In my MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group, we often have speakers come to share their experiences or their knowledge on a certain subject. They are always amazingly enlightening. I always either think, ‘Why didn’t I already know that?’ or ‘Wow, that was a great reminder!’
Two male pastors from a local church were the speakers at our last meeting. There purpose was to answer everything we wanted to know from a man’s perspective. I want to discuss one topic they hit on that really spoke to me.
Pastor Brent Cunningham discussed the fact that his wife (a stay-at-home-mom) yearns to be acknowledged for all of the work she does at home while he is at work. He said he has to make an effort to do so.
The fact is that oftentimes, spouses come home and see the house as they left it: the table is cleared off, the windows are free of fingerprints, the toys are tucked neatly in the toy box (ok, well, sometimes!), etc. He walks into the house without thinking about all of the chaos that passed only a couple hours or even just minutes earlier. He doesn’t think about the fact that during lunch, little Gregory spilled his milk on himself and on the floor and that little Charlotte smeared her applesauce all over the table. He doesn’t know that little Karen took a marker to the window and perfected her masterpiece by taking off her diaper and smearing it over her scribble-scrabbled window masterpiece. He doesn’t realize that just 15 minutes before he walked through the door, little Megan and little Brennan had a toy war where they fought over every toy they owned and that the bout resulted in a war zone of stuffed animals, legos, and those really annoying (and LOUD) singing laptop-type electronic toys. All he sees is that all is well in his home… everything except for the fact that there is a bowl and a spoon in the sink.
“Can’t you put the dishes straight in the dishwasher, honey? That’s the easiest way to do it,” he says with an irritated grin.
She, not in the mood for “pleasantries”, keeps her mouth shut– not because she has extraordinary self-control, but because she is genuinely at a loss for words. ‘Does he even KNOW all of the dishes I DID do? Not to mention the vacuuming, the walk to the park, the trip to the store, the constant mediating, and the de-cluttering.’
“So, what did you do all day?”, he says, flippantly.
‘REALLY? What did I DO?’, she thinks. ‘I’m about to lose my mind.’
You see, the house being clean became an expectation of his, because, for 1) it’s something he enjoys, and 2) its something she has always done her best to provide for him… she’s actually been pretty successful at it. Instead of thinking thoughtfully about what a day with two kids in the house must look like, he can only see the pieces of the puzzle he was there for — the beginning of the day, and the end. This expectation can lead to feelings of inadequacy or extreme frustration within his wife, because he only sees the finished product and not the heart and effort she put into it, as well as the PRESSURE she endures every day to do so. It can eventually lead to her just giving up, because she can’t keep up with all of the demands she feels he’s placed on her. While he sees his expectation of home cleanliness as one small issue, she sees it as a compilation of several tasks that will keep her working hour-to-hour, all day to complete.
But, does HE realize that she feels this way? Does he understand that his desire for the house to be clean actually became an expectation of his that, as a result, reemerged as an extreme stress in his wife’s life?
Let’s define the two bolded terms above according to Merriam-Webster:
-Desire: A strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen.
-Expectation: A belief that someone will or should achieve something.
I have a desire that my husband will watch the kids while I take a bubble bath alone at the end of the day. I have an expectation that my husband will do his best to keep my children safe at all times. I have a desire that my husband will arrange for a babysitter so that we can go out to the movies every once in a while. I have an expectation that he will brush his teeth morning and night. 🙂
“So, anyway, what’s for dinner?” he asks.
‘Ha…ha…ha…,’ she thinks. “Get it yourself,” she says, smugly.
“What’s your problem?” he asks.
Now, this happens both ways. I’m certainly not picking on men. This was just one of many examples I can give to illustrate this topic.
Pastor Cunningham pointed out that we have to be careful to not let our desires become expectations. The truth is, the husband in the above example had a desire for home cleanliness that he subconsciously let slide into an expectation. Because of this, the failure to meet his standards of tidiness (which seems to be an impossible task) could lead to huge fights between he and his wife (and possibly his kids, as well).
How do we avoid pushing our desires into expectation status?
1) Be aware of the difference between a desire and an expectation: CHECK! We discussed that above.
2) Have an open conversation with your spouse regarding your top desires. Examples might be playing golf or going to a Mom’s Night Out once a month, having a clean kitchen, not letting a clean pile of laundry sit for over 24 hours, never having an empty roll of toilet paper in the bathroom, going on an after-dinner walk once a week, having alone time without your spouse or children for 15 minutes every day, etc. Because you each want the other to have their (reasonable) desires fulfilled, it is likely you will do your best to compromise in order to allow them to have their wants met. Doing this will foster harmony between you, because your mutual respect will be highlighted.
3) If a certain issue is building tension in your relationship, contemplate whether that issue derived because of a desire or expectation and how you can bring it back down to desire status and possibly issue a compromise to compress the tension.
Reevaluating our desires vs. expectations is a never-ending job in a relationship, but communicating our desires and working to compromise on both ends will help maintain mutual respect and harmony.
What are your thoughts? How have you dealt with desires vs. expectations in your relationship?
Have you had rough patches in this area? Do you have any success stories?
Thank you for sharing!