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Nancy is a pastor’s wife of more than 40 years, award-winning author of The Grace Impact, speaker, and blogger. She and her husband Rick have presented messages on marriage for over 20 years in many countries. They are working on a book on spirituality in marriage. Follow Nancy at www.nancykaygrace.com where she writes on faith in everyday life.
One area that presents trouble in marriages is expectations. Each spouse brings expectations to the relationship from their families of origin, their personalities and previous experiences. If expectations are not addressed, the couple can head into miscommunication without knowing it.
When we were first married, I was eager to discover new things about him as we established our life together.
One day for lunch he said he wanted a peanut butter sandwich. I made it, as I would like it.
While eating the sandwich, Rick had difficulty swallowing, as his tongue kept sticking to the roof of his mouth.
He pulled apart the bread, examining the sandwich.
“Where’s the butter and jelly?”
“I didn’t know you wanted that on it. You didn’t ask for “a peanut butter sandwich with butter and jelly.”
We laughed about that incident but it shows how unexpressed expectations cause problems. If expectations are met, the relationship is smooth and peaceful. If they are not met, the door is opened for disillusionment and disappointment.
Here are 5 secrets to deal with expectations:
- Be specific about the issue. Explain what you have in mind. In the example above, I made the sandwich as I would have liked it without asking what he wanted on it. If I’d asked what kind of jelly he wanted, he would have been happier.
- Consider your spouse’s personality and abilities. Is the expectation realistic? For instance, I could expect Rick to fix a leaky faucet. However, he’s not a fix-it kind of guy. If he doesn’t know how to fix it, I’m setting him up for failure and me for disappointment.
- Clarify. Don’t assume your spouse will know what is expected. One friend shared how when she wasn’t feeling well, she asked her husband to fix some hot water. He did; he turned on the stove under the teakettle. Later when she heard the teakettle whistle, she realized she wasn’t clear. She desired a hot bath. It’s easy to assume our spouse understands, but it is a good practice to clarify. No one is a mind reader.
- Listen. Be open to discuss the expectation with give and take. If it is a big issue involving time or money, plan a time to talk about it without interruptions. Compromise if necessary. The Bible give wisdom in James 1:19: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
- Approach the issue with a soft spirit, not with harsh words. In Proverbs 15:1 we read, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Unmet expectations can fuel anger. Be willing to risk a conversation with gentle words when an issue of unmet expectation arises.
We are wise to take care in how we deal with our expectations in marriage. Unmet expectations create miscommunication, disappointment, and disillusionment. Marriage is strengthened and God is pleased when we understand each other’s expectations.
How do you deal with expectations in marriage?