There is no normal for expectations. There is a common ground among cultures, groups, communities, but there is no normal. This morning I was reading about a clash between metamours in a polya dynamic related to expectations that weren’t met and it all boiled down to an assumed normal or standard for expectations.
In the situation, Person A was asking for advice because their Partner B had brought Metamour C to the home A and B shared. During that time, A had been busy and had not run into C during the couple days C stayed there. There were times they were both home, but A was in the bedroom they share with B, or in the shower, or generally not in the main living areas. During the majority of the time A was actually not home or sleeping. C was in the guest bedroom during most of this time. C did not take the time to seek out A and greet them while they stayed there, and A was very upset about this and felt it was an incredibly disrespectful action of C’s part. In their perspective, C has come into their home, been eating their food, using their utilities, and had not even had the good grace to find them and greet them in exchange for this hospitality.
Many of the responses to the post took the opposite perspective, they did not feel A had any reason to be upset, but that it was C who had been wronged. Responses found A to be inhospitable and a poor host to not have sought out C to make them feel welcome. Rather then feel A was reasonable in their expectations of greater respect, as they saw it, from C, they felt that A was being a horrid host for not making the initial effort to verbally welcome C into their home and initiate conversation.
It all boils down to expectations, and what a person views as normal or standard. When we acknowledge something as common, we realize it is frequent and maybe even well understood by most people. But when we think something is normal, there is an added implication that not only is it common, but it is good, it is the right way, and a deviation from it is abnormal, often seen as incorrect. Person A thought it was normal when coming into someones home and staying there, to make sure to greet the owner of the home, in this case that would be both A and B, so A was neglected in this. They felt they were being gracious in letting C into their home, and in C not feeling a need to do this, C was only seeing it as B’s home, and it was an affront to A, whose home it was also. They felt that this was a thing of such importance, that despite A having been absent or busy during much of the visit, C should have expended the extra effort to find one of the times A was around and sought them out for this customary greeting and brief moment of conversation. Not doing so was ignoring them, which was a disrespectful slight against their hospitality.
Now it is hard to tell what Metamour C felt in this situation, since that wasn’t voiced. Instead I can only make assumptions based on having seen this situation play out in my own life, and having been a metamour and guest in someones home, as well as having partners bring metas into the home we lived in. Presumably C did not have the same normal. Judging by the responses, they may have had the seemingly common expectation that since it was A and Bs home, it was on A to offer hospitality and initiate conversation and greetings if they chose. They may also have just viewed things from a more independent perspective. That the home is shared between A and B, that B had them over as a guest, so that was between them and B and A need not be involved if they were busy and didn’t want to interact. In that scenario, less possessiveness or control is placed on the home and proper ways to behave when in it, because it does not matter so much that it is A’s home as well in that C is not required to interact with A while in that space. What matters is only C being respectful of the space itself, not breaking anything for example, and spending their time with B, the one who invited them to share some of that space. In this version of normal, A isn’t really relevant in respect of being a good host or being ignored in some gesture of impropriety, and interaction with A would only be relevant if it were agreed on by them both and then that agreement broken.
In looking further at the responses, A wasn’t willing to accept the idea that they in fact were the one who had a breach in etiquette by not initiating contact and “being a good host”. In their normalized expectations, they had been a good host by allowing someone in their home, and for someone to put the expectation of initiating contact on them was abnormal and ridiculous. For many responders the idea that you would not greet someone you had invited or agreed to have in your home was rude and ridiculous, and it was abnormal to put the onus of that on the other person.
So, let’s look at it with the view that no expectations are normal. There is no right way to do things, there is sometimes a common understanding, but with that, there are also outliers. If you have expectations and they are reinforced by your experience and upbringing and mirrored by the people around you, they are common, at least among your culture or specific community of people at the time. If someone comes along and does not automatically do what you expect, since your expectations are no longer seen under the guise of normal and right, just common, the next default assumption is that maybe they are an outlier, they are someone who doesn’t know or share these common expectations. Suddenly they are not doing anything wrong in this, they just either lack awareness of what you expect, or they have a different set of expectations that are common for them which can exist separately from yours. Normal is loaded with okay vs not okay, common is something that simply varies from place to place. Once you see it this way, it is easier to move on to how to address the situation.
Once you recognize your common expectations are not being met, and realize the person not meeting them may not be aware of them or may have a different set of common expectations, what do you do? Well you communicate of course. In this case, A could simply approach C and let them know that they have an expectation that anyone who is a guest in their home will take the time to seek them out and greet them. A can explain that from their common experience, this is a way of showing respect for someones space, so not doing so makes them feel disrespected. C may simply have had no idea, and may be surprised to find they had played a part in A feeling disrespected, and may be happy to try and meet those expectations in the future now that they know them. C might instead have other expectations, they might explain that what is common to them is the host being the one to initiate contact and greeting, and to not do so feels inhospitable or unwelcoming to them. If C is also able to look at things from the perspective we are using, C can realize this is also not one right or normal way, but simply what was common in their experience. A can understand this and realize that they too may have caused C to feel unwelcoming, simply because of a mismatched set of expectations.
From that point you can move forward. Most people can get to this point and reach a mutual understanding of where the other person is coming from and what they may feel in a situation, and how that is shaped but what is common for them. The hardest part is what to do when your expectations still don’t match afterwards. So, the next step, which is easier when you acknowledge that your expectations are not some one right true way, but just a variation you knew with more frequency, is to let go of those expectations. This is a lot harder for some people then others, or for some expectations then others. It also can really relieve a lot of hard feelings between people if you can achieve that. So, you look at the core sources of desire behind the expectations. A wanted to feel respected and acknowledged in their home. When you take it down to that base emotion, you can work out a way to do that with the other person. C might explain that they don’t feel comfortable seeking out A when A is not around for much of the time and is not in common areas of the house but still want A to feel respected and acknowledged. Knowing that is the core motivation, they could come up with another way to do so, like bringing their own shampoo and food so they are not using the supplies A has, or leaving a card behind that thanks A for their hospitality in having them over in the home they share with B. Or A could be like me and find it simpler to just let go of those expectations all together and decide it would feel better to handle those emotions myself and not need other’s validation to feel respected in my home. After all, as long as the other person is not being destructive, and is aware that I live there and it is my home as well, I don’t really need them giving respect to a concept I already am secure in.
In the end, try and distance yourself from your expectations. Try and see them as common or uncommon variations that may be shared by many others, but are not one right way. Detach from the concept of normalicy or something being a correct way of doing things, especially if it is a social norm that varies widely. Communicate about any expectations, if you don’t, there will be misunderstandings. Find the root causes and see if there are compromises that can satisfy everyone’s core wants and needs. And let go of ones that don’t serve you or learn to manage your emotions yourself without outside validation when you need to.