Marital Expectations are Goodish

"What kind of expectations are we talking here--lowered, reduced, or unrealistically high?"

“What kind of expectations are we talking here–lowered, reduced, or unrealistically high?”

Every once in a while a client will look at me sheepishly and confess, “I have expectations in this marriage.” 

I love when this happens because I get to be the bearer of good news. I say, “Expectations aren’t bad. The reason we exchange vows is because we expect our partner to practice fidelity, sobriety, monogamy, chastity, integrity, and so forth. And our partners expect the same from us. How would you feel if your partner said they don’t care how you behave, didn’t expect you to be kind and loving, or didn’t expect you to come home at night?”

At this point the client perks up.

I then add, “It’s how we  behave when our expectations aren’t met that gets us into trouble. Unmet expectations often become an excuse to rage, explode, hit, scream, yell, throw, guilt, shame, manipulate, drink, control, act out, or leave.”

If the client is still engaged I’ll add, “If you expect your partner’s undivided attention 24/7, if you expect them to answer the phone ten times a day during work hours, if you expect your partner to look at you longingly in every aisle in every grocery store, if you expect him or her to turn in every receipt, account for every mile they drive, recall every conversation they have throughout the day with whom and what they were wearing, if you expect them to enjoy your hobbies and forsake their own, if you expect your partner to eat, exercise, and spend according to your plan, if you expect them to stare at the ground when they walk in public to avoid eye contact with the opposite sex, if you expect them to control their dreams, restless leg syndrome, or snoring, be my guest. But please respond calmly if those expectations are not met.”

Shifting the focus from spouse control to self control puts clients in a good place.

When that happens I then expect something—progress!

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