Friday, February 6, 2015

Expectations in Marriage (Part 1)

I am the type of person that admires the good in others rather...shall we say intensely. I admire people with a lot of my heart, and I often find myself wanting to develop the healthy habits or talents they have or maybe I just acknowledge that they have them. I have always done this. 

This admiration in others has, in a roundabout way,  affected my expectations for life, for myself, and for my husband. I expect a lot of people and it can be very damaging. By far one of the biggest struggles in our marriage has had to do with my expectations.

are my marriage expectations too high?

As a teenager I had a thing for saving things up for the future. Ideas of all kinds were stored in journals and notebooks. I had a book I had created (as a project) that compiled all of the women I admired most and listed the qualities I hoped to develop someday as well. I had a journal that I kept full of ideas for snacks and activities with kids, home decor ideas, and bedtime rituals--most of these were discovered through babysitting. I even kept an envelope filled with articles and tips from Cosmopolitan for steamy nights--saved for after my wedding, of course. Basically I was "pinning" before "pinning" existed. I had hard copies of each idea, and I basically ruled at bookmarking my future. 

If I wasn't busy jotting down or storing these ideas permanently, I was doing them mentally. I babysat A LOT (so much I can't even begin to describe) as a teen and even throughout college.  I worked with a  lot of families and I would walk into their homes and I would see perfection a lot of the time. Clean houses, good dinners, pretty wives, handsome husbands, beautiful kids, and everything seemed so ideal to me. I would mentally list all of the things I wanted for myself and my future self, home, kids, and especially husband.

I have a tendency to magnify strengths and ignore weaknesses when it comes to people I admire. And as much as I admire women, I can really get over the top about good men. There is just something about a good man that has always stood out to me.

So for the decade (or more) before I met Zach I was literally magnifying the strength of every good man I knew or met and logging his strengths as things that I wanted in a future spouse. Of course it never occurred to me that although "Guy A" was incredibly affectionate toward his wife, he was also bad with money. While "Guy B" was great with money and was a hard worker, but he lacked in another area. I just started compiling---every single thing I liked about someone: sprititually strong, hard working, good looking, funny, polite, affectionate, passionate, good with money, good with kids, ambitious, active, a handy man, a movie man, a camping man, a shopping man, a man that makes his wife breakfast in bed, a man that surprises his wife with a weekend getaway and covers every detail before surprising her at work, a man that sends flowers, a man that dances in the kitchen, a man that takes goofy family photos, a man that is smart, and the list goes on...and on...and on.

When I met Zach I had obviously realized that he didn't have all of those qualities, but he had really important ones that stood out to me. He was spiritually strong, he was smart, he was dependable, he wanted kids, he was incredibly well-mannered, and he was affectionate and passionate to name just a few. And when we were dating I magnified those and chose not to focus on his true Sharlee fashion.

But throughout our marriage there have been times when I have started to notice his weaknesses and I magnified those while ignoring his strengths. I started to treat Zach as though all of those things that he WAS were not enough.  He needed to be more...he needed to add to his list. One day during a particularly rough period, I started to think about all of the hurtful ways I had addressed Zach and been frustrated with him for what he lacked. And it hit me: I have been expecting my husband to be one hundred different men and, even more, one hundred different men's strengths minus the weaknesses. 

 Expectations are a tough battle. I have had these notions of what I want from a spouse in my mind for a very long time and sometimes they creep up at unexpected times. Suddenly I am expecting Zach to do something that I have not communicated to him and he's never done before. When we had JaiseAnn I suddenly expected Zach to do some things that he had never done. Apparently I had saved up some thoughts about marriage after a baby and expected him to act or be a certain way.

There are Three Things I've Learned When it Comes to Dealing with Expectations in Marriage:

1. Ask if it's fair--When you're discussing/arguing because you want to see a change in behavior from your spouse--there are times that your expectations are unfair and there are times that it is completely fair and reasonable to expect growth and change. Think this through before addressing it and choose your battles

2. Stop and think about the strengths-- I know that I am much better at noticing Zach's strengths when I am in a more positive state of mind and I feel in love. I have had to learn that the hard way. I know that a good way to get us back to that place is quality time. We leave JaiseAnn with my mom and spend time together, or really dedicate some time together after JaiseAnn goes to bed or on the weekends. I also know that I need to take care of myself--so I will take a bath, or ask Zach to get up with JaiseAnn in the morning (this one has been really hard, but now I have learned to just ask), and I take some time to get back to myself. When I feel more in touch with myself and my husband, I see things more clearly and in a more positive light.

3. Pray--This one is huge for us, but it is also hard. I want to tell Zach every thing that's frustrating me, but when I pray I sometimes get an answer of, "Let me handle this one." And it's so hard to do. I don't have enough faith at times--especially when I'm angry. But I do promise prayer works. The biggest thing I ask when I pray is "Help him change his heart, or if it's my heart that needs changing, let me know."

What about you? Do you ever feel like you (or your spouse) have unfair expectations? How do you deal with it?

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