Most people agree, it is good to have high expectations of our children, others, and even ourselves. After all, we want our kids, spouse and others to know we believe in them and expect them to fulfill their potential.
However, when the expectations are greater than the reality, there is danger of negative emotions filing the gap. In other words, the distance or gap between reality and expectations is the amount of anger, hurt or disappointment we experience.
(anger, hurt, disappointment, frustration)
God has equipped each of us with what we can call an emotional trigger or button that we experience when we have an expectation, need or desire that is not met. The distance between the reality of what actually happened and the need or expectation brings about an emotional response. When we don’t get something we think we deserve, we’re usually angry. For some people this can also be a sense of hurt or disappointment, but for most of us, we just get angry.
I remember experiencing this anger in our first week of marriage. Peter and I were living in LA, I was teacher and he was a grad student. On Fridays he didn’t have any classes. I was driving home from my teaching job and started thinking about what a lovely romantic scene I was about to come home to, flowers on the table, dinner being prepared, maybe even a bottle of wine. I had a 20-minute drive, so I had a lot of time to create quite a picture.
When I got home, I found on the table a note that said, “Golfing with Clint.” Luckily for Peter, golf is a time consuming sport. I had time to process my anger. I asked myself, “Am I angry about the right things for the right reasons and in the right way? I realized he had no idea this was my expectation and I was able to laugh when he walked in the door and say, “You’re lucky you didn’t get home two hours ago because you were in so much trouble!”
Here are three questions to ask yourself when you find you’re angry, hurt, frustrated or disappointed over unmet expectations.
- Are my expectations realistic? (Is my child too young to do this or is my spouse too busy to meet this expectation? Am I angry for the right reason?)
- Did I communicate my expectations clearly? (Was I hoping the other person could just read my mind or just know it?)
- How can I communicate my unmet expectation in an effective way? (What gives me the best chance of being heard? When should I bring this up? What words would be most helpful?)
Asking these three questions will help you identify any expectations you may have in your relationships. The goal is to be aware when you feel anger, hurt, frustrated, and disappointment as a time to check your expectations. This way you may process the negative emotions so they do not take root in your heart.
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
What expectations for your spouse or child do you need to modify in order to make them more realistic and attainable?
By Heather Larson, M.A.
Wife to Peter
Mom of three
1 Corinthians 13 Team Member
Associate Director of 10 Great Dates