Sunday, April 19, 2009

Changing My Expectations

I don't have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments. ~Michael Landon

Anger always comes from frustrated expectations. ~Elliott Larson

A wise man once told me that to change something in someone else, you have to change something in yourself. It worked so well that I married him. Well, to be quite honest, it worked after we were married the most and the practice of it is what saved our marriage in the first three, rather turbulent, years.

I am the type of person who could take an argument to the death, in a manner of speaking. I would lose sight of my objective and just try to win, which resulted in me losing...with my husband. I could win and feel more unsatisfied than before. It took me some time—too long a time, really—to understand that my underlying objective was not winning the argument, it was to win my husband's heart. Back then my husband would say that I had control issues, but I would say I had a trust issue: I didn't trust him to be in control because he would not trust me and listen to my counsel.

That is what I really wanted: to trust him and he, me. In my twisted mind, I thought if I win the argument he will see that I am right and he will eventually trust me. What I failed to see at the time was that we were both demanding trust from the other. Demanding a person to trust you never really works. Like a puppy chasing its tail, we were chasing a dream that would constantly elude us. Worse, the things we both wanted the most--respect, trust, and love—were the very things being destroyed in our futile attempts to demand them.

In essence, we were both demanding for the other to change, but we were not changing ourselves. Isn't that the way of human nature? Give in to me and then maybe I will trust you? Then there is the Lord, Who asks of us to accept His nature instead. Jesus wrapped up every command, every law the Lord had ever given into two simple ones: Matthew 22:37-40

And He said to him, "You shall love the Lord our God will all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets."

Did I really love my husband? Well, I certainly loved him when it was easy to love him. That is not what Jesus meant though, was it?

Jesus also commanded me to love my enemy, Matthew 5:43-47. He obviously meant that I was to love my husband even when he was unlovable, just like I would like him to love me when I was being unlovable. That meant that I would show him love even when he showed none back. For that to really work, I would have to release him from the expectations I had about how he should treat me to prove his love or even that he would love me at all. I would need to just love him whether or not he gave any indication at all that he loved me. I would have to stop trying to make him see my side for him to want to see my side. This was not something I would do short term or even with the expectation that I would get what I really wanted. This had to be a true commitment. (Sigh.)

What I came to learn was that releasing my husband of the expectations I had placed on him gave me nothing to be angry about regardless of how he behaved. Even if he wanted to argue, I had no need to do the same. I did not wish to argue, I wish to be loved. This was not apathy, it was focus on a goal and, oddly, freedom.

That is the secret. When I really have no expectations on other people, I am not controlled by the very expectations I placed on them. In other words, if I expected my husband to clean up the kitchen sink because he made it a mess and he did not fulfill my expectation, even if he did not know it, then I would feel compelled to react. Without the expectation, there is no disappointment. There is no anger. There is no injury. There is no reason to blame. There is no reason to even grumble. There is freedom to choose to just clean it myself or not to. Simple.

Eventually, we had nothing much to argue about. Eventually, we learned to really trust each other. Eventually, we both really respected each other. Eventually, there was no question that we really loved each other.

I cannot say that I have no expectations whatsoever on my husband these days—we always expect more from those we respect, trust, and love the most and he qualifies—but they are more reasonable expectations, I think. I don't expect him to know my unspoken expectations, although one will slip by me once in while. The moment things begin to heat up, I ask myself if I am upset because he did not meet one of my expectations and, if that is it (most of the time it is), was it fair to him, or did he even know I had that expectation (most of the time that is a "no").

I have applied this philosophy to all my relationships and I must say that I do not get hurt by other people very often now, certainly much less often than I have in the past. I have learned that the real freedom from being disappointed and hurt is not loving less or pulling away, but to have less expectations on others. That way I can enjoy the person for who he or she is, rather than what I want the person to be to me.

I changed something in myself. I have chosen not to have expectations so that I have the freedom give my respect, my trust, and my love to whomever I chose without concerns about whether or not they are deserving. It is a lifelong commitment, but then didn't my Lord do the same for me? For you?

My Lord, thank you for showing me how to release my expectations on others and for understanding the blessing it gives to me. May others in need of this freedom from their expectations be given this gift.


  1. Mm. I agree, but there are limits too. I don't expect grown men to leer over my young daughters. There are no excuses that are acceptable. End of story.

  2. Ganeida, here's how I would view that within this context. I have no expectation of people to do the right thing--hope, but no expectation--so I would be protective of my daughter.

  3. It's a long & complicated story & I'm just fed up with dealing with it. Sorry to grump at you on your blog but by your own reasoning you have no expectation that I will be civil?!?! ;P Ok, I'm taking me away now. lol. Have a blessed day.

    PS. What's up with CF? I can't get in to us. It doesn't seem to have been functioning as it should for some time...not that I have any expectations or anything...;D

  4. It really is nearly impossible not to have some expectations, but the point is to realize that how they come into play with our relationships by identifying them for what they are.

    Grump away, my friend! You know that I love you. I know you well enough to believe you have a valid gripe and I would *expect* no less from you when it comes to your children. (Did I actually write the word "expect?")

    ;P Back at you!

    CF was working okay for me earlier and it is as I am writing this. I switched over to using Firefox instead of IE recently, but I don't know if that matters...?

  5. lol sounds lyk a post that could help me a lot, cheers seeking for this and the comments you left back my way... Mum you are so completely odd :p As for the guy well there are a couple that are really odd and well worth a second look on how to deal with em.


Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.