What To Expect When You’re Trying Not To Expect Anything

Credit Liz Pleasant

Expectation: A strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. 

(Spoiler: The future DOES NOT EXIST.)

My online therapist says most of my suffering comes from expectation.

She says that when you expect something from anyone (yourself, a friend, a partner) sooner or later—usually sooner—you’ll be disappointed. Sadness, anger, resentment? All products of unmet expectations.

Apparently, ditching future-oriented expectations for focusing on the present moment can lead to:

1. An increase in pleasant surprises for when things go well.

2. An easier time rolling with the punches when things go to shit.

My online therapist is usually right about these things, so I’ve decided to give it a shot. It’s hard though.

For example:

A few weeks ago, I was with a friend talking about work, dating, and how we should stop staying out so late. “I want to meet a guy who has none of the same friends as me,” I told him. “Where do you find the nice guys with the good jobs that want to take you out to dinner?”

A week later, that EXACT guy fell into my life.

He was nice, cute, funny, and basic in the most charming kind of way. When I gave him my number he responded with, “Are you sure? Because I’m just a normal guy.”

Bingo.

He took me to a baseball game. We drank beer that should have been cheaper than it was and talked about our families, our work, and our goals. He was a self-proclaimed “sports guy” and definitely fell somewhere on the “bro” spectrum. But he also name-dropped Alicia Garza, worked in finance, and was writing a novel. And we had exactly zero mutual friends.

Basically, he was my dream bro.

The next day I focused on one thing: No expectations. Yeah, this guy was exactly what I said I wanted (in a bizarre Twilight Zone kind of way) but that didn’t mean things were going to get serious. Just take it one step at a time. No expectations.

Then we slept together.

When I texted him the next day, he didn’t respond.

Radio silence.

As I write this—weeks later—I still haven’t heard from him.

I’m not angry or sad or annoyed. I’m just confused. But that confusion comes from a sneaky set of expectations I was ignoring.

I thought this guy was “different.” But different how?

I’m not totally sure. I know it has to do with future thinking—with wanting more than what I have in the present moment.

Did I show up to our dates with the mindset of having fun, regardless of the outcome? No. Somewhere inside me, I was expecting more: A string of dates, some goodnight texts, a couple heart eye emojis. Nice guys pay for dinner sometimes, right? And buy you sweet gifts every once in a while? Maybe his grownup job would inspire me to go out less. I’d save some money. And with all that extra energy and cash, maybe I’d join a gym…

Of course, none of that came close to happening.

The nonexistent future is a dangerous thing to dwell on—even just for a moment. You have no way of knowing what’s going to happen in two days, two months, or two years. So why try to guess? Nine times out of ten, you’ll be wrong anyway.

Instead, why not give 100 percent of yourself to the present? Enter every situation with zero expectations—be curious, be kind, be there for the person in front of you. Live for what’s happening right now, not for what you think could happen down the road.

And for the record, I’m not suggesting all women should be cool with dudes sleeping with them and never calling them again.

But some women can choose to be OK with it. And I’d like to be one of them.

There’s too much real suffering in the world to let one ghosting get to me. I could be sad and sulk. I could go out, order a few too many drinks, and ask my friends where they think it all went wrong. I could lay around and wonder what he’s up to right now …

Or I can be grateful that I met him. Welcome the reminder that the future doesn’t exist and accept the fact that the present is all I’ll ever have. Be thankful to the universe for showing me that when I articulate my dreams, I can manifest them into reality. And smile at the fact that it’s time for me to dream bigger. TC mark

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