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Not the Destination...

Marriage is a journey, not a destination...

"Unmet Expectations!"


In my years as a Director of Family Ministry, along with my years as the Director of the Brooke Family I have come to know that one of the greatest problems that enters marriage and family life is what I would call “unmet, or unrealistic” expectations.  I served as the Director of Family Ministry for several years for my local diocese and part of that work was getting phone calls from couples in crisis, thinking divorce was the only option that they had.  

I would visit with them and realize that so much of their struggles had to do with expectations that they had, in which they never communicated with the other.  This happens far to often in many relationships, but especially within families who spend so much time together, that they forget they have not communicated their needs or expectations with the other. 

Expectations, whether they be unrealistic or realistic, are driven by our belief systems.  We come about these beliefs through various ways, but often they are heavily shaped by our family of origin.  Family of origin is something that I really stress when I work with couples preparing for marriage or those who have shared marriage issues with me.  We may have the best of intentions not to be like our parents, but in our moments of stress, sadness, and even joy the behaviors of our family of origin can rear their ugly heads.  I can remember in one the early months of my marriage, I had come home from a 12-hour day of work to a disaster of a house!  My husband was extremely excited to see me, but I could not seem to show any joyful feelings for him at the moment.  He was playing video games and my kitchen was full of messy counter tops, a sink of dirty dishes from his supper, and there was food that should have been placed in the refrigerator, that was sitting out.  I tried to pretend I was not disappointed, upset, or frustrated, but I was!  See, when I grew up my house was always in order and my dad was the one who did much of the cleaning of our kitchen.  “Why was my husband not doing that?  He made a mess, why did he not clean it up!”    

Folks, so often the expectations we place on our spouse are never communicated with them, at least verbally communicated.  I may have non-verbally told my husband that after we eat, we clean up, but I never told him that I expected him to clean up after himself when I was gone at work.  The frustrations and disappointments of these unmet expectations often lead to hurtful criticism and cutting remarks from the person who had been “let down”!  I honestly have no memory of what I said to my husband, but I certainly remember how frustrated I was by his actions, or lack of actions.  It was at this moment that I had to have a conversation with him about how important a clean house, especially a clean kitchen, was to me.  Once he understood my expectation, he has done a remarkable job of loving me by making sure he cleans up after himself.  Fifteen years later, he has actually helped our children understand this about their mother too, and they work together most nights after supper to clean up after I have cooked them a meal.  What an act of service and love that is for me! 

Friends, one thing in marriage and family life that you can for sure “expect” is that you are going to mess up and you are going to fail.  However, that does not give us a free pass to not communicate our expectations with our spouse or our family members.  I am a believer that so much of marriage frustration has to do with the fact that we expect more from our spouse than they know about.  We cannot keep our expectations to ourselves and live a happy marriage. We need to ask ourselves, “Do I treat my spouse with as much kindness, grace, and understanding as I would treat a co-worker who also did not meet my expectations?”   If the answer to this question is, “No!” then we need to change our approach and we need to change ourselves! 

Friends, the next time that you are faced with a problem in your marriage or family life, I challenge you to think about the expectations you are putting on your spouse of family member and see if there is something unsaid between you.  Think about why you are frustrated!  Think about why your feel tension!  Is it something you desired that they did not fulfil?  If it is, ask God to help you gently, yet lovingly share your thoughts and desires with your spouse or family member. 

Remember, as Matthew’s Gospel states, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you.  Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye?”  (Matthew 7: 1-4, NAB)

Marriage is hard, expectations make it harder!



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