It’s a couple days away from Valentine’s Day and I had the occasion to speak with one of my sister-friends who has Great Expectations for the day. She is a hopeless romantic and therefore would like for her husband to pull out all the stops plus the ‘red carpet’, in celebrating her and the day. She has one problem though. They are mismatched in the romanticism department.
In essence, this is what she told me. “He is such a wonderful guy, and he is easy to please, but he does not have a romantic bone in his body.” One of my responses to her was that you might have married someone who is not only romantic to you, but to every other woman he meets, so be grateful. That aside, I think she is hoping he would surprise her by doing some of the things that she would like, but I could already hear in her voice that she was lowering her expectations.
I listened to her and being that I’ve been married for almost three decades, I had a bit of advice to give and it went something like this. I’m not sure who penned this quote, but it has been a guiding light for me in navigating my significant relationships. It says, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.” In other words, if you don’t expect anything, you cannot be disappointed. And I’m only referring to earthly relationships here.
Although, I agree with the quote, I believe that there are expectations that are reasonable to have. For example, I expect my son to love me because I have been an exceptional mother to him. He hasn’t disappointed me yet. I expect that there will be mutual respect between my friends and I. Up to this point, my tight circle has never disappointed me. I expect that my husband will take care of our family as he has been doing for the last three decades. After all these years, he hasn’t disappointed me in that aspect of our lives either. Reasonable expectations.
Make no mistake, even reasonable expectations can produce disappointment, but at least there is the experiential to support them. And that is the difference between Great Expectations and Reasonable Expectations. Sometimes we are expecting in a vacuum with neither experience nor assurances that the expectation will be met. And that’s when we get hurt.
The Word of God is filled with references which assures us that our expectations of God will never end in disappointment. Even if we don’t have personal proof as yet that He never fails, all we have to do is research His word for historical proof of what we can expect from Him. Even those of us in New Testament times have experienced how God has kept His word through every changing season in our lives. This is the only person that we can have Great Expectations of because He will never fail to deliver on His promises.
Sometimes we look at a person’s age, education, religious persusaion or social orientation and we expect certain attitudes and behaviours from them, but I’ve learned that a person cannot give you what they do not have. And the only way to determine what they have is to experience them over time. You may get hurt but I’ve never known anything to grow without some discomfort and pain.
This brings me to what I’ve learned especially within the bonds of marriage. We have expectations of others based on our frame of reference. And this frame of reference can be based on family of origin relationships or other relationships in general. In our present relationships we come to expect certain things based on what we’ve experienced in the past in similar relationships.
For example, when I got married, I expected my husband to play a more active role in domestic activities. He, on the other hand, expected me to be satisfied just being at home. Why? Because that is what we both experienced in our family of origin. These are the kinds of things that cause frustration in marital relationships because many times we don’t take the time to discuss our expectations of each other before we say ‘I Do’.
This happens a lot among those of us who are believers who feel that once someone is a Christian, and we ‘love’ one another, we’ll be able to work through our issues on the back end. Many of us have found that this is not true. Many relationships are on the rocks or are barely hanging on by a thread because of this misconception.
Communication is one of the fundamentals that need to be established and maintained throughout the life of any relationship. Honest and open communication is necessary so that each person knows where they stand especially before marriage, to determine whether they can deal with certain nuances, habits, mindsets for the long haul.
Our expectations of others should be moderate and reasonable. Communication tempered with understanding is the tool that will help us to formulate those moderate and reasonable expectations. Instead of constantly being frustrated with each other, we will educate ourselves about our partners by
- Engaging in ongoing research – you don’t stop learning about your partner or their history after you get married. Issues in the relationship will cause you to want to find out “where did this or that come from”. Pay keen attention; look, listen, and learn. Education is ongoing.
- Talking about the hard-to-discuss issues. My father-in-law used to say, lay everything out on the table. Even if the discussion becomes heated, at least you’ll know where you stand and what you are dealing with. He was right. Not talking about the pink elephant in the room does not mean that it does not exist.
- Saying what we want, what we need, what we expect. As much as we like to say we know someone, we don’t know what’s in their minds. This kind of knowledge comes with years of growing together and even then…
- Applying grace as you would want them to be gracious to you. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- Being patient. Growth takes time. Becoming one takes time. Understanding each other takes time.
Many times, we look at couples who have been married for many years and we admire how comfortable they seem with each other. Newsflash! Over time they engaged in everything that I outlined above and more to get to the place of peace that you are now witnessing.
I will close with another quote that, not even if I tried, could I have expressed it any better than Mr Rasheed Ogunlaru.
“Expectation has brought me disappointment. Disappointment has brought me wisdom. Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfillment.”
Again, it is okay to have reasonable expectations and even then you will experience disappointments, but what that quote expresses is where I’ve grown to and I am so grateful for the lessons learnt. I pray that as you have read this, you will make that shift in your mindset that would eventually bring you to that place of joy and fulfilment in your relationship as far as expectations are concerned.
As far as your Valentine’s Day celebration goes, make the peace, joy, and love of your union your focus. Make your partner your focus and not the things that he or she should do for you. Why not decide among yourselves what you will do for each other on that day? Never mind that it will not be a surprise. Surprises are over-rated. Your biggest concern should be that both of you feel special on that day. That you create a memory that both of you can recount with warm feelings when you are old and grey. Who knows? You may be surprised how that little conversation will spark something more than you expected.
Save yourself and your relationship by keeping your expectations moderate and reasonable. Don’t let your Great Expectations overshadow the memories that you can create by having Reasonable Expectations for the day or for life. Enjoy the moment! Create memories for a lifetime.
My soul, wait thou only upon God; For my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5