Today, E is for Expectations.
This is going to be more of a rambling essay today, I think, because the topic has been on my mind for a while. When I was married 36 years ago, expectations of husbands and wives were quite different from today. First of all, we were 36 years younger, just starting our careers, were healthy for the most part, and expected to have children. But if you are of the vintage that recalls life in those days, we weren't that far away from the idea that husband goes out to bring home the bacon and wife stays home with the kids and cooks said bacon. Oh sure, the expectation then was that girls have some type of vocation on which they could fall back if something were to - heaven forbid - "happen" to their men. An enriching career like nursing, teaching, or secretarial work were the suitable choices.
I think our expectations of married life get absorbed throughout our childhood experiences of watching our parents, other adults, TV, movies, books, and church affiliation. Thirty-odd years ago, we tumbled into marriage expecting a fantasy happily-ever-after-love. Thirty-odd years older and thirty-odd years wiser, I know that that happily-ever-after-love is a very fragile thing.
But when the relationship deepens and needs aren't met (and that can be from either side), arguments can develop to threaten the very foundation of that love. When you're young, new expectations can develop at various turning points in marriage, such as when buying your first home, planting your first garden together, become parents, dealing with major illness, or entering the empty-nest stage. So it's important to build skills to help uncover what's really on your mind at any stage in your relationship.
However, at this stage of our lives with, hopefully, a third of it left to live, it can be challenging to figure out exactly what the expectations are of each other. With no young children or in-laws to deal with, our working lives all but over, and carrying some minor health issues, what is life to be like together? Melding the lives of two people who have been entirely independent for a total of over 40 years is exacting to say the least. It's not just two sets of furniture and personal belongings, but rather the cumulation of years of doing what we want, when we want, with whom we want, and how we want. It's also figuring out how we each think about things now and how we approach challenges and difficulties along with the joy and happiness of everyday life.
Letting go of some of what we used to do for ourselves is one of the most difficult things to experience. As a former teacher, I was trained to explain everything, and I have done so with my children and hundreds of other children and adults since I was very young. Also, as a young single mother I had to be the head of the household and deal with all things legal, financial, medical, educational, etc. etc. We've both been learning very hard lessons lately. We're trying very hard to find the right balance between being there for each other, yet allowing the other some space. We're also trying very hard to allow each other into our personal space while retaining a semblance of independence and freedom.
Something that has actually surprised me and gives me comfort is the fact that we communicate very well most of the time. We talk. We listen to each other. A lot. But even so, there are times when we miscommunicate. He says it's because men live most of their lives in the garage and have to wiggle their way through a long, tight tunnel to get to the living room where they have to take time to readjust to their environment. But women are able to straddle that tunnel and be in both places at the same time. Kind of an interesting analogy. So I wait, sometimes impatiently, while he winds his way into that space where we can communicate our expectations of each other.
Expectations need to be realistic yet recognized as deep needs, and each partner should attempt to meet at least some of them. When some of our expectations aren't met it's easy to get angry or sulk. However, acceptance of your mate despite imperfections is necessary for a happy, healthy relationship. If suddenly you're disappointed in the other, stop and think about what you'd expected. This can help guide your attitudes and actions the next time a similar thing occurs.
Some of my personal expectations (deep needs and wants) are:
- I want to say and hear each day those three magic words - I love you.
- Forgive me when I make a mistake in either words or action.
- Take some time every day to talk about more than the day.
- Put a high priority on quality time together.
- Listen to me with both your ears and your heart.
- Say "please" and "thank you."
- Be affectionate.
- Take care of yourself physically and emotionally.
- Share in the day-to-day responsibilities of running a house and home.
- Be yourself.
ABC Wednesday is the brainchild of Mrs. Nesbitt and she has done a marvelous job at keeping this going for over three years now. Drop in to read what other participants have to say each week. Just click here.