Getting Traction with Expectations
Expectations are not the enemy of great relationships. They are both personal as well as relational challenges. These are not challenges to avoid but rather challenges that guide our journeys together. Expectations are the raw wiring of who we are. Expectations are not demands. Sometimes we expect things that don’t happen, and we are disappointed. How we deal with that disappointment is one of the ways we express the value of the other person in our relationship. Our response says you are more valuable to me than my expectation.
A healthy relationship has a vision for the person beyond the moment. It sees failure as an event, not a personality trait. Sometimes expectations are missed because our spouse fails. Other times we have wrong or selfish expectations. These are all things we can overcome. The most powerful influence we have is letting our spouse know they are more important than our wish lists. So how do we get traction if we don’t make it about ourselves?
More than a Mountain
Our spouses have potential and can achieve wonderful things in life. Some of the wonderful things may be mountain climbing efforts, but they don’t need to be. There is power in the parable of the tortoise and the hare. Regular steady progress is, in my opinion, more important than climbing a mountain. In fact, people who cannot achieve regular steady progress don’t do good on mountain climbs. This is exciting. We don’t need to motivate our spouses to achieve BHAGs (Big Hairy Audacious Goals). Our job is to help them walk in life and not get distracted by the leaps.
We don’t give grace to our children just because they are children. If we did, then our neighborhood children would get away with anything where we give second chances to our kids. Can you imagine if the neighborhood kids raided our food pantry or refrigerator? The deeper relationship changes how we deal with people. It is, in fact, favoritism. This is a healthier version, but the reality is closer relationships operate under different rules. Our spouses should not be treated like children, but they should be treated like they have a closer relationship than our neighbors.
It is also true that our spouses are more valuable than our guests. If we want to conquer mountains, we cannot use the close relationship as a license; you will have to fill in the blank of what would offend your spouse.
A few years ago, while attending a tech training in Chicago, there was a medium group of younger guys there with me. One of the other married guys and I were talking, and I asked a simple question. “Do you know what it takes to make a marriage work?” Suddenly the room went silent, then everyone in the room shifted their chairs to face me and sat there waiting. For me, it was a bit unsettling, but the answer was true, so that helped relax the unexpected response.
I said, “work.” You see, every relationship benefits from yesterday’s investments. They are lifted higher by the investments the day before that, the week before that, the month before that, and so on. Life is full of change, so with each change comes a new investment. If we don’t work, our investments don’t shift to the new reality, and they become unstable.
Long-term relational investments are like good stock investments. There will be good seasons and rough seasons. If we jump in and out of the stock market, we usually don’t win in the stock market. The same is true in relationships. It takes commitment to realize compound growth when investing in stocks and more so when investing in people. Slow regular steady investing will give us the best chance of returns we dream of in relationships.