We all have expectations. We have the ones that were placed on us and we have the ones we place on ourselves and others. All of these can be confusing, exhausting, and sometimes comforting or helpful at various times and stages of our life. Growing up in a very strict American Evangelical home meant there were some pretty powerfully indoctrinated expectations for my life. Mainly, grow up and be a Proverbs 31 Woman. That includes getting married, having babies, and in my case the added burden of “being called” to be a missionaries wife. These expectations were so deeply ingrained, and so commonly accepted in our culture, that even long after I stopped going to church and was seriously questioning my faith, I still held onto these expectations as ideals to strive for.
For some reason that is what came up for me when I thought about the A to Z Blogging Challenge and today’s letter- E. Expectations. When we fail to achieve our expectations someone is always disappointed, ourselves of course but also, maybe, for example, your parents or a teacher at school, a boss. I have always hated disappointing people. It wasn’t even so much about me making lofty demands for myself but it was usually wanting to be the perfect girl who didn’t get into any trouble. So I did what was expected of me.
It took me a long time to get married and try to have children. Even though by then I knew I liked to be in multiple relationships. I had never done so formally but I did date around quite a bit, and my last boyfriend before I met my husband knew I was looking for someone to spend my life with while we were still together at the end. I didn’t even know the word polyamory until I had already been exploring it for almost a year so it was definitely not on my radar back then. Because of these expectations, when I was getting close to 40, I certainly felt like my time was running out. Not only on a chance to meet a nice man who would marry me but I was already in my late 30’s so having a baby was becoming less and less likely as well.
Interestingly, I never examined why it took me that long to get married. My dad told me once when I was in my mid-20s, “People who want things, make things happen.” He continued, “If you wanted to be married, you would already be well on your way to a marriage by now.” I wonder if I had stopped long enough to understand that I was only following expectations, and maybe I didn’t want the life I was pursuing, could I have changed my course way back then?
I may not have enjoyed the overall experience of being married to an abusive alcoholic. It was only a short two years (and we dated two before that) but it was a very difficult two years. However, I always believe our stories make us who we are and we should embrace them, learn from them, and be stronger because of them. Of course, I have hurts, trauma, and bad memories from those years. But I also have some pretty great memories and some wonderful things also happened to me along the way.
Now that I have come through that fire and I am well on the other side, a completely transformed person, I try to consider if what I am doing is because it is expected of me or because I want to do it. I try to live my life with the idea that “I only do what I want to do.” The first time I said that it was a few years after my divorce and I was in the middle of my years of world traveling. I said it, then stopped and really considered what I had just said. I started laughing and my friends were like, “What?” I was so thrilled that my mind knew, even before my heart did; Yes, I am only doing what I want to do anymore- hang all those expectations!
It has been a most liberating way to live my life.
Some other posts you may enjoy:
Advice for the Newly Non-Monogamous
Love in the Shape of Polyamory
My Boyfriend Broke Up With Me Because I Prioritize Me
3 Replies to “Expectations”
It’s so hard fighting against the expectations others have of us and of course that we held about ourselves. But doing so leads to a much more fulfilled and happy life, in the end. Trouble is there’s a lot of pain along the way. I love reading about how you’ve reached your fulfillment through polyamory, even if it does have significant challenges still.
Thanks Julie! I really have. When I am really living this way… I feels “myself” so real and in tune with ME. It’s lovely when it works, but as you say- there are challenges too… but all worth it (I hope) <3