I spent extra time on my hair that day. I felt like it was warranted as I would be picking up my husband, Drew, from the airport later that afternoon. Drew works for Seed Effect, a Christ-centered microfinance organization that operates in South Sudan. He was returning from the first of many two-week trips in South Sudan—and I could not wait to see him. I was so excited.
Those of you who know me know that I am an easily excitable person. I get excited about everything—from eating a nice crisp Fuji apple to watching a Texas Rangers’ game to drinking that first cup of coffee in the morning to every meal I eat. Small things are EPIC to me.
So on my way to the airport, I imagined what it would be like when Drew saw me: He might pick me up, give me a huge kiss, possibly even shed a tear, which would have been maybe the second tear he had shed in our marriage (One can hope!). I didn’t expect him to run to hug me as you see in the movies, but that would have been okay too.
I walked into the airport with an extra skip in my step, lips newly glossed, hair freshly curled. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally spotted Drew’s head (He’s 6’ 4”) above the crowd of people coming through the gate. I ran up to him and gave him the biggest hug. But, he didn’t pick me up—and there were definitely no tears. Was he sick? Was something terribly wrong?
We got in the car. I started rapid firing the questions at him: How was your flight? How was your trip? When was the last time you showered? What do you want to eat?
He answered the deluge of questions I threw at him. But, he had little excitement in his voice. So my excitement to see him quickly morphed into massive disappointment. Not only were my expectations not met in those moments, they were destroyed.
The next day I told Drew how disappointed I was that he didn’t seem excited to see me. He explained that after 40+ hours of travel, not sleeping well, and forgetting what air conditioning felt like, he was simply tired, hungry, and in need of a hot shower. He went on to reassure me that he was indeed excited to see me.
Oh, I thought. That makes sense. [Gulp.]
I learned through this experience—and many others—that expectations are everything.
When I first saw Drew in the airport that day, I expected him to act like he had just won the lottery when he saw me, as that is how excited I was to see him. But, we’re different—and he doesn’t do random high kicks like I do when he gets excited.
In our four years of marriage, we have differed on our expectations of how to fold towels, where to put the trashcan in our bathroom, how often to wash the sheets, how to load the dishwasher—you know, the “big things” in life. We never actually expressed how we thought those things should be done. We just expected them to be done the way each of us had always done them. It turns out, that doesn’t work out well in marriage.
By God’s grace, I’m slowly learning some things I need to think and pray about to manage my expectations rightly:
- Identify the missed expectation. Why is this expectation important to me? Should it be?
- Remember that we’re different. For me to assume that Drew is going to act like me and want to do things the way that I want them done, is illogical and harmful to our marriage. I need to recognize when my expectations of Drew are unrealistic. So I can still do high kicks when I pick up Drew from the airport, but I can’t expect for him ever to act that way (probably better that there aren’t two of us doing that anyway). I want to celebrate how God created us so differently.
- Let go of the small stuff. I can let go of my expectations of the small things like how to fold towels or how to load the dishwasher. I want to remember Proverbs 19:11 in those moments: “A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offense” (NIV).
- Communicate fair expectations. Sometimes I have expectations that are good and right (e.g. I have an expectation that Drew and I pray together), but I want to make sure that I have lovingly communicated those expectations. I don’t want to assume that he knows what I’m thinking.
As I let go of my unrealistic expectations of Drew, it’s much easier to love and enjoy him and live out Romans 12:10: “Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves." I can’t be devoted to Drew in love if I’m expecting him to act like me and do things the way I do them.
Expectations are everything.
Think of one example in your marriage where you need to realign your expectations of your spouse. What can you “let go of?”