When Expectations Hurt
February. The month of love, hearts, and roses. My birthday is in February, and on my 21st birthday, my husband sent me 21 red roses. We were engaged at the time, and I am pretty sure it was the only time I received roses for my birthday. (In case you haven’t checked, the prices for roses in February are much higher than any other month of the year!)
Everywhere I look, there’s advertising for Valentine’s Day gifts. If I let it, my imagination could run wild at all the possibilities of gifts and surprises that my husband could do for me for Valentine’s Day. Along with birthdays, anniversaries, and Christmas, these days bring our expectations to the forefront of our relationships. We live in a world that tells us we deserve to be spoiled, pampered, and showered with gifts, but our reality may look nothing like that.
In Lesson 11 of the Re|Engage curriculum, we discuss the frustration of unmet expectations in marriage. If we don’t communicate our expectations, we can become angry, bitter, and resentful. The Re|Engage book gives us four steps to deal with our expectations (Wagner & McGee, 2021, p. 84). While the book deals specifically with marriage, these principles can apply to any relationship.
• Identify your expectations. We often don’t even realize that we have expectations until they aren’t met. Once you identify your expectations, ask yourself, “Where did this expectation come from?” and “Is it reasonable?” If you grew up seeing your dad always bring your mom flowers on Valentine’s Day, or it was the only time they ever expressed affection for one another, this will form your expectations of what your own marriage will look like.
• Communicate beforehand. Do you find yourself irritated with your spouse because the weekend did not turn out as you expected? Or perhaps spending habits are left undiscussed and lead to frustration. Be honest with your spouse. If you expected flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day, but you got nothing, don’t be afraid to voice that expectation. My husband does not like Valentine’s Day and doesn’t want to give in to the commercialization of “love;” he would rather tell me and show me everyday that he loves me. If we hadn’t had that conversation at some point in time, I would be disappointed every year and bitterness, confusion, and doubt would enter my mind.
• Believe the best. Don’t allow your thoughts to spiral into negativity, doubt, and fear. And especially don’t let it go on for days or weeks, or even years in some cases. An unmet expectation does not mean that your spouse does not love you; it simply means they had different expectations than you did.
• Communicate with God. Your spouse is human and WILL disappoint you. Rather than run to your best friend or your mom to berate the way your spouse has treated you, talk to God about your feelings. God will never let you down. Psalm 62:2 says, “Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken” (NIV).
Communication and honesty, bathed in love, will allow you to set your relationship up for success in future situations that are high in expectations.
*Resource: Wagner, T., & McGee, J. (2021). Re|Engage (Vol. 2.1). Watermark Community Church.