Align Expectations with Reality
Smalley Relationship Center
One of the biggest energy draining experiences most adults
stumble through is a strained marriage. I think back over the
number of times Norma and I have been bent out of shape. It's
amazing how the tone of our relationship could get so dark so
fast. One hour, things would be great, and then instantly we'd
be locked in an angry argument over some earth-shaking situations
like "Oh, no, you didn't say that! You said you wanted to
stop and eat there, so my mouth has been watering to taste their
specialty. How dare you change your mind!"
We were in our camper driving out of Prescott, Arizona, one morning.
I wanted breakfast at this certain restaurant where Norma had
agreed to stop, but as we got close, she remembered this other
place and asked if we could eat there instead. We quickly found
ourselves locked in a three-hour battle, and all kinds of things
came out that had nothing to do with eating breakfast. The "discussion"
created a gap between our marital expectations and reality, to
say the least. After we ate at some restaurant neither of us liked,
we got back in the camper and decided to reexamine the marriage
area of our respective "gardens."
I was wiped out, feeling like a failure and as if all our progress
at being a loving couple had been washed away in one three-hour
torrential downpour. We were never going to make it. In the middle
of this type of crisis, my personality tends to see only the negatives.
But Norma tends to put things in a more realistic perspective.
I remember her saying, "Just look at all the things that
go great between us, and this is only one speck in the scope of
all the years we've been married." That knack of pulling
our expectations and reality closer together gives me more energy
to continue the discussion.
We took a closer look at expectations and reality. Were expectations
unrealistic? Was reality as bad as it seemed? As for reality,
Norma helped clarify that our whole relationship had not flooded
away. She helped me take some of my own advice: Avoid extreme
thoughts. Chicken Little, the sky is not falling.
As for expectations, we decided that some of my expectations
about our marriage—that we would always be at peace—were
just not practical or realistic. No couple can live each day without
some disagreements or even major conflicts. Conflicts are inevitable
and can even by healthy. Even if a couple can't work things out
for a few days, that's OK. So I had to develop new expectations,
ones that were more pragmatic.
Here's what happened to Norma and me.
Driving down the highway, we both evaluated our marriage and
began making a list of things we expected to receive and what
we believed would be acceptable for a mutually satisfying relationship.
It's amazing how just talking and agreeing on those marital basics
has increased our levels of energy and love for life and each
Are you willing to sit down and share your expectations with
your spouse? Are you open to listening and relearning new, more
pragmatic expectations for each other?
It's the gap between what we expect and what we get that drains
our energy. When our experience is close to what we anticipated,
we're stronger and more content. That bolsters our ability to
keep on loving. But unless we talk about those things and bring
our expectations to the surface, our mate may not know our wishes,
and we may find ourselves facing an energy-sapping gap between
our desires and our reality.
God does have an expectation for your marriage relationship.
It's called "forever-love" or as we see it described
in the Bible—agape—or unconditional, accepting love.
Read 1 Corinthians 13 to find out more about this kind of love.
As you begin to understand God's expectation of your marriage
and for you, his Spirit will reveal and convict you of areas that
require change. Remember, you cannot change your spouse. But,
God gives you the power to change. God also works in the lives
of others in ways you cannot to grow and change them.
© Copyright 2005 Smalley
Relationship Center. Used by permission.
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