In the school of hard knocks is where relationships develop and mature. The school is always open and it will accept anyone…rich or poor, male or female, young or old; as long as we are willing to attend and hang in there to see the maturation process through. I find that where tensions and disappointments gather there are great expectations– expectations from others that either are not communicated or cannot be fulfilled by the other person in relationship.
From my own personal life, let me share where great expectations have collided like a train wreck. My husband (whom I adore) has spent much of our married life working jobs that take him away from home. Sometimes he is gone for just a few days at a time and sometimes it is months. Many times he is out of phone range or any way to communicate for days on end. We plug through the days apart keeping busy with the tasks at hand. His tasks will involve differing elements of weather and trade, and mine will be our four children and keeping the household and businesses running in his absence. This is when the expectations begin building.
My husband, Jamin’s mind: “I can’t wait to get home and relax with my family. I am sure that Cate will be waiting for me at the door in lingerie and we will have a few wild and passionate “honeymoon” lazy days together before I have to head out again.” This is a great expectation.
Cate’s Mind: “I can’t wait for Jamin to get home so he can handle the businesses and finances again. I can’t wait for him to take the kids for a few hours so I can go somewhere by myself and have some peace and quiet. I hope I can sleep in one day he is home and he will get up early with the kids. I have made an extensive “HoneyDo” list in his absence that he will need to conquer quickly before he takes off again.” More great expectations.
The problem isn’t always in the expectations, but there are always problems if the expectations are not communicated beforehand. Honesty and communication are the remedy for the train wreck of expectations.
It seems to me that when relationships wain or have trouble it is because there are expectations in the relationship that have not been communicated. Often we don’t want to be honest with the other person and tell them what we need from them, and choose instead to make the other person guess. If the other person does not guess correctly what our needs are, we tend to punish them in one way or another for not “getting it”. Then we draw a conclusion that our needs and expectations are not valuable to the other and therefore the relationship has lost value.
One of the most powerful questions I have learned to ask in relationships and expectations is this: “What do you need from me?” It’s a tough question to ask sometimes and even tougher for some to answer if they themselves have not fully evaluated what their expectations are. It’s a question I ask myself when I am faced with a relationship hardship. “What is it that I need from this person?” Answering this question in me is the first step to articulating the need to another.
Realizing that we all have expectations in relationship helps us to communicate honestly with one another. We do not need to kill our desires or quiet our needs, but we do need to communicate them honestly and openly with others and then work out a plan to meet those needs. Often this will mean compromises on the part of both parties.
So, some examples of how I have worked out some of these expectations with my husband are these:
He realizes that I will be tired and in need of a break when he gets home and may not be able to clear the family schedule in order to have “lazy days”. But if he can give me help around the house and a break here or there, I can generate a lot more energy to put towards his “honeymoon dreams”. I also have come to realize that when he gets home he is exhausted and needs at least a day or two to catch up on sleep and rejuvenate before he is ready to jump back into crazy busy family life. He needs time and space to sleep and revive.
I have in no way solved every issue of my relationships. In fact every day presents me the opportunity and responsibility to communicate honestly what my needs are, and listen to and validate the needs and desires of others I am in relationship with. It means work. It means compromise, and sometimes it means accepting the limitations of others and allowing God to meet my relationship needs that are unfulfilled.
Ephesians 4:25 (New International Version)
25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
Keep listening, keep asking, keep communicating and above all keep asking God for wisdom as we work together towards better relationships. May God’s grace navigate us through the fields of Great Expectations.