Expectations can be a slippery slope. The bottom line regarding expectations is to be wary. In many cases if we rely on our expectations and they are unrealistic, or based on past events with no consideration toward the possibility for change, they can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. In other words, if you choose to believe that an outcome is likely, you can create the scenario for that very belief to come true.
Let’s assume that Harry has a dreaded fear of authority figures because his father was very critical of him. He comes into work that morning and sees a note from his boss on his desk: “My office—11:30 am.” Immediately the anxiety begins to build. What could he possibly want? I don’t think he really likes me. He never talks to me; why does he want to see me now? And so the internal conversation goes.
By 11:30 Harry has built up such a scenario of assumptions in his head that he is ready to defend everything from what he had for breakfast to why he voted the way he did in the last election! Most likely he will walk into that office with a huge chip on his shoulder, ready to be defensive at the slightest provocation. Just before Harry opens his mouth, his boss acknowledges his efforts and apologizes that he hasn’t mentioned it before and would like to show his appreciation by increasing Harry’s salary for a job well done. If Harry had expressed what he had been feeling, his foot would have gone directly down his throat—and potentially a nice raise out the window.
The bigger problem with expectations is that it does not allow for growth. In relationships where there is damage, we often set the script (or it’s been set) and refuse to change it. Not so surprising, who wants to be hurt again when we’ve been hurt before. However, when the mates make a decision to change and really work on the relationship we need to adapt our expectations and be flexible in order to make way for the possibility of change. Otherwise we will continue to doubt the sincerity and potential in our spouse. We will always assume the worst! I’m not telling you to be naïve. The decision to change should show behavioral results. But, if the change is becoming evident, everyone will need to adjust their expectations to assure further growth. The reality-we serve a God who specializes in transformation.
Do you need to learn to adjust your expectations in order to allow others to grow? Have you inhibited growth in others by your concrete assumptions that “they will NEVER change? Can you see where this philosophy may be damaging your spouse, children or friendships? Remember, it’s never too late to change!
©2014 Eric A. Disney, Marriage by Design
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