The last article ended with a discussion of the role expectations play in marriage. According to the National Healthy Marriage Resouce Center unrealistic expectations are the number one issue that leads to divorce. So how do we develop realistic expectations? This is one of those things that is going to take some work. Society has all sorts of messages about what to expect and you have probably picked up some bad expectations along the way without even realizing it. One of the keys is to be intentional. The other is to discuss your expectations with your spouse. Remember, this whole marriage thing is work, hard work. This whole expectations thing is going to require you to think on your own and then share with your spouse. I can hear you already, “thinking and sharing…I’d rather play golf, shoot deer, watch paint dry (you can fill it in as you wish). Think about this though. We give lip service to the concept that our marriage and our family are the most important thing in the world to us, but if they are then why do we get so bent out of shape about putting a little effort into the relationship?
Did you think the relationship was going to be effortless? Was that your expectation? What are your expectations? That’s your first bit of homework. Sit down and think…what were you expecting? It will help if you write it down, because later on you need to share it with you know who. So what is the purpose of this little task? First, for you to think to yourself if your expectations are realistic. Once you start writing things down (or typing things out) it readily becomes apparent that some of what you think doesn’t make much sense. There’s something about writing down your ideas that makes you able to look at them a little more objectively (not totally objective, but a little more so).
It’s in that writing and searching for what you really think that you can start to make sense of some things. You might be able to see where you are being a little extreme or an area you have not compromised on that you do not care about as much as you though initially. Or vice versa. You may find that there is something you really care about, but it seems trivial on one hand so you completely caved on it, but the thought just keeps coming back. Chances are though it may seem trivial it IS important to you and now you know.
At the end of the day we do need to sit down and share our lists. It can be in silence as each one reads the list of the other. You can read it to the other person and they can read theirs to you. For that matter you could email it to each other. If you are the kind of person that has a hard time communicating it may be that as you get started you need your communications to be almost professional. That’s another part of expectations. You need to expect to meet the other person where they are and the deference goes to the weaker person. For instance; if you grew up in a family where feelings are not shared and your spouse did they probably expect you to share willingly and often. You on the other hand do not feel comfortable with that at all.
In an ideal world you could share the fact that you are not comfortable with that and your spouse would share that they are not comfortable with not having a level of communication where feelings are shared. In this scenario you are the weaker person as you are being asked to do something you are not comfortable with. So the sharer needs agree to meet you where you are. You need to agree to work on your communication skills when it comes to touchy feeling things. Hopefully, you will see that touchy feely things are not always that touchy feely and can lead to a lot of happiness. Before happiness comes realistic expectations. Get ’em while they’re hot!