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

The Balancing Act

I think the balancing act is another pursuit of perfection. We can see the pendulum swing from one extreme to the next, so if we can catch it dead center and stop it there, we will have balance.

Balance in our parenting, our diet, our work, our home. Balance. Balance. Balance.

“It’s all about balance,” one mom will tell another, after she has confessed her frustration over something.

“It’s all about balance,” one colleague to another after hearing how things are crumbling at home.

“It’s all about balance,” one wife to another after hearing her friend admit that she feels stuck.

Balance is a new shiny word for perfection. It’s all about perfection. If you could get it just right, just balanced enough, parenting wouldn’t be so hard. Your diet would work, the weight would fall off. If you could get it just right, perfect, balanced, your marriage would seem better. Your work life more fulfilling. Your time with the family more satisfying. Something is out of balance that’s why you’re upset/stressed/frustrated/let down.

Chase the balancing act. Just balance the books. Balance it out. Stop swinging the pendulum, find the mark that is just right. It’s another word for perfection. Chase perfection because once you find it all your problems will be solved.

Hogwash.

Having some sense of balance, holding firmly to Jesus who is the Truth, focusing on God’s will for your life, and learning that we are human and even God recognized that we couldn’t get it perfect, that’s how you come to accept the sway. Not completely disengaging from the notion of balance, but not chasing it, either.

Chase Jesus. Let Him be the author and perfecter of your faith. Let Him be your peace. The calm in the midst of your storm and chaos. Jesus. Chase Jesus. Not balance. Not perfection. Not fame. Not money. Chase Jesus. For in Him is found life.

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,

It’s so easy to get caught up in the things of this world, the ways of this world. Because we were made to pursue You, we are always in pursuit, but sometimes our focus is distracted and we stop pursuing You. Bring our vision back into focus, help us to chase You and nothing less.

In Jesus’ Sweet Name,
Amen.

Then Comes the But

Someone I love dearly was trying to compliment me some days ago. It started out so well, “Your hair looks really nice today, but…” Now, I’ve learned to really hear the first part of what he says, because that’s where the gold is. The second part is where he sometimes loses sight of his original intention.

But usually, it looks like you just came out of the barn, which is kind of true I guess…”

I laughed a little, and shrugged, “I just brushed it. Which I do everyday.”

“Yeah, yeah, it looks nice but…

Another but…

“you should brush it more often.”

Why does there have to be a but after a compliment? I heard once that everything you say after “but” is all someone hears/absorbs. When I heard that message (I think at church, but I could be mistaken) I purposed in my heart to listen different. Instead of letting the but hurt my feelings, I decided to really hear the first part and let the rest of it slide like water off a duck’s back.

Most of the time, it works.

As I listened to my Dad with his compliment-but routine, I just kind of laughed to myself. He’s been communicating like that for years. The but part used to hurt my heart badly and I never caught what came before. I’m thankful that has changed.

I then thought about how I communicate with my kids, and whether or not I insert a but at the end of every nice thing I try to say. No way, right?

“Thanks for taking out the trash but next time…”

“You did good on that assignment, but…

“Thanks for washing the dishes, but…

“Look you got yourself dressed! But…

“Thank you for getting up on time, but…

“You’ve been really responsible today, but…

I love you and I see you and I see you’re trying but you are just not quite meeting my expectations. You just fall short. Just try a little more. Give a little more. Do a little more.

What kind of mental/emotional/achievement economy am I setting up here? One where they just can’t quite reach the bar labeled The Standard? Where they are always just a little bit lacking?

Goodness, that is not my intention. That’s the trouble with intention vs. action though – sometimes we have to examine where our actions have split at a fork in the road and are betraying our intentions – because it was easy, we just didn’t think about it, we are trying to offer helpful advice, or a myriad of other reasons. Our actions don’t always easily line up with our intentions. Sometimes we have to really focus on the gap between and draw our actions in to match what our intentions really are.

So I do the same thing to my kids, what about my husband?

“I appreciate how hard you work but…

“Thanks for taking care of the yard but…

“Thanks for bringing me home a treat but…

It’s a pervasive little word that really does cancel out the nice thing you are trying to say. So this week, I’m going to focus on eliminating the but in my words. I’m going to try to offer genuine praise and appreciation, without telling anyone how they could do better next time. I don’t want to create an achievement economy that says there is never enough you can do in a day/week/month.

Until next time,
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A Prayer to Share:

Dear God,

Adding a but after the things we say really cancels out the good we started out with. Please help us develop the ability to put the but aside. To offer genuine praise and encouragement to those around us. Help us to focus on building up and not tearing down – and reveal to us and in us the little things that we may not think matter, but that really do.

In Jesus’ Sweet name, Amen.