Our first Valentine’s Day together, my husband, Scott, bought me a dozen long-stem roses. We have been married twenty-eight years. Guess how many times he’s bought me a dozen long stem roses? Once.
It’s a good thing I didn’t expect roses every Valentine’s Day, right? Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Scott. After being together over thirty-one years (we dated for three), he’s done plenty of “unexpected” romantic things. That’s one aspect of his personality I love—spontaneity. Plus, roses on Valentine’s Day are too much money!
Where do our expectations come from?
Expectations stem (pun intended) from our thought process when examining evidence combined with personal experiences. They usually come from what we’re used to, our families growing up or our personalities.
We place expectations on ourselves and all our relationships—family, friends, co-workers, bosses, pastors, strangers, and even God.
Let’s talk about the expectations we place on our marriages. We usually draw from two areas:
- Our dating/courtship experience
- How marriage was demonstrated when we were growing up.
Dating/courtship can be a mirage. Think about it. We got all dressed up and did fun things together most everytime we met. When we were tired of talking or relating, we went home. We faced our financial issues alone.
All of this changes when you are married.
How was marriage demonstrated when you were growing up? Most likely you either saw it as worth duplicating or you’d rather not.
Even if the marriage we saw demonstrated growing up was full of strife and complications, we might feel it could be different for us. But simply raising your expectations will not make for a strong and successful marriage.
Expectations can be good or bad, high or low, realistic or unrealistic. But usually, unexpressed expectations get us in trouble. And expectations based on assumptions get us into trouble too.
When Scott and I got married, we both had our expectations for each other. Many of them were not discussed until a conflict arose. What I’m going to share with you is a short outline of what we’ve learned through trial and error, but more importantly, through our relationship with Jesus Christ.
How to Form Healthy Expectations
The Bible gives us some principles to form expectations and deal wisely with the expectations of others.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Openness and honesty first with ourselves and then with others is a must. We need to take a good hard look at what we expect and discuss it with our loved ones.
When you communicate:
- Choose an appropriate time to talk.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be gentle, be loving, and be direct. Don’t dance around the issue.
- Ask for feedback to make sure the other person understands what you’ve communicated.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Listen and show you are listening by nodding, smiling, etc.
- Wait for the person to complete a thought without interruption.
- If you don’t understand something, say so.
- Paraphrase what you heard so the other knows you understand.
The Hebrews were expecting the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Yet, when Jesus the Messiah came, they had unrealistic expectations of what He would do. When He didn’t fulfill their expectations, they crucified him.
Jesus forgave those who killed him (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgives us for our many sins. And we must forgive others too. This includes our loved ones or friends who harbor anger towards us or have unrealistic expectations of us (or vice-versa).
Unforgiveness is cancer. If allowed to remain in our hearts, like cancer, it will turn to bitterness and destroy relationships, including a healthy relationship with God.
“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
To live this kind of love is impossible without the Holy Spirit. As long as we are on this planet, we will be challenged to show love and mercy the way Christ did.
If we have created expectations for others that they cannot meet, it’s not their fault.
On the same token, we are not obligated to live up to others unreasonable expectations.
If we place all our expectations and hopes on anything other than God, we will always come up wanting (Daniel 5:27)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.
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