Your expectations powerfully define your experience in this life.
As one of my favorite authors Anne Ortlund says,
"Life is determined by what happens between your ears."
Or as my mother-in-law aptly puts it,
"Life is all about expectations."
Yet, so many of us muddle through life not knowing ourselves, not understanding that we hold expectations of those around us, which may or may not be truly justified. And which may or may not be actually spoken.
Nonetheless, since we're unaware of their existence, we allow them to hold unyielding power over our happiness.
We are in bondage to these things of our own creation.
We don't realize that the reason for our dissatisfaction has more to do with us than within those very people and situations. And this is perhaps never more true than in our marriages.
Throughout the past almost-six years of marriage, I've had many a hard-fought, tooth-and-nail, internal battle with my own expectations of my husband.
No matter how justified or unjustified they may be, I assume that they are stone-clad realities because I feel them. I think them. I was raised that way. It's difficult to take a step back from that and reconsider their true imperativeness to my happiness.
And, while my husband is a more accepting person than I, he too has had to let go of or talk through many of his own unmet expectations with me. It's a two-way street.
Finding the middle ground has been a lengthy process, but an essential one for our relationship.
The first step in this process of becoming self-aware is to discover exactly what expectations you hold and how they're affecting your marriage. The most important to identify are those that are not being met.
Here are some questions to ask yourself.
Questions to ask yourself when examining your expectations
1. What do I expect my spouse to do that is not happening?
Examples: ask me questions about my day, anticipate my needs and serve me without being asked, pitch in more with housework, take responsibility for the kids needs when we're both present, etc.
2. Why do I believe my expectations are justified?
This is appropriate for any expectations you feel called by God to lay aside. Maybe you are constantly miffed that your husband doesn't put away his laundry in a timely manner, but maybe God would have you make a conscious choice to serve him by doing this for him moving forward.
You can accept this role and receive freedom in your marriage from "unmet expectations." You can give up your "right" to nag or be passive-aggressive or frustrated about something that's ultimately not worth it.
You can serve your husband selflessly and know that God is honored by that choice. It's what He has done for us. He rewards that.
The times when I've chosen to do this, it's been easy to see that those unmet expectations were, in fact, not so big a deal as I had first thought. However, that conclusion never comes until after I have consciously chosen to lay them aside.
2. Have an honest conversation with your spouse
Just because you know your expectations, it doesn't mean you should necessarily change them.
This exercise might be most beneficial in giving you and your husband language to have the conversation and build an understanding of one another.
Hopefully, through talking in a humble yet honest way, you'll be able to reach a mutual agreement and both make changes.
There are some expectations that cannot and should not be given up (such as the expectation of marital faithfulness). I also know that there are some marriages with deep issues that will not be solved through a simple conversation.
If that's you, realizing the role expectations play in your life can still be both empowering and comforting, even if there is no immediate course of action but to pray.
Editor's note: This article was originally published on Katie Bennett's website. It has been republished here with permission.
Katie is a young mom of three, blogger and writer! She strives to live a life devoted to Jesus, and she loves to write about eternal perspective and finding freedom and meaning through simplicity and hard work as a mom and homemaker.