When Elsie and I were first married, I expected to handle the finances, after all, my father handled them for our family when I was growing up. The problem was that I wasn’t good at it. One day in prayer I was complaining to the Lord about the bills. The Lord said to me in His inner voice, ”Hey, I gave you a banker for a wife. Ask for her help.” I humbled myself and asked Elsie for her help in paying the bills. I have never regretted that decision.
Everyone has expectations. Expectations are ways we anticipate people or ourselves will behave or respond. Whether we are aware of them or not, we all have them. Where do expectations come from and how do they often hurt relationships? A primary source for our expectations is our family-of-origin. We all grow up in families which behave in a certain way. We assume that the way our family did things was normal and the right way to do them. Thus when we enter into relationships with others we bring our expectations with us and assume we are right and our way is the way to do things. So does the other person. If those expectations clash you can see how conflict might rear its ugly head.
So how should we handle our expectations? Based on the research of Dr. Scott Stanley as described in his book, “A Lasting Promise,” there are four tried and true questions to ask about expectations:1
- Aware. Are you aware of your expectations? Do you even realize that you have an expectation on this issue?
- Reasonable. Are your expectations reasonable? Circumstances change and what may have been a reasonable expectation in the past no longer is. Perhaps the expectation bar has been set too high and cannot reasonably be attained.
- Spoken. Have you verbalized your expectations to the other person? Talk about them and bring your expectations out of the shadows into the light of day. No one wants to be a mind reader.
- Willing. Are you willing to shape, compromise, or change your expectations for the good of the relationship?
Unless we get our expectations out on the table, they will continue to be a source of conflict in our relationships. How do you do that? You take the courageous step of sharing them with the other person and, if need be, adjusting them so you both can accept the new normal.
My expectation is that Jesus will return . . . Soon!
1Stanley, Scott, et. al. A Lasting Promise: A Christian Guide to Fighting for Your Marriage. (San Francisco, CA: Josey-Bass Publishers, 1998), pp. 138-154.