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Expectations, by Byron Ware
“Relationships depend on expectations. When expectations are clear and people observe them, relationships tend to run smoothly. When they are unclear or unmet, we tend to feel uncertain or violated.”
Stephen Covey - The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

    A new year! What kind of expectations do you have for the New Year? What kind of expectations do you have for your relationships this year? What are your spouse’s expectations?

    I ran across the quote above on a calendar while I was preparing to teach a marriage and family class at church. As I began to think about the meaning, I was struck by how simple and yet so true it is. There are so many broken and aching families because expectations are unclear and unmet.

    Have you taken time recently and clearly discussed your expectations with the one you love? Ask any marriage counselor, most couples they see believe better communication would improve their relationship. This is especially true in the area of expectations.

    Many of us start marriage with expectations we carried over from our parents’ relationship. We just assume our partner shares them. Unless they are clarified, these expectations nearly always lead to conflict. A good example is young couple just home from their honeymoon. The wife lay in bed waiting for her adoring husband to get busy in the kitchen. Her dad always made breakfast on Saturdays for her mom and family. Meanwhile, the husband lay waiting in bed for his loving bride to prepare his breakfast, just like his mom did for his dad. Neither of them was in a particularly good mood and things were deteriorating in a hurry. After a long discussion on expectations they got up, and decided they would eat breakfast out!

Unless these expectations are clarified and met, there is confusion, uncertainty and hurt.
    Other couples simply get lost because they forget their original intentions and expectations. They had lofty ideals, goals, and dreams when they were entering marriage. But amid the hassles of life—illness, job transfers, financial downturns, children’s needs, job demands, difficult coworkers, aging—they gradually lose sight of their target. Over time, the target even changes. Unless these expectations are clarified and met, there is confusion, uncertainty and hurt. Rather than merely "drifting apart," couples shatter apart from the hurt of neglected expectations.

    The whirlwind of everyday life helps us forget our partner's expectations and needs. Many of our expectations deal directly with needs that only our partner can meet. If neglected or ignored, these unmet needs lead us to feel unloved. So let’s identify them!

  • What are your top 5 marital needs?
  • What are the top 5 marital needs of your spouse?

    These questions may be the most important questions you ever answer and work through together. Try identifying them on your own, then work through them with your spouse. In addition, Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. in his book His Needs Her Needs, offers a number of great insights about our needs. He helps couples identify and understand each other’s needs and the expectations that go with them.

    Remember the quote from Covey, “When they are unclear or unmet, we tend to feel uncertain or violated.” When needs are unclear or unmet, we do feel uncertain, violated, frustrated, unhappy… So let’s get going with a fresh start in this fresh New Year, working on enriching our relationship with our spouse.

    And that first step? Let’s get together with our spouse, define our key needs, and work on meeting our partner's expectations. But let’s not leave it there, let’s take advantage of some great resources readily available to us to help us do just that.

    Marriage holds families, churches, communities, and nations together; marriage matters to God ! Unfortunately Satan knows this all too well, and does all he can to destroy this beautiful relationship. So each month we want to give you resources to rebuild what is broken, maintain what is strong, and enrich what is healthy in our marriages and families. We will share resources from the Internet, readily available books, current seminars, video tape series and other spiritual resources to help us strengthen marriages and families as we live Together in His Grace.

Resources: Earlier, I referred to the book His Needs Her Needs by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr., which I highly recommend. Dr. Harley also has a web site that you can refer to. If you want to go much deeper into how the book can work for your marriage, there is an interactive seminar by Family Dynamics Institute. Again, I highly recommend this seminar. It enriched my marriage and made me a much better spouse. These seminars are held throughout the United States, and the Family Dynamics Institute web site has more information.

Remember, start the New Year off right by communicating your expectations and finding the needs of your spouse. Read His Needs Her Needs, or go to a Family Dynamics Institute seminar on His Needs Her Needs with your spouse. Help make your marriage be all that it can be, because marriage matters to God!

Byron and Lisa Ware work enriching marriages in their home congregation at Richland Hills Church of Christ. Byron is a Certified Network Engineer and Lisa is a school teacher, who specializes in reading enrichment.

HEARTLIGHT(R) Magazine is a ministry of loving Christians and the Westover Hills church of Christ.
Edited by Phil Ware and Paul Lee.
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Article copyright © 1998, Byron Ware. Used by permission.
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