is important to know your friend as an individual with their own strengths and weaknesses. If they are 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.
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.
For example, if you click with someone you've just met, that's great, but it doesn't mean you are 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.
When it comes to venting about your problems, you have to take some responsibility. Just because you're annoyed and want to rant to someone, it doesn't mean that your friend is always the one you should do it with. This is especially true if your friend is having issues of their own which you are ignoring because you're too caught up in your own problems. You can share your troubles, but don't expect friends to listen "no matter what." They have their own lives and schedules, and if you have abused your privilege of bending their ear, you need to give them a break.
Much of the feelings involved with loneliness center around a deeper connection. You can't expect people to make this happen for you. It's up to you to work on relationships until you feel that you have a close ally. It takes time and effort.
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 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.
When you've made sure that your expectations for friendship are reasonable, a good way to ensure you always have friends that can meet your needs is simply to get a variety of people in your social circle. This way, you'll have friends in your life to laugh and have fun with when you want.