Friday, August 1, 2014

Unrealistic Expectations

My husband and I sat in the counseling session with an obviously distraught couple.  She had drawn an imaginary line in the sand and stated that he had crossed over it one too many times.  He, looking shell-shocked seemed to have given up long ago.

As they described their relationship and their years of struggle and pain which had now turned to anger and surrender, a phrase kept repeating itself in my mind--"unrealistic expectations." As couples so often do, they had brought their list of unspoken expectations of how the other should talk, feel,  and act into their marriage, and when it did not play out as expected, the heartbreak began.

She thinks: He should know my needs and meet them.  When he doesn't, he demonstrates in full color that I am not important to him.  When I make my expectations clear and he continues to ignore them, it is proof that he does not love me.  Every mistake.  Every missed "I love you." "Every task put off screams that he has other things more important to focus on and I am an after-thought.

He thinks:  Nothing I do will ever be good enough.  When I do try, she interprets it as half-hearted, so even my best falls short.  If I reatreat into my own thoughts I am considered neglectful.  If I challenge her priorities I am considered unloving.  It is a lose-lose situation.  I can never win, so why try?

The Book of Lamentations has a song that I learned as a new Christian.  "The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases. His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness."

Even as a teenager, the truth of these words gave me hope.  No matter how difficult yesterday was, today is a new day.  I get a "do-over", another mulligan.  The hope is that I can take the mistakes of yesterday and begin again, having made the necessary adjustments to imporove on yesterday.

The key phrase here, my friends, is make necessary adjustments.  How often have I repeated yesterday's mistakes, because I thought that repeating yesterday's actions with yesterday's attitudes would somehow magically reap new results?  Isn't that the definition of insanity, according to possibly one of the world's most brilliant minds?

I struggle with my own inadequacies daily.  Sowing unrealistic expectations for my husband and children yields a crop of anger and frustration.  Unrealistic expectations for myself lead to  guilt and surrender.  Oh, whoa is me.  Who will rescue me from this body of unmet expectations?

Thanks be to our precious Lord and Savior that we don't have to do this alone.  He promises to take yesterday's failures and wash them, purify them, and send us out with new clothes.  But we must put them on.  We must renew our minds.  It is in going to the feet of the only One that can make all things new that I can truly begin again.

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