Unmet Expectations

June 08, 2018

As a 23 year old who studied family life in college, and as a wife of just one month, I'm clearly an expert on relationships (not). But, I would like to consider myself more educated than the average woman my age. I read books about strengthening your marriage — yes, even when I was single — for fun. I've learned a lot (and still have a lot that I should be applying), but something has been weighing on me lately: unmet expectations.
If you want to get all technical and scientific and stuff, communication (or lack thereof) is probably the largest barrier to a successful marriage. I think we all know this — most problems are caused by poor communication. Unmet expectations, and especially undiscussed expectations, are probably one of the most common and most unconscious ways that relationships can be damaged.
Often, individuals come into a marriage relationship with expectations that they aren't even aware of. Maybe their mom cooked dinner every night and their dad planned an extensive FHE each week. Maybe dad was in charge of cooking and mom liked to clean. Maybe mom drove the car on dates. The list could go on and on — these things usually stem from how your parents modeled a marriage to you. That's just how things have always been, so that's how you expect things to always be.

The honeymoon is over. The husband gets home from work expecting a home cooked meal. The wife gets home from work expecting the same. They never really discussed this. Whose responsibility is it to cook? They've both worked long, hard days. Neither are in the mood to chop vegetables but both are hungry. Their hunger turns to (h)anger. They didn't even realize it in this moment, but each of them expected the other to cook dinner, so surely their anger is justifiable.

As someone who puts probably too much thought into gift-giving, I am very very guilty of this. I genuinely like giving presents. And, as the fairly-normal human being that I am, I really like getting them too. When Jamison and I started dating, I was so excited when for our first "anniversary" (we're talking months here, people). I couldn't wait to give him the things that I had put thought, time, and money into. I casually brought up that we had almost been dating a month, and that's when I heard the bad news: he didn't see why we needed to celebrate every month that we were together.
I imagine everyone reading this saying "boooooooooo!" (not like in a ghostly way, but in a "that's lame" sorta way). At the time, I would've agreed. I was a little hurt. Didn't he care about our blooming love? Didn't he want to celebrate it and shout it from rooftops (does anyone actually do this though)? Here's the thing: that was an expectation that I had. It didn't even come from my parents' example — it came from my own desire to spoil and be spoiled in return. I expected Jamison to want to show his love for me in the same way I showed my love to him. That expectation was unconscious, undiscussed, and, evidently, unmet.
In reality, as the poor human beings that we were (/are), Jamison was being pretty smart. I didn't have money to buy him a bottle of ranch each month (yes, I literally bought him a bottle of ranch for our first month-aversary). He didn't have money to spend on flowers that would die after a week. For the time being, we just needed to enjoy being together.
I needed to reflect inside and figure out why I had those expectations, and I needed to communicate to Jamison how I was feeling.
I am not a great example. I'm afraid that for the first few months, I continued to buy Jamison gifts and expected something in return. We all do this, okay? Maybe you silently come home expecting the dishes to be done, but they're not. Maybe you lay in bed after a long day with your spouse on their phone, when they "should" be cuddling you. Solution: Examine your feelings and USE YOUR WORDS. Don't suffer in frustration and silence. Be kind, but recognize (and help others realize) what you expected. You can't be mad at someone for not doing something that they didn't know they were expected to do.
Learning how to see what you expect from others and communicating those justifiable expectations is crucial to happy and healthy relationships of all kinds (not just marriage). I know that personally, I need to be better at this. Who wants to take a stab at it with me?

Yours truly,

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