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Posts tagged ‘misplaced expectations’

Confronting Discontentment in My Marriage

SOURCE:  Jennifer Smith/Family Life

 I had a plethora of marriage expectations that were formed as far back as early childhood. Many of those expectations were veiled, hidden in the deep places of my heart. For years I justified my notions of life and marriage, unaware of the devastating effects of those expectations if left unmet.

Entering marriage with such high expectations set my husband and me up for ruin. For example, trusting in my husband to be my everything was one of the most detrimental ways I hurt our marriage. I set my husband up for failure when I expected him to fulfill me completely.

When I wanted to feel worthy, I sought my worthiness in my husband. When I wanted to feel loved unconditionally, I sought love from my husband. When I wanted to feel comforted, cherished, validated, or encouraged, I sought those things in my husband and only in my husband. However, because my husband is human and prone to sin, inevitably he let me down and could not fulfill my needs completely. And in those times, I felt unworthy and unloved.

While some expectations are good—for example, I expect my husband to be faithful to me—when they move into unrealistic and unattainable places, they become destructive. My expectations were so lofty they hurt him. Aaron could never be my everything—he was never designed to be! And whenever I tried to make him fit that role, I unintentionally placed him as an idol above God, believing that he had the capacity to do more for me than God Himself.

With the strain Aaron and I were experiencing, we tended to be overly sensitive to conflict. It did not take much for us to offend each other, and I am embarrassed to admit I took advantage of retaliating when I felt I deserved something I was not receiving. When I became aware of any opportunity to point out fault, I didn’t hesitate to blame him. I complained about our living situation, about not having enough, about having only one car, about our finances, about our sexless life, about my husband’s flaws, about work, about anything I deemed worthy of complaint. Those unmet expectations flowed over into discontentment, which too often I nursed in my heart.

Not only did discontentment grow, but pride did as well, which grew into a sense of entitlement: I deserve better than this. And that mentality seeped not only into my marriage, but into my relationship with God. Unmet expectations of God’s role in my life lit a fire of anger within me. I believed being a daughter of the King meant that I would receive the best of everything. When it seemed as if God didn’t intervene, that anger spread like wildfire, consuming everything inside me, including my faith. I had high expectations for God to do the things I wanted, unable to grasp that God was more concerned about my character than my comfort. But in the midst of my pain and self-centered complaining, I exhausted my husband and I believe I saddened God.

After I spent several years repeating this same offense and suffering the consequences, God opened my eyes to the destruction of unmet expectations. God needed to transform me. He could do that only as I humbled myself and let go of my unrealistic and unmet expectations. Each time God humbled me, He used that experience to mold my attitude and character to reflect that of Christ and to shape my expectations to more closely align with His, which in all honesty are better than what I could ever dream of.

The transformation I underwent didn’t happen immediately. Rather, the process was spread out over time as I sought to know God and make myself known to Him—a process that continues to mature me every day.

Joy and contentment defend me from the barrage of unmet expectations. If I don’t have joy, those notions wreak havoc in my heart, turning it against the ones I love. I know because it happened countless times. It took me years of suffering and loathing in self-pity, guilt, and brokenness even to begin to understand the power of pure joy.

Joy springs up where contentment thrives, and contentment is produced through sincere thankfulness. The greatest constant I have found to help sustain me and give me strength and hope, no matter what the circumstance, is to cling to the joy of the Lord. God’s Word tells me, “Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10).

God taught me how to be thankful by sharing specific things I am grateful for with God and with my husband. As thankfulness fills my heart to the brim with contentment, I find myself living with extraordinary joy, regardless of unmet expectations or circumstances or past hurts.

God showed me the value of being a wife of faith, a wife who trusts Him wholeheartedly, who is confident of her worthiness and purpose. I choose to be a wife who believes she can change and believes her husband can be transformed into the man God designed him to be, and I choose to strive to affirm him in truthfulness.

