“Peace requires us to surrender our illusions of control. We can love and care for others but we cannot possess our children, lovers, family, or friends. We can assist them, pray for them, and wish them well, yet in the end their happiness and suffering depend on their thoughts and actions, not on our wishes.”—Jack Kornfield
There’s a Beatles song and endless poems about loving someone without expectations. No one tells you where and how to begin doing that, though.
Letting Go of Expectations
This isn’t about a person who doesn’t have expectations because inevitably you will fall in love with someone who has a whole slew of expectations and at some point you will stop living up to them. At some point, we all let someone down. At some point, we all let ourselves down.
But this isn't about us—this is about letting go of our own expectations. The Beatles put that advice out there like it’s the easiest thing in the world. Like telling you this secret, to love without expectations, will instantly set you free.
It does not. I’ve heard that advice or a variation of it every time I have struggled with any relationship in my life and I’ve read it in nearly every yoga book I’ve gotten my hands on and I still can’t get it right. At least, I think, I’m starting to figure out what it means.
Loving without expectations means being okay enough with yourself to love someone else.
It means not feeling insecure when they don’t express their love the way the same way you express yours. It means being okay enough with yourself so you don’t have to seek someone else’s approval, so that your happiness does not hinge on whether someone else thinks the world of you.
You don’t need others' approval to be who you are. You don’t need to be in love to know you are enough.~Molly Haight
Because approval isn’t love, approval is approval. Approval is someone else giving you their permission to be who you already are.
Loving without expectations means being able to love someone even when they are letting you down.
It means loving even when it feels awful. Even when you’re crying so hard you can’t see straight or say clear sentences. Loving someone without expectations means knowing they aren’t perfect, but neither are you.
Loving someone without expectations means letting them go when they’ve hurt you one too many times but not holding it against them. Loving someone else goes hand in hand with loving yourself...and it’s hard.
Don’t lose your backbone just to be compassionate for someone else, but also, do not be a jerk just because you got your feelings hurt.
You can never love any one more than you can love yourself. Maybe you can, but should you?
That kind of seemed screwed up to me at first. Because loving yourself feels so awful and hard sometimes, but loving someone else can feel like you’re on drugs and you never want it to end and nothing could be easier.
But one day, loving that someone suddenly doesn't feel easy any more. It feels hard and boring and the person and the relationship you have isn’t as "exciting" anymore. If you can love yourself through the boring bits, don’t you think you could love someone else through their boring bits too?
There is freedom in letting go of expectations.
There is freedom in loving someone through their boring bits and realizing that love doesn’t have to look they way you’ve imagined it. This isn’t complacency—this is seeing someone as they truly are and making the conscious decision to either love them or let them go.
Every day I have to remind myself to just love the people I love as best as I can. People are going to be people and (almost) everyone is trying as hard as they can. Most people haven’t figured it out at all, they are going to hurt you and they might not even know it.
I struggle to find stable ground sometimes; to find the balance between sticking up for myself and letting go of whatever grudges or anger I’m holding on to. When I feel the most lost, I grasp for love because I want to feel connected and whole, but the grasping tends to just leave me feeling more empty and alone.
Truth is, there is no point in grasping because there is nothing to grasp for; what you want is already there and there is only the need to remember. We all remember in our own ways, but that’s another story completely.
Inevitably, when you love the people around you as much as you can, it all comes back to you one way or another. So do the best you can, love yourself, love your people, be open to possibilities and trust that the rest will come.