Unmet Expectations

A new lesson I’ve been trying to impart to my crew is how unmet expectations, and unreasonably high expectations, can really put a strain on relationships. This is true for any relationship – be it spouses, parent-child, siblings, friends, co-workers. Unmet expectations can place a burden on a relationship that sometimes, the relationship cannot even bear, which in turn, suffocates the relationship altogether.

I’ll give you a recent example from events that actually happened.

“Let’s have tostadas for dinner,” My dear husband said aloud. I immediately assumed that he was volunteering to either make dinner, or at least pitch in to help make dinner. Time ticked by. It became apparent that the words he should have used were, “Will you please make tostadas for dinner?”

I have a couple of choices at this moment. Now mind you, I’m tired by the time we reach the evening. Not to take away from or compete with his tired or anything. But we are both there – pretty well done for the day, with a couple hours until bedtime. And God knows I love this man He gave me, but when he comes home from work, his tired means he is getting down to his underwear and watching TV.

Now, if I ask for help, I can usually get it. But I have that woman/mom thing where I don’t feel like I should have to ask for help. Another post, another day. Or is it? Are these unmet expectations, rising up with a chokehold on our relationship?

Back to the tostadas. I can accept that he wants tostadas for dinner, and I can make them. With a cheerful heart, aware of all I’ve been blessed with, and the very fact that I have a husband to cook dinner for. Or I can throw in the towel, dollop some pb&j on some bread, pass it out to the kids, and cross my arms in silent, rebellious satisfaction. If he isn’t going to help, then he isn’t going to eat what he wants.

Say I go with options #2 – pb&j, and maybe my snarky self brings him one, too. With water, ha! Now, what do we have here?

We have mom frustrated by the expectation that the original question seemed like a team effort dinner but wasn’t, and dad frustrated that he thought he was going to get tostadas, now faced with pb&j. Who is more right to be frustrated by their unmet expectations? Both? One or the other? Neither?

I think it’s neither. I mean, I guess we have the right to live in this cycle. But do we want to? Why would we want to?

So, is it always or only up to me to be the bigger person, make the tostadas, and smile about it? No, I dare say not. And I can’t pick my sleeping husband’s brain about the times he feels that rise of unfairness and fights back by being kind and going the extra mile, mainly because he’s sleeping as I write this. Maybe I should write up a few questions for him to answer so I can have a husband Q&A. Add your questions at the bottom and I’ll try to put him on the spot this weekend.

Back to the tostadas.

I can do this with a good attitude, and sit down to enjoy tostadas with my family (which were delicious, by the way). Or I can have a bad attitude and make the tostadas, or not. I’m still missing out because of my attitude.

Sometimes we don’t see the expectation ahead of us, so much as in the middle of frustration we see, “you didn’t do this like I thought you would/asked you to/needed you to.” We have to train ourselves to stop, identify what we were expecting, and how we can make the best of the situation. I think this is always most effective by inviting Jesus to soften our hearts and teach us in the moment.

Sometimes we are right to speak up and address the issue with the other person. Sometimes we are right to address within ourselves the expectation, how/why it wasn’t met, and move forward. I didn’t go to my husband and complain that he didn’t make tostadas with me. Not every unmet expectation is because the other person did something wrong. Sometimes it’s because we expected something that was never implied or intended. Sometimes it’s because we expected something because of our past, because of something we misunderstood. I can’t even begin to think of all the ways we come up with expectations, but I know what it feels like to feel let down.

We don’t have to wallow in those feelings. Ask Jesus in, identify what to address with the other person, identify what you can correct just by changing your thinking on the matter, and keep moving forward in your relationships.

(Don’t forget to add your questions at the bottom for a fun little hubby Q&A!)

Until next time,

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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,
You see the expectations I’m building in my heart and mind. Help me weed through unnecessary expectations – whether they are too high or too many. Help me to be at peace with the people around me, accepting of who they are, and able to enjoy the relationships I have. Help me to forgive those who have let me down.

Where there have been expectations on me that I have not met, help the other person to be at peace, to forgive me. Mend those relationships as you see fit, Father.

Help me to stay focused on becoming more like Jesus day in and day out.

In Jesus’ Name,
Amen

Unrealistic Expectations

Expectations – we all have them. From how a single day may go, to an event, or even large portions of our life. We expect people to behave in ways consistent with their role (like how the cashier acts when ringing up your items, or the plumber, or those closest to us like spouses and children). Some of these expectations are healthy and help us gauge whether or not to continue to do business with an establishment, or they help us guide our children. Some expectations even help us recognize when we aren’t being treated correctly by a spouse, sibling, or friend.

Unrealistic expectations, however, make us feel like we’re being wronged when we aren’t. They change how we interact with people, often times in ways that make us hard to live with. I most often think of expectations in terms of my parental role. Some expectations encourage my kids to participate in our family life, and help me guide them onward and upward. But those expectations can often become too rigid, and too much to bear. The more I expect of my kids, and the more I point out that they are failing my expectations, the less they try. Then I become more frustrated and point out more failures, then they try less. It can be an ugly & vicious cycle. In this cycle, I recognize my kids cringe when I walk into a room. Instead of seeing me and wanting to run up and tell me all about their most recent discovery or adventure, they just want to avoid me. This isn’t how I want my kids to see me or grow up. While I am always their parent first, I’ve come to recognize that relationship doesn’t have to include an iron fist 24/7.

I would never advocate for dropping all expectations as a parent. Having no expectations to meet would likely leave them wandering around lost, with little to do. My kids all have expected contributions to running the home (otherwise known as chores). But I find myself sometimes expecting them to the chores the same way I would, or to the level I would expect of a professional. The fact is, they are kids. They won’t do it the same as I, or even my way half the time. And I will never walk in and find that they’ve cleaned a room like a professional maid may have. But most of the time they try really hard to do a good job. They don’t see the mess the same way I do, so they don’t clean it the same way. But I have to admit that when they are done, it looks much better when they started most of the time – I would say 9 out of 10 times it looks better than when they started.

So I’m going to slow down, reevaluate, and try to recognize where my expectations are becoming unrealistic. Where I’ve gotten a little too uptight, I’m going to apologize. I’m going to try to give my kids the room to do things their own way, even if that means they make mistakes. And I’m not going to carry on about their mistakes as if it makes their contributions null & void. A simple re-do and move on – after all, in most of my adult responsibilities a simple re-do fixes a large portion of my mistakes. I’m going to lighten up. I want them to be excited when I walk into a room. I want them to know they I recognize their efforts and their attempts, and that I recognize their humanity – they are no more capable of perfection than I am, and even in the middle of the messes, that is beautiful to me.

 

(I was inspired to write about expectations by the writing prompt over at Write. Blog. Connect.)