Great Expectations

Expectation: the act of state of looking forward or anticipating

Expectations. We all have them.

I expect that the bagger at Publix will offer to help me out with my food.I expect that my friends and family will call me and wish me a Happy Birthday. I expect that I will have fun when I get together with my girlfriends.

Expectations are a great thing when the thing we expect is true. The problem, however, is when our expectations don’t match up to our reality.

I’ll use myself and my husband as an example of what I’m talking about.

Just weeks after my husband and I got married, he disappeared under the ocean for a 3 month deployment. The entire time he was gone, I built up what homecoming would look like in my head. I just knew we would lock eyes with each other across the pier, we’d run to one another, and we’d passionately kiss and profess our love for one another. I built up that moment in my head for months.

I expected. And I was disappointed.

My husband had been in a submarine for 3 months. He’d seen sunshine just a handful of times. He hadn’t shaved. He smelled of boat (a smell which I cannot adequately describe – it is a cross between diesel fuel, smelly socks, and the odor of 100 men). He had work he had to do before he could greet me, and he had to stay on the boat for the night before he could come home.

I waited for an hour before he made his way over to me. He strolled over; he did not run. At this point my sexy outfit had wrinkled and wilted in the heat. I had a sunburn and my heels were giving me blisters. Still, I held out hope for that romantic moment I had dreamed of in my head.

I expected. And I was disappointed.

Reality: my husband strolled over, quickly hugged me, gave me a peck of a kiss, and told me he wouldn’t be coming home with me that night because he had duty. He chatted about something incredibly banal while I silently argued with him in my head.

Why didn’t you kiss me? Do you not love me anymore? I don’t CARE about what so-and-so did at halfway night. DO YOU NOT SEE MY PRETTY OUTFIT? Do you not want to scoop me up and twirl me around? WHERE IS MY PERFECT MOVIE MOMENT?!

In no time at all, my husband was called back to work and I headed home. Disappointed. Let down. Feeling like my marriage was failing and something was wrong with me. All because I had expectations, and my reality did not meet them.

The next day my husband came home. He professed his love. We passionately kissed. He gifted me a journal where he had written me letters while he was underway. I had my romantic moment; it just didn’t look like the moment I had created in my head.

My poor husband. That wouldn’t be the last time I put the weight of my expectations on his shoulders.

I have talked before about how my husband isn’t the greatest gift giver. My husband is great at so many other things, but he isn’t by nature a thoughtful person. I love to give gifts; it is my love language. I also love to receive gifts. It makes me feel special and appreciated. Unfortunately my husband does not love to buy gifts.

It’s become a bone of contention in our marriage, unfortunately.

Every single birthday, Christmas, and Mother’s Day I expect something from my husband. I expect that he is going to put a lot of thought into a gift. I expect that he is going to really think about me, the things I enjoy, and what is important to me. He’s going to go shopping and select the one item that will sum up his love for me.

I expect. And I’m disappointed.

Because that is just not who my husband is. It isn’t. It hasn’t been him in the 10 years we’ve been married. I can almost guarantee that my husband will do one of two things: 1) he will forgot the occasion completely or 2) he will run out the night before or the day of and buy me the first thing he sees.

Every Mother’s Day, every birthday, every Christmas I am disappointed. I’m mad. I’m bratty. And why? Why? Because I didn’t get the perfect imaginary gift that I am perfectly capable of buying for myself? Because I have somehow linked the ability to give gifts and feel love for someone together? Because my expectations are too high?

My expectations will never match up to my reality because my expectations are too big.

The problem with expectations is that you cannot control other people, how they act, or how they react. It is fine to have expectations for yourself. Great! Expectations can push us to work hard or achieve. Think about it: we expect to lose 2 pounds this week, so we work out 5 times at the gym. We make a to-do list each morning, and we work to achieve what we have written. We want to make an A in our graduate class, so we do our best work.

I think it is OK to have expectations as long as our expectations are realistic. My husband expects a certain level of cleanliness when he comes home for the day. He expects dinner to be served. He expects that I will pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, and that our kids will be alive at the end of the day.

He expects, but his expectations are realistic. He also is able to adjust when his expectations are not met. He understands if I’ve had a rough day with the kids and was not able to pick up the house. He understands if I’m tired and don’t feel like cooking. He understands if I didn’t get to go to the grocery store because things popped up during the day.

My problem is that I have always had unrealistic expectations of people. I project my expectations onto them, and then my feelings are hurt or disappointed because my expectations did not match reality. I expect the perfect gift from my husband. I expect that my girlfriend will drop what she is doing to listen to my latest meltdown. I expect that when I take my kids to see Santa that I will get the magical moment on camera.

Do you struggle with your expectations?


  1. This is totally my entire life! Just ask my husband.

Speak Your Mind