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Big thanks to Dr.Yemi for sharing such great insight on her series ‘Setting Realistic Expectations in Marriage’. Enjoy her final post on this topic and feel free to check out her previous posts by clicking on the embedded within her article below!
by Yemi Falayajo
How do I know if my expectations are realistic?
The fundamental principle to follow here is the principle of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you: or better still expecting from others as you would have them expect of you. As human beings, we generally tend to examine ourselves through rose coloured glasses, while we examine others through a magnifying glass. Setting realistic expectations is something that needs to be discussed and agreed upon based on this principle. We need to ask ourselves the question: How would I feel if these rules were given to me by someone else? Will I be consistent at keeping them?
- By yourself: Draw a line in the middle of a blank sheet of paper. On one side, write a list of your subtle rules (e.g. I sleep with the lights off; I don’t hold a grudge for more than 2 hours, etc) and expectations (e.g. I expect that we go to my parents’ house whenever I go, I expect that you meet me at the door anytime I come home from work, etc) . Please note that it is not a ‘to do’ list for your spouse. Do not discuss them with your spouse or partner yet.
- On the other side, beside each rule and expectation, indicate how well you have been able to keep them and how often you have defaulted.
- You may want to share with someone that knows you very well to verify the consistency of your response.
- If you have not been able to adhere well to your own rules, or feel uncomfortable when someone else runs then with you, then it is likely that your rules may need to be reviewed to be more realistic
- You may also take the assessment on www.thewomanofvirtue.org/relatioships for further guidance.
- On another sheet of paper, write down a list of things that you think your partner expects from you, highlighting what you think is doable or not. Remember be flexible and open!
How do I communicate my expectations?
Setting realistic expectations is something that needs to be discussed and agreed upon based on the principle of ‘doing unto others as you would have them do unto you ‘. As I mentioned in my previous post, communication is vital. It brings potential areas of conflict in the open and talking about it strengthens the relationship, if handled properly. It is not a one off activity, and it needs time for you to set aside in a relaxed atmosphere so that you can talk about it.
One of the things that help in communicating your expectation is to talk to each other with the intention of understanding each other’s point of view. This is a deliberate attempt that seeks first to understand, before being understood. That means that instead of talking first, you will have to listen, and listen with your heart. Listening and seeking to understand creates a safe environment for your spouse to be themselves, and once your spouse or partner can feel safe with you, it will be easier to talk about your rules and roles. This is easier when the previous step has been carried out. Talk about it, but importantly, extend mercy instead of judgment (Matt 7: 12).
- Open the discussion with your list of your perception of your partner’s expectations of you. Discuss what you think you can handle or not and give your reasons why
- Share your expectations with your partner. You may each start with basic rules of five, discussing them based on the tips above, and agreeing on which ones to keep as your own rules as a family. Be ready to compromise and meet at the middle ground.
- Establishing a way of letting the other person know when they break your rules or expectations is important so as not to foster resentment.
- Don’t start talking about your rules when one of you is angry-Bad timing!
- You may begin with one of the questions from my previous post.
How do I manage my partner’s unrealistic expectations?
In managing each other’s expectations, you need the following:
A common Understanding: You both first need to have an agreed understanding what realistic and unrealistic expectations are. This will help when itemizing these expectations in your discussions. If a common understanding is agreed upon (using the principles I highlighted above: i.e. doing unto others as you would have them do unto you), it is easier to test your partner’s expectations based on this principle.
An Umpire: There has to be a neutral ground to test reality of these expectations. The Bible clearly spells out roles and responsibilities in marriage, since God is the author of the marriage institution. There are also many biblical resources that helps in clarifying roles and responsibilities. We need to agree on the basic roles and responsibilities, giving room for each other, and not being rigid with this, understanding that your spouse is unique and different from other.
Experienced neutral counsel: You can test your views with an older couple that you both trust, whom you are sure will give you both unbiased neutral wise counsel based on experience as a couple. I will advise that you are in agreement with the neutrality of this couple, and the example that they live by. Seek the counsel together so that the communication will be open and transparent.
If all else fails, all is not lost. There is then a need to begin to establish healthy boundaries in your marriage, which can help improve the relationship between you and your spouse.
What then can we expect from marriage?
We can expect relationships/marriage to be hard work: God gave Adam a beautiful garden, but it was Adam’s responsibility to tend it and keep it. Marriage is a beautiful gift made in heaven, but the working here is on earth. We have to make deliberate and systematic effort, depending on the Holy Spirit to build our marriage. While it is good to attend seminars, buy books, listen to tapes etc, what is most important is putting into practice what you have learnt. Marriage counselling from informed and knowledgeable people is also important. Counselling is not just for people with challenges. It is for everyone. An ounce of prevention they say, is better than a ton of cure!
We can expect conflict: No matter how well informed you are about expectations, you will clash in some, and a few will still be unmet, leading to conflict. If managed properly, conflict can yield to a better understanding of your spouse and deeper intimacy in your marriage. Avoiding conflict will not make it go away. As long as you are two different individuals, there will be issues you will definitely disagree over. Don’t run from it.
We can expect growth: Marriage is the best platform and opportunity that God has given us to learn commitment, sacrifice, humility, temperance, faith in yourself, your spouse and in God, and a whole list of other qualities. The marriage relationship tests these qualities in us and our attitude and reaction provides growth, if handled properly.
We can expect God’s help: God created the institution of marriage, so He is ready to help us, guide us, and lead us in order to have peace. What happens most times when we are in marital situations is that we don’t listen when God speaks in a still small voice over our situation. One step of obedience, to God’s promptings is worth more than a host of vigils and prayer sessions. God is ever ready to help, if we listen. He has promised never to leave nor forsake us. Release your marriage to Him and let Him set it in order.
God bless you, and peace in our homes.
Yemi Falayajo is a guest blogger who has shared their WedlockGist <— on the site and currently resides in Abuja with her family.
Check out her blog at www.thewomanofvirtue.org/relationships for more information.
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