Love Without Expectation

Flickr-love-SaraiRachelChristina Sarich, Staff Writer
Waking Times

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu 

On our paths we often encounter friends, lovers, even enemies that we want to offer affection or tenderness, but is it true love we really give them? Is it true compassion, acceptance of who they are in this moment without the desire to change them? Without expectation for what they ‘should’ be, or who they ‘ought’ to be for us? Do we give them a rope just long enough to hang themselves or a laundry list of secret requirements they must meet in order to be our friend, our lover, our mentor, or fellow human being? Love without expectation is true love. It is rare, and complex, just like the path into one’s own inner nature.

There are those who will climb mountains, forage in jungles and camp in forests looking for the thrill of the unknown. Others look inside themselves for the same heart-pounding discovery of the hidden facets of our consciousness. When we are truly awakened through this deep inner journey, we realize that there is no other. In the famous lines from John Donne:

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thy own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for me.


Similarly the Chandogya Upanishad speaks a single word – advaita – meaning ‘not two’ and Tat tvam asi – Thou Art That. We are what we love, so when we have expectations for another, if they somehow fail us, then we have only failed ourselves.

“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine.” ~ Bruce Lee

How often do we make the bar too high to reach? Or the mountain too high to climb? And then use this as an excuse not to love completely? These are the tricks of an egoic mind keeping what is ‘out there’ separate from the overarching Love that connects us all. When we expect something from others, we don’t allow the true genius of the Universe to surprise us, or drop our jaws in awe with the infinitely more appropriate and beautiful ways it can work out ‘problems’ when we get out of our own way – and drop our expectations.

We all have our little fantasies about how things should be. How others should behave, what exactly our lives should look like. But this is all just a play – just maya – the physical only, the material circus of an infinitely greater Universe.

Once we let go of our expectations, we stop trying to force people into boxes, smash them into take-out containers that cannot contain even their fractional vastness, as representative of the Whole, we start to experience the world as it more truly exists.

It also means we don’t have to be frustrated or angry anymore. We can just allow. This doesn’t mean that we become spineless, but it does mean that we don’t consent to the actions of others – which are really just our own projections anyhow – disturbing the equanimity of our minds.

We can notice when we start to wish things were different – when we start to fantasize about some outcome. Instead, we can do good things, be kind to people, and have no expectation for any particular outcome. The Dalai Lama once said, “I am open to the guidance of synchronicity, and do not let expectations hinder my path.” 

“A wonderful gift may not be wrapped as you expect.” ~ Jonathan Lockwood Huie 

Set intentions, have goals, but then start allowing. Let everyone be completely who they are. Don’t try to change them. Just observe them. Don’t wish they were smarter or taller or kinder, but just see them in all their costumed glory. Chances are you haven’t really seen them in their truest light yet. Let them dazzle you with aspects of their personality that you haven’t even imagined before. Let circumstances effortlessly resolve into the most perfect outcome for all involved. Don’t force. Release your need to control all things, and instead allow the Genius of a benevolent Universe to gently usher you to the next exact right person you need to interact with or place you need to be.

“If men could see us as we really are, they would be a little amazed; but the cleverest, the acutest men are often under an illusion about women: they do not read them in a true light: they misapprehend them, both for good and evil: their good woman is a queer thing, half doll, half angel; their bad woman almost always a fiend.” ~ Charlotte Bronte 

People just might surprise us when we let go of our expectations and just love them – as they are – right now.

About the Author

Christina Sarich is a musician, yogi, humanitarian and freelance writer who channels many hours of studying Lao TzuParamahansa YoganandaRob Brezny,  Miles Davis, and Tom Robbins into interesting tidbits to help you Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.

This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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  • Hari

    your article is good. I was in need of article like this. But it is giving pain when people who we love and care, dont care or love us back. i agree we dont have any rights over them. but when they were in need, they are coming to us, finish the task and going back. i just dont understand. how we human being are like this. why we cant expect love from others? love is just words and come care. why people are not giving that.? i suffered lot. because i expected love back when i loved people

  • Meter

    An excellent exploration of true love, Christina!

  • Espion

    There was rejoicing “throughout” the land when the government was defeated.

    Here, the preposition “throughout” introduces the noun phrase “the land.” The prepositional phrase acts as an adverb describing the location of the rejoicing.

    Do you think i’m helping mySelf out here in more ways than one?

  • Marguerite

    I dislike expectations placed on me and those that do I realise don’t truly love me. They have no idea what I’m handling and place an expectation on me without any insight, knowing or understanding. I agree that the healthier a person is internally the less expectation they place on others. This is a good article – thank you. It can be easy to fall back into the expectation and disappointment pattern.

  • Josiah

    do you ever give christmas gifts of birthday presents with expectations? aside of warming the other persons heart? perhaps a smile?

  • Barry John

    I believe that real, pure love is love without expectation. I think it is an ideal in many respects, but achievable. Love with expectations is love with barriers, usually barriers to protect our own wounds – the healthier we get the better able we are to love without expectation.
    we still have to have boundaries, not subject ourselves to abuse – sometimes the love without expectation has to be love from afar – thank you for this article

    • Pia

      Thank you for writing this add-on bit, really appreciate this,
      I agree 🙂

  • Bonnie Lou

    John Donne wrote, “…and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” Not “for me”! That changes the whole meaning of the quote. I’m surprised no one else noticed. I guess it is not famous enough. But very true.

    • Espion

      “and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

      In Donne’s time, the bells of churches rang in a certain sequence to indicate to the people that someone had died.

      The verb “To send to know.” is now, “send someone to ask”.

      “Donne uses the preposition “for” in two senses: the first for whom = in whose cause; the second for thee = for your purpose, i.e. to remind you a little part of you has died also.

  • Sounds boring and stagnant. Without some expectation, there is no motivation for growth. I appreciate that those who love me encourage me to be the very best person I can be and vice versa.

    • Waking Times

      The growth is in letting go of our need to control others – they (others) only reflect what is left unloved in ourselves.

  • steve

    A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” ~ Lao Tzu
    Good old Lao Tzu.
    Christina, I hope the benevolent universe lets me fall across the threshold of someone like you.

  • “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine.”
    A Frederick Perls quote not Bruce Lee

    • Espion

      “I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you are not in this world to live up to mine.”

      just had to reply!

    • V. Young

      I love this article!!
      Thank you!!

  • warbaby

    There has to be some expectation. Otherwise we expose ourselves to unrequited love.

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