Short End of the Stick
Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. PROVERBS 13:12
We all come into marriage with a full yardstick of expectations—what love looks like, what our roles will be, what we'll do on weekends, where we'll go for Christmas. But over the years, that yardstick starts getting snapped off an inch or two at a time, until we're left holding something a whole lot shorter than what we brought with us.
This leads to what I call the Unmet Expectation Syndrome. And every time it happens, the natural reaction is to go from disappointment to hurt to anger and finally to punishment—making your spouse pay for not living up to your expectations.
Here are four better ways to deal with these unmet expectations:
1. Love and forgive. Because you vowed before God to remain committed to each other, you must both own up to your failures and responsibilities. Your marriage will never outgrow its need for massive doses of forgiveness.
2. Communicate and seek to understand each other. Expectations must be managed, and the best way to do that is to keep the communication lines open. Clarify your needs and expectations. Don't leave each other guessing.
3. Develop God's perspective. Your spouse will never be able to meet the needs in your life that can only be met by God alone. Let Him be your sufficiency.
4. Don't throw away the yardstick. Don't give up on your dreams. Even though expectations sometimes tend to be out of step with reality, God doesn't want you to live with just a few inches of the yardstick. Keep high hopes and expectations in your marriage, work toward them in a healthy way, and give thanks to God as He fulfills your true and deepest desires . . .both through Him and through each other.
Share one or two examples of expectations you brought into marriage—and how your spouse has exceeded them.
Pray for clear enough vision to see what each other truly needs and desires, and for the will to meet the ones you can with joy and selflessness.
Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself (Eph. 5:33). The longer you are together, the more things you learn about this man or woman that are not very pleasant, not too pretty.