I have a group of women I lean on. We call ourselves the International D-Group; one of us lives in the Middle East, another lives on the east side of Washington state and the other lives in Kansas. My husband is from Lebanon, another gal’s fiancée is from Trinidad and the other gal’s husband is as Midwest as a cornfield. We are the U.N and we’ve helped each other through the dating phases (all of us started dating our men long distance), engagement and weddings. We’re in our 20s, 30s and 40s – our men are all in their 30s. One thing we’ve all learned in this wonderful 18-month journey is (1) the incredible value of Voxer and Skype, but especially (2) how shocking it is that our significant others won't and don’t live up to our expectations.
Expectations are, “the strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future,” or, “a belief that someone will or should achieve something” (Google it). Notice there’s nothing in there about actually communicating those beliefs. Expectations are nothing more than a thought with a “strong” hope attached to it that one doesn’t bother to communicate to the person they’re hanging that hope on! Talk about a set-up for disappointment. No wonder our men don’t live up to our expectations! I’m pretty certain we don’t live up to theirs either. Here’s why:
It doesn’t matter if both of you came from the same small town, lived two doors down from one another and sat through the same church services for twenty years or if your backgrounds couldn’t be more opposite. Neither gives you the right or excuse to plant little expectation bombs around yourself. It’s like lining a field with trip-wires and blindfolding your spouse, telling him to walk but never giving him a clue what he’s about to step on. Except when he trips the wire it’s your legs that get blown off – not his. And then you yell at him for it. Well done.
Communication means actually speaking to one another. Clearly. Without hints. If you wake up in the morning and wonder if your husband is going to take out the trash on his way out the door to work, stop wondering and ask him to do it. If you’re waiting for him to take you out to dinner on Friday night – being disappointed again that he hasn’t done it – try asking him to take you out. Don’t drop hints – “It’d be nice to go out sometime this weekend….” Actually say, “Will you take me out to dinner this Friday? It’d be nice to go out together.” Boom. Done. In most cases men will be more than happy to give their bride what they want… if they’d simply say what that is. Asking is Biblical (Matthew 7:7-8). God himself won't give us what we want unless we ask for it so I don't know why we expect our men to be mind readers.
Men, you're not off the hook. Your bride will change in the course of your marriage. In all my observation and question asking, I've realized that women change, and most men stay pretty much the same. I can’t say why this is, but it is. The woman you married five or fifteen years ago is not the same woman you have in your arms right now. You're probably pretty much the same guy. If you’re wondering what she’s thinking, or if she has needs you may not know about, ask her. I guarantee if you say these simple words: “Honey, how can I better meet your needs?” Or, “What can I do to be a better husband, lover, father, friend, confidant, (list your role here)?” Before she starts making a laundry list that makes you want to put a gun to your head, give her a little disclaimer that you’re looking for one or two things – tops – to work on.
Expectations are going to be there – it’s unavoidable as human beings. But you can chuck them out the window by talking with one another. Once it’s gone, then you can replace it with hope, more talking in following up, and grace as they work through it. Some things will take time – it’s difficult to break a 30-year habit of leaving shoes in the middle of the floor. It’s even more difficult to break a habit of giving into anger or hysterics. Such things could use a good marriage counselor to help you both navigate through those waters. But be patient with one another.
Find out what your spouse’s expectations are and help her leave them at the door while you diligently work on one or two items on that list. Sister, give your man the benefit of the doubt and a chance to work on those things that you really wish he’d do – or stop doing. Same goes for you too, men.
Love each other through eyes of grace by chucking expectations out the window, and for crying out loud just talk to each other.