Here is how you love without expectation:
You love yourself first. Not necessarily most or best, but first. You don’t cancel plans that you were excited about because somebody else wanted your time. You don’t rearrange your schedule to accommodate a person who may bail at the last moment anyway. You are strict with yourself – even when you want to give in to the impulses of others –because you know that what you want and what you need is not always the same thing.
You need someone you can rely on and that person has to be you. At the end of the day, if everyone else bails and flakes and fails to show, you will still be there. So don’t look at yourself as a sad consolation prize. Put in the work. Become someone you’re proud of. If you’re who you’re left with at the end of the day, be happy with who you’ve ended up with. Make sure it’s someone you’d pick over a flakey, unreliable love interest or friend.
To love without expectation, you choose honesty in your own endeavors. If you don’t want games, you stop playing them. You text back. You show up. You say what you mean and you don’t make time for maybes. In a world full of dishonest people, you choose not to become one of them, even if that makes you lose a foolish game or two. Like attracts like and if you’re looking for straightforward, no-nonsense people, you will have to become one. So you wean out a few losers on the way there. So what. You’re becoming who you want to be.
To love without expectation, you show compassion. You remember the times when you’ve lied and cheated and fell short of the expectations other people set for you, and you forgive yourself for them. You understand that you had a liability but you did not live up to it and while you may not be okay with your choices, there was a reason why the cards fell the way that they did. You remember that reason. You remember that other people may have similar reasons when they let you down – reasons that have nothing to do with you at all.
You learn to detach from your personal investment in why people do what they do, because chances are it doesn’t exist. You understand that you have infinitely less to do with other people’s actions than you’ve always believed. And you learn to be fine with that. Learn to be free within it, even.
To love without expectation, you learn what’s not in your control. You understand that everyone has their own demons and nobody owes it to you to fight them. At the end of the day, you have two choices in love – one is to accept someone just as they are and the other is to walk away. There is no in between. There is no bartering, bargaining, expecting and falling short in love. There is just choosing to be there or to not. Anything in between is a tired, self-interested excuse for love.
To love without expectation, you learn to appreciate what’s there. Other people are not ours to own or rearrange or expect things from and the more anticipation we pit onto others, the more we let ourselves down in the end. All we can do is appreciate who we have when we have them, and let them go when we do not. To lend our hearts like vacant hotel rooms: celebrating others when they come in and letting them go when they leave. Understanding that at the end of the day, all we can do is refuse occupancy. But we cannot force anyone to stay.
To love without expectation, you have to be okay with yourself. Okay with opening your doors, spreading your arms, baring your heart and understanding that not everyone is going to be gentle with it. You have to know that you can recover from those aches, that you can heal your own wounds, that you can trust yourself to walk away from the situations that do not grow or aid you.
Because here’s the thing about placing expectations on others: at the root of expectation is need. Need for others to accept you, to validate you, to tell you that you’re good and worthwhile and strong. And if you can do that for yourself – if you can live up to your own expectations and desires, then the need for other people to do so disappears. The need to bend over backwards, to accommodate others, to seek validation from those who do not deserve your heart, disappears.
Who to love and who to leave becomes simple. And expectation slides out the window.