I know I have dealt with some of this before, but I want to go deeper on this one. There are several articles on here about expectations. My ridiculous expectations caused most of my problems. Your ridiculous expectations have caused most of yours, too. Your wife has expectations. Not all of them are positive.
Twenty years. That’s how long it took for my wife to snap. Twenty years of my foolishness, bad ideas, stupid decisions, horrible attitude… Yeah, all that. We are way past that, now. However, there is still some “idiot residue” left in the house. Mostly the kids. They still expect me to react the way I used to. They still have negative expectations sometimes.
It takes time to work that stuff out. It took about four years for me to create enough positive expectations, in my wife, for us to get past it. I wanted to show you some negative expectations and see if you need to make some changes.
If you see your wife brace herself or grab for something to hold onto at every turn, change the way you drive. She expects you to put her in danger and drive like an idiot. She has put her life in your hands every single time you take the wheel. When you scare her, you are damaging that trust. She needs to feel safe with you. Maybe she expects the worst by looking for something to hold onto. That’s a negative expectation. Fix that.
If your wife flinches when you have an argument, she might expect you to become dangerous. Does she have a legitimate reason to be concerned? Have you scared her by yelling? Have you thrown things or punched walls? She may have negative expectation about how you are going to react during conflict. Learn to control your tone and body language. Learn to listen.
Arguments tend to happen when somebody isn’t getting what they want. When you both want the same thing, they don’t happen much. When you both want a happy home and desire to be real Christians, things change. A Christlike husband desires to love his wife selflessly. You won’t have many fights over that.
Like I discussed in the Valentine’s Day Game Plan, she knows what to expect. She knows how you handled the last special day. It’s reasonable to expect similar results next time. Did you forget the last twelve anniversaries? Don’t bother getting defensive. Did she get a vacuum cleaner for Christmas? Just go ahead and move into the dog house. If those days matter to her, they need to matter to you. You don’t get to decide what is, and is not, important to your wife.
Do you get the idea?
My wife was trained, over a twenty year stretch, to expect disappointment. My credit report, at home, showed me as a poor investment. Why would she get her hopes up? Why would she try to convince herself that the next time would be different? Wy would she extend me the graciousness of positive expectations, when I failed her over and over and over and over…
Guys, you have no right to be frustrated with her. When she doesn’t get excited over your plans and promises, it’s because she has been trained. When you make stupid plans and drag her in, she learns to hesitate when you get excited about something. She knows it’s too late by the time she hears about it. She knows you have made some big decision without getting her involved. Like the Living in a Sitcom article. She knows you like making big plans without her. Probably stupid ones.
Don’t go to your goofy friends for sympathy. Don’t blab your whiny problems, about her, to them. If they are friends like mine, they would support you no matter what stupid mess you do. They are always on your side. If you gripe about her, they will gripe about her. That creates a huge mess. Cover her. Keep your mouth shut until you figure out the real problem. Like, maybe, the husband who continuously fails her.
Joel and Kathy Davisson taught me the power of positive expectations. It takes time. It takes a lot of time. If you want to stabilize your marriage and establish trust, you don’t have a choice. You are going to have to consistently prove that you love her and want to be a good husband. I will give you the plan. You have to do it.
Here’s a quick disclaimer.
If you have been married less than ten years, she might still be deciding about this. She might be playing along in hopes that the failures are not a pattern. She might be giving you the benefit of the doubt. She might just be in denial. Don’t assume you are a great husband, just because she isn’t complaining. The lack of fighting is often because she is so determined to have a happy home, she just tolerates it all. Twenty, thirty, forty or more years together… And she still curls up next to you… Still gets excited to be with you… You are probably doing it right.
This is what it took for me to change her expectations.
As a task oriented guy, I made a list of everything I knew she hated about our lives. Then, I went through that list and changed everything. It was a move of desperation, right after she produced the divorce papers, but it started the ball rolling. I found about twelve different things she hated about our life. The house, the area we lived, my work, my clutter in the house, etc. Maybe I can post the actual list, if I find it. All that was surface level stuff, but it proved I was serious.
I hadn’t bought her flowers in forever. She had no expectations concerning little tokens of affection. I set a plan up for that, too. Every week, on payday, I had the same routine. Get the check, deposit in the bank, stop for her gifts, go home. She didn’t get home for an hour after I did on Fridays. I would place a small box of chocolate, a scented candle and a card on her dresser. She found them in the same spot every week.
The hard part of that one, was that she refused to acknowledge them for almost a year. If you think this is quick, think again. If you spent five years digging a hole, it might take five years to fill it back up. Don’t do this stuff because you expect any kind of response. Do it because you love her and want a great marriage. She will respond when she is ready. After she believes in you again.
She knew I didn’t listen to her. She knew that her opinions didn’t matter to me. I had proven it repeatedly. She had dreamed of living near the beach her whole life. She would drive to the beach every chance, just to put her toes in the sand. For twenty years, all I heard was how much she loved the beach. I didn’t hear that she needed to be at the beach. I didn’t hear that hundreds of happy memories with her mother included the beach. I didn’t hear that her place of healing, from the damage I had done, required a beach.
Once we made the move, she started healing quick. It was amazing how fast things changed. Once I made the effort and sacrifices to move her close to the beach, it picked up speed. She had been telling me all this for years, but I wasn’t listening.
I listen now. I know that if she is truly my first ministry and first priority, I have to prove it. To her, and to me.
What else in life is more important than her? When you reach the end of your life, what will really matter? The size of that TV? The kind of car in the driveway? Where you live? What? What could possibly matter more than making your life count by truly learning to love? What would be more powerful in changing the world than teaching the next generation what pure, selfless love looks like?
If Christ really would have done it all, just to save one soul, why should we be different? If we are truly aiming to be Christlike, why wouldn’t we put our bride at the center of our purpose? Are we better than Him? Is our mission and purpose more important than His was?
Here’s your mission. Love her.