It is amazing to us how many times husbands and wives are sitting in our offices and learn for the first time something about their spouse. Some have been married years and never knew that when she does this, he feels that… or that it always makes her feel the same negative way when he does that.
It makes sense to us that blown expectations is a huge part of the negative pattern of interactions that couples in struggle find themselves experiencing. One of the biggest “aha”s for us in our work with couples over the years is the huge number of times that the offended spouse has never communicated the expectation to the offending spouse. That is, when one spouse expects the other to do something that has never been communicated and is emotionally frustrated, hurt or sad when it does not happen.
When we make a commitment in marriage to each other, we bring with us expectations about how we will do life together. Our expectations are developed over a lifetime of watching how others do life… primarily our parents and our family of origin. We usually have expectations about who should do what and how it should be done in a number of areas of living including:
- In-law Relationships
- Friend Involvement
We bring these expectations into our marriage with us. But once we are married, we too frequently stop getting to know each other like we began in the early days of our relationship. Our communication about our thoughts on key issues about how we should engage each other and our world together is non-existent. Then when we begin to live life together and our spouse fails to live up to our expectation in one or more areas, instead of talking about it, we usually feel hurt, sad, and/or angry. And we think it is all our spouse’s fault.
Even if we are able to get it all figured out early in our relationship, we frequently find ourselves struggling again later in our marriage. We are not the exact same person that our spouse married. We are more mature. Life has taught us a few more lessons. Strongly held opinions and expectations we once fought for have been replaced with wiser expectations. And we sometimes fail to think about how our spouse has also changed. So we end up being frustrated at our spouse’s failure to meet our expectations.
Not communicating your expectations about how to do life together sets your spouse up in “no-win” situations.
We encourage couples at any stage of their relationship to do the following:
- Have a courageous conversation about the issue. Use your communication skills to listen to your spouse’s expectations around the issue as well as share your own.
- Seek to find a win-win solution. Where are you close? What can you agree on? Is there a way to meet each of your goals.
- Compromise to find a temporary solution. Try our your compromised solution for a time period to which you both agree. We like 30, 60, 90 day commitments.
- Meet again to review how the trial period went.
Your spouse will never be able to meet your expectations if you do not share them. We hope you will try it out and let us know how it went. We are always looking for great ideas to help couples. If you have a topic or set of advice you would like to share, please let us know about it.
This article was written by Roy and Devra Wooten, authors of “The Secret to a Lifetime Love”. Learn more at www.LifeTogetherForever.com © Roy and Devra Wooten 2015. All Rights Reserved. You may replicate this article as long as it is provided free to recipients and includes appropriate attribution. Written permission for other use may be obtained at Secret@LifeTogetherForever.com.