The dentist’s office called changing her son’s appointment from tomorrow to today at 3:30 pm. Mary was thrilled because she just found out she had an important meeting the following day.
Her son usually arrived home a little after 3:00 pm, in plenty of time for the dental appointment. But today, he wasn’t home when she expected him. He had decided to play football with some friends after school. When he finally arrived home a little after 4:00 pm, Mary was furious!
“Where have you been? You had a dentist appointment at 3:30pm!” she said in anger.
“I thought that the dentist was tomorrow,” her son explained.
“It was, but I had to change it because of a meeting at work,” she tells him.
“How was I supposed to know that?” he asks.
Frustrated, she responds, “Well you should have called!”
“I didn’t think I needed to. I play with the guys lots of times after school and it was never a big deal before!”
I still remember this heated conversation with my mom when I was eleven years old. Frustrating conversations like this can happen in the best of homes. Maybe even in yours.
This is a story of unspoken expectations.
I’ll bet you know about unspoken expectations – those wants, needs or desires that you assume others should know about without actually telling them. “I mean, if you really loved me, then you should know what I expect, right?”
Shortly after I got married, my wife mentioned a few times that the gas gauge in her car was getting near empty. Finally, I asked her why she kept telling me about how much gas she had in her car. She responded, “Well, aren’t you going to go fill it?”
I didn’t know I was expected to do that. She explained that her dad always filled her mom’s gas tank, and she assumed I would do that for her. I was happy to fill the tank, but it was an unspoken expectation. I didn’t realize that this was something she desired.
Unspoken expectations can be about anything:
- Who will do the chores?
- Where we will go for Thanksgiving?
- Don’t you know how I’m feeling?
- How we will spend money?
- We will eat dinner together every night, right?
- How much T.V. we will watch?
- What commitments we will make with others?
- What activities (sports, school, church) we will be involved in?
When expectations are unmet, we begin to deal with all sorts of feelings such as:
Having expectations about others, especially our children and spouse, is part of being a family. But we need to make sure that those expectations are known. To assume that someone ought to know what we need, want, or desire is selfish on our part.
Be conscious of expressing your expectations to others. Let them know what you need, hope, and desire from them. Be open to the fact that they might not be able to meet your expectations at this time or perhaps ever. There are some expectations, such as true unconditional love, that only God can meet.
Maybe your expectations are unrealistic. If you expect your fourteen-year-old to go to bed at a reasonable time without having to be reminded, or your spouse to always think the same way you do, or a host of other expectations, you will probably be disappointed.
There is nothing wrong with having expectations. They can lead to greater intimacy and closeness as we find new ways to love and serve one another. We each need to take responsibility to make sure that we communicate those expectations to others in a way that they understand and can agree to, so none is surprised or disappointed.
God bless your great expectations!
And as you wish that others would do to you, do so to them.
Luke 6:31 ESV
By Pete Larson
Husband to Lynn
Father of two sons
1 Corinthians 13 Parenting Team Member
Executive Director of Family Fest Ministries