I desire to be a wife of faith who can persevere no matter the circumstance because she is full of hope, which is the foundation of her motivation. I believe as I choose to walk in the Spirit, love will pour out and bless my marriage. With God’s help I can endure. I can have a thriving marriage. But it requires faith and hope.

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Taken from The Unveiled Wife, copyright © 2015 by Jennifer Smith.

 

Marriage: Will You Fill the Holes in My Life?

SOURCE:  Alexandra Kuykendall/Today’s Christian Woman

Expecting a “You Complete Me” Kind of Marriage

I wanted my husband to do what I needed God to do

“I’m expecting” is a grand open-ended statement of two little words loaded with hope.

As a mom of four, I have lots of experience saying them, sometimes with excitement and sometimes with exhaustion. Each time I’ve been waiting for the baby, other expectations weren’t so obvious. The dream of fulfillment, or unconditional love, or a stronger connection to my husband. They were unique expectations based on my distinct mess of personality and life experiences. What I was “expecting” with my fourth pregnancy was much different than my first, because I knew more about motherhood and I’d grown as a woman.

Though we associate the phrase “I’m expecting” with pregnancy, we could just as easily use it for engagement. Because we all bring both spoken and unspoken expectations to the altar on our wedding days. I even brought plenty I wasn’t aware of. In the moment I couldn’t have articulated the expectations if I’d tried, because I didn’t know they were there until I was living in the context of a real marriage.

Having grown up with a single mother my entire childhood, my expectation for marriage felt pretty open. I didn’t have a good or bad marriage to use as my model. It was simply void, like white, the absence of color; I suffered from the absence of marriage. I did have a few fantasies—at the time I would have described them as hopes. That I would be happier, more fulfilled, with my husband. In a sense, that he would “complete me.”

And then real life happened. We lived on a shoestring budget with my paycheck from supporting migrant high school students for Catholic Charities. My husband was a full-time graduate student. Despite the fact that we lived in rainy Portland, Oregon, our apartment was beyond hot for six months of the year. Dinners didn’t magically appear and the dishes didn’t magically disappear. The reality of the “work” involved to maintain life, not to mention our relationship, was a letdown. Why was I still wanting more when I had what I wanted: a loving, stable, supportive husband?

It wasn’t until a year into my marriage that I had the epiphany. I was putting expectations on my husband that no human could fulfill. When I had dreamed of what marriage would offer, I had dreamed of emotional fulfillment, filling the empty places that existed in my heart. For so long I’d thought, “When I’m married … then I’ll be happy.” Because I thought marriage was the answer to my heartache.

Growing up without a father, my understanding of boys, and later men, was complicated. I didn’t trust them to stay around, I tested whether I could get their attention, and once I knew I could I moved on. They were mysterious and desired all at once. I met Derek knowing that what I desperately wanted was a husband who would not leave me. A force of security who would protect and provide for me and tell me I was worth protecting and providing for. During my epiphany moment I realized I’d expected my husband to fill the holes left by my father. Holes of insecurity and disappointment and mistrust. Holes resulting from life in a broken world.

So really, those holes could have been caused by any array of hurts. In my case they were specific to my father. I was expecting Derek to save me from my unique wounds of life that I brought with me to marriage. Save me. As in, be my Savior. I had misplaced all kinds of expectations onto him, requiring abilities and responsibilities that were humanly impossible. Only my Redeemer could redeem. And his name was not Derek, it was Jesus.

But just acknowledging my misplaced hope was not enough. Because I wanted my husband to fill those hurt places. Unlike our mysterious God, Derek was tangible. He could hug me and take care of my physical needs in a way I could see, touch, and feel. I wasn’t willing to change until I realized how unfair it was to set up my husband for my constant disappointment and recognized that I would never be satisfied with this arrangement of expectation. I had to change for Derek’s sake. For my sake.

I had to, actually still have to, do a few things to break the pattern of misplaced expectation of healing.

I had to …

  • recognize that this side of heaven I would never be “complete.”
  • release my husband from those expectations and consciously acknowledge my thought process when I felt unrealistic ideas pop up.
  • pray like nobody’s business that the Holy Spirit would prompt my desires toward God and allow him to fill those hurt places.
  • do the process all over again.

It is a practice, a repetitive action that feels more natural the more I do it. I am rewiring my expectations, my first responses, and as I do I can feel myself relaxing, becoming more confident in where I stand in my marriage, allowing for a more vulnerable and honest union. Has it totally gone away, this tendency toward fear? No, and it may never. But the more I proactively fight these messages, the more secure I feel, which helps me the next time those instinctive responses pop up. In the end, I’m free to accept my husband’s generous love.

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Alexandra Kuykendall shares her journey through childhood, marriage, and motherhood in The Artist’s Daughter: A Memoir (Revell). She lives in Denver, Colorado, with her husband, Derek, and their four daughters. She is on staff at MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers). Connect with her on Twitter @alex_kuykendall or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AlexandraKuykendall.author.

“Not tonight dear” … Men Rejected

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Men are wretched at dealing with rejection.

Women are not good at it either.

But at least they are more prone to talking about it, or they are vulnerable enough to be sad. Men tend to go silent or get angry.

I want to get to sexual rejection—wives who seem to reject their husband’s sexual advances—but first, a warm-up illustration.

For the first five to ten years of our marriage, Sheri and I would have our most intense conflict when we went to visit her parents. The conflict always circled around my sense of being rejected. Sheri has five siblings, and when we visited her parents there were always a few siblings and their families there too. Having not seen them in a year, she (and I) were eager to spend time with them. But at some point I would feel like she wanted to spend more time with them than with me. This might have been true given how infrequently she saw her brothers and sisters, but, all the same, I took it personally.

My reactions were juvenile. It was as if I was looking for her to pat me on the head and say, “Oh, Eddie, don’t be silly. I love you more than anyone. I will cancel all of my family plans for tomorrow and spend it only with you.” Or, better yet, “Are you kidding?! I am married to the world’s supreme stud-muffin. I adore you . . .”

I am thankful that the Spirit is very powerful and now my responses rarely look that pitiful. Being able to say: “I miss not being able to speak to you during the day. Let’s try to take a walk this afternoon,” is the fruit of massive sanctification.

Now to a more difficult experience of rejection.

I have spoken to a number of men who have a sense that sexual interest in marriage should be roughly equivalent—that both husband and wife should have similar sexual desire for the other person. Men are usually willing to accept that they might have a little more sexual desire than their wives, but when those differences get extreme, watch out. Men will feel rejected.

“Why can’t you ever take the initiative and ask if I want to have sex?” I know many husbands have said this to their wives and I suspect many more think it.

Women can certainly feel like sexual objects, and that is an important matter, but, for a moment, consider the rejected man.

A husband is in a very vulnerable spot every time he asks his wife if they can be sexually intimate. Perceived resistance will be taken as rejection. Maybe the wife really does have a headache, or perhaps she is just bone tired, but it will be hard for the husband to resist the urge to take it personally.

“No” to a husband’s advances is a big deal in a marriage. A godly wife can certainly say “no” but she will also be alert to the way her response might be taken by her husband. Understanding and compassion can go a long way at these moments.

Men, if you react with silence or anger, it means you have a problem.  Any time you think, “I have a God-given right to sex from my wife” expect to crash and burn. Aim, instead, for massive sanctification that might say, “Could we talk about when I ask you if we could be intimate [and I am not asking right now]?  I am surprised that those are really difficult moments for me. I know that sometimes the timing is bad, but I tend to take “no” or even “later” as rejection, and I don’t want to do that.”

Those conversations can be hazardous, especially if a wife uses it as an opportunity to talk about how she feels like a body more than a person to her husband. But when a desire to love the other person and pursue unity in the relationship outweighs a sense of personal rights, couples can usