Managing Expectations

I’m leading a study at the church for married people called “iMarriage.” So far it’s very eye-opening. The first session brought up the fact that we come into marriage with a whole load of “expectations” of what we think our spouse will be like, what our marriage will be like, and what our life will be like in general. And, my friends, we all know how that typically turns out for the majority of us, right? expectations = disappointment.

As I was putting the study plan together for class, I asked my husband what expectation he brought into the marriage that quickly became something he realized was not going to be reality. Without missing a beat he looked me in the eye and said, “Sex.” Apparently he thought once we were married it would be “all sex all the time.” But not long after the wedding he had a rude awakening that this was not necessarily part of my expectations of marriage (which was more like having sex 3 times a week or so). We’ve argued over the frequency of sex often in our marriage and it wasn’t until just a few years ago that we finally came to a good place with all of that.

I, on the other hand, waltzed into marriage thinking my husband would treat me like a precious doll – he would open doors for me, insist on lifting heavy things, take care of all “icky” things like car maintenance and home repairs, etc. Being a southern girl this was what I was brought up with, so it was what I expected my marriage to be like. Needless to say, I open my own doors, take my own car in for an oil change, and I’m pretty handy around the house. Now, before you think my husband is a slouch, I assure you that if I asked him to do any of these things he would gladly do it. But, he doesn’t treat me like I “shouldn’t” do it because I’m his delicate flower, or anything like that :).

It’s totally normal to walk into any relationship with a certain amount of expectation because when you are facing an unknown, like heading into a marriage when you’ve never been married before, you walk into it assuming it will be like the marriages you’ve experienced from the outside (like your parents, your friends, TV and movie marriages). The problem isn’t the expectation – the problem is that when your spouse fails to meet that expectation (and often times our expectations are never verbalized, so they don’t even know your expectations!) you immediately express anger or disappointment in them and/or view them as someone who has let you down in some way or is now painted as “not the person you thought they were.” Then the disillusion begins and half the time your spouse is blindsided never realizing that they were doing anything wrong.

We are still early in the study and I’ll keep reflecting here on the great lessons from it. But, perhaps a good exercise for you and your spouse is to consider what expectations you have of one another. Perhaps you have had an expectation that has never been met and you’re still harboring resentment over it (and maybe your spouse still has no clue you expect this of them!). Or, maybe you don’t think you have expectations of your spouse, but your spouse feels as though you expect the world of them. What a great honest conversation this could be if you truly explore this subject!

Good luck and I hope you are still committed to praying together every day!

 

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What is It Like?

At a ministry conference last week, one of the speakers suggested that we always ask the question, “What is it like to be on the other side of me.” That was powerful, and a bit scary, because we never know how another human being will answer that question if asked to give an honest answer. As a joke, one of the participants hollered out, “Yea, ask everyone except your spouse!” The speaker chuckled and replied quickly, “Actually, that is the first person you should ask.”

How would your spouse respond if you asked that question of them? Would they respond with complements in the way you talk to them, your tone, your demeanor? Or, would they take that opportunity to list out the ways in which you belittle them, scold them, or disrespect them? Or, maybe a mixture of both? This hit home the other night when I was telling our teenage daughter about the time when I was 7 months pregnant with her and my husband and I were putting wallpaper up in her nursery. I laughed and joked that we haven’t hung wallpaper since┬áthen because it practically ended in divorce due to his constantly telling me what I was doing wong! My husband looked over the dinner table at me and said, with a wry smile, “Honey, you’ve never accepted criticism well.” I quickly replied that it wasn’t the criticism that upset me, it was his tone which was angry and hurtful. It’s fascinating how we remembered that incident so differently and remembered each other’s actions so differently.

It’s funny, isn’t it, how we are so unaware of how we appear to others. It would explain why we are so baffled at times when someone is upset with us only to find out that the tone in our voice hurt their feelings or the email we sent had an undertone of sarcasm or anger that was implied. Having “emotional intelligence” is crucial when working with other human beings – and living with them. Knowing ourselves is tough, but can be the best growing experience we ever have. And, in a marriage, it can literally save a relationship.

How often have you asked that question to those you love the most? Make a date for you and your spouse to ask this question of each other – “What is it like to be on the other side of me?” Include the good things and the not so good things. Be kind and honest and choose your words wisely. Hear each other with non-defensive attitudes and soak the information in at first. Plan time at a later date to really talk about it after you’ve let it soak in. Then, develop a personal plan to alter your negative behavior based on the things your spouse share with you.

This is tough, so good luck! But, honesty like this is so valuable in a marriage. Cherish it!

Hard Truths About Cheating

This is a post I’ve wanted to share for a while, so now that the book study is complete, here is an article I’d like you all to read:

http://familyshare.com/Marriage/before-you-cheat-14-things-you-need-to-know

Okay, now that you’ve read that, let’s be honest. That was painful, wasn’t it? Either you know someone who has cheated or been cheated on, or you, yourself, have ventured into that arena. The painful truth and reality of affairs is quite real and it happens more than we’d like to admit.

This article comes directly from the heart of a man who has been down that path as the cheater – the guy who made a really bad choice. And, it seems that he paid dearly for it. I’ve had conversations with people in that situation and it truly is just that painful (and confusing, destructive, scarring, etc.). I’ve also had experiences with those who were on the other end of that situation – the spouse who was betrayed. That, too, is tremendously painful and damaging. Clawing your way back into a healthy, trust-filled and loving relationship after that is extremely difficult. It can be done, but it is not easy.

I’m sharing this article with you so that you can take a realistic look at what a bad choice can cost you. After the many conversations and personal experiences I’ve had over the years, I can say with certainty that it is much easier than you think to go down that path. Often times it begins as a simple friendship with someone of the opposite sex that turns into an inappropriate relationship. Or, it could begin as a “simple” one night stand only to turn into something with emotional ties. Whatever is begins with, it always ends up decimating your marriage. Friends, it is simply not worth it.

Here are some other tips I’d like to add when it comes to avoiding this serious mistake:

  1. There is never an appropriate close relationship with someone of the opposite sex (that you are not related to) that is not your spouse. Casual, work-related or church-related conversations in public are definitely acceptable. But, going out alone, meeting for drinks/coffee, running or exercising together without your spouse, etc. is not appropriate. I don’t want to sound like a prude, but that is hovering on dangerous territory and could lead to inappropriate relationships. It’s too easy to begin to lean on that person for the type of emotional intimacy that you should be getting from your spouse.
  2. Be extremely honest with your spouse and don’t get defensive when your spouse asks you where you are going, have been, or who you were with. Honesty is the best policy – ALWAYS. If you feel uncomfortable telling your spouse who you had coffee with, that should tell you that you probably should not have had coffee with that person. Trust your gut – if it feels wrong, it probably is.
  3. Share passwords to electronic devices and be open with finances. If your spouse does not have access to these things, they should. This is not to encourage “snooping,” but rather to allow for openness and to not hide anything from your spouse. More times than not, if you are open with passwords and finances, that’s all your spouse needs to know and there will be no snooping. The mere idea of openness truly encourages intimacy in your marriage.
  4. Finally, if you are facing or have faced an affair in your marriage please don’t think that you have to throw in the towel immediately. If the offending spouse feels remorse and wants to rebuild your marriage there is hope. If the spouse who was betrayed wants to work through it, there is hope. A good marriage counselor can help you navigate that healing process and you can have an amazing marriage after an affair. It’s hard and painful, but counselors have told me that couples can come out the other end of it stronger and happier.

And, at the end I have to share the power of God’s grace in all of this. Regardless of whether you are the betrayer or the betrayed, God’s grace is yours and you are loved no matter what. Your heart and soul can be mended as well as, possibly, your marriage. I encourage you to lean on God’s love and grace and let that be your strength. If you know of others dealing with this in their own lives, perhaps you can be the beacon of light that guides them. In the meantime, I am in constant prayer for all who are seeking healthy marriages. I know that God’s love and strength can build us up and heal the most broken of us all.