Duane and I celebrated our 14th anniversary this past week and it was a perfect time to consider expectations…or the lack thereof.
See, when I met this dimpled, Italian man, I didn’t know WHAT to expect.
One thing was undeniable: My world was rocked. He gave me heart palpitations and goosebumps. I found myself singing Carpenters songs with gusto and living for the next phone call or e-mail.
Actually, at first, I truly expected him to be a flash in the pan; just another of the many guys who’d take my number and never call. Friends, who had not seen a man have this effect on me in years also tried to reign in my expectations; after all, they didn’t want their friend to get hurt.
When you’re 38 and haven’t been on a real date in years, YOU don’t want to get hurt again. You resist getting your hopes up, only to have them dashed again. Yet the feelings were so intoxicating…I couldn’t protect myself from them.
Swept up in emotion, I made a decision to risk being hurt…because the thought of NOT loving him was more painful.
Duane exceeded my expectations. He was in it for the long haul (see my recent video on INTENTION) and no matter what I asked of him, he jumped through every hoop (and there were MANY of them) to seal the deal and put a ring on it.
The next chapter, however, is where the rubber met the road: Marriage.
Because of the whirlwind of our courtship, I never stopped to consider my expectations when it came to marriage.
I mean, wouldn’t it just be more of the same? Romantic, long talks on the patio; flowers “just because” and handyman tasks miraculously handled by my own, personal Magnum PI…
Yep, cue the rude awakening.
Not to say there haven’t been some very sweet and romantic times…but, as my friends ALSO tried to tell me, it’s mostly about negotiating a pleasant balance between laundry, bills, professional obligations, social calendars, broken dishes (I’m a bit clutzy) AND reruns of Hogans Heroes (Duane’s favorite show.)
Some of our biggest fights have been because I imposed upon him my EXPECTATIONS of what he (i.e., the perfect husband) should be. Meanwhile, I sometimes forget that I am in NO way the model of the traditional wife.
I do not cook. And I’d rather pay other people to do tasks that bore me, including detail cleaning, mending and ironing.
Oh, plus I stink at all of the above.
Yet Duane has never complained about how I fall short in these areas (at least, to my face!) Perhaps his restraint in this regard has shown up in OTHER ways. Exhibit #1: Notice his hair color in this photo on our wedding day:
And after fourteen years of swallowing judgment:
85% gray. (But he still looks happy, right?)
Getting back to expectations, no one wants to be required to live up to an unattainable standard and then be judged and found lacking.
It’s not a recipe for a happy marriage.
However, standards of mutual respect, honoring individual preferences, healthy amounts of compromise and good doses of unselfishness SHOULD be expected.
Lowering our expectations in these areas reduces our marriage to “less than.” It ensures that we don’t fulfill our potential as a couple. It says, “I give up” on believing the best for us.
Thus, we fight. And this was NOT something I expected in marriage.
I had lived with roommates for all of my adult life and can only remember one real argument! Certainly we, as a loving, married couple, could rationally discuss matters and achieve mutual understanding?
HA! When hormones and tempers are flared, we Viola’s can get LOUD. This may not be the norm for 95% of couples out there, but it’s the case here on Ridge Road in Sarasota.
Admittedly, the intense arguments of our early married years are now much fewer and far between. Why? Because we understand each others’ expectations much more than we used to. Now I KNOW what drives him crazy, and I try to avoid it at all costs.
He knows the same about me.
Sometimes there are unknown alligators in the water that crop up and make for less than smooth sailing.
But there’s one thing we both expect: We’re staying in the boat. Neither of us is jumping ship. Oh, there are times when we both WANT to, but we wait until that wave passes…which it always does…and set sail again for another year of equal parts marital angst and bliss.
If I had any gem of wisdom to offer to those of you embarking on this journey called marriage, it would be this: COMMUNICATE your expectations.
You can’t get mad at someone for something you never said mattered to you.
Meanwhile, we’re heading into a new week. So here’s what our new word is!:
I’m going to emphasize NOT complicating things this week by over-thinking.
How will YOU simplify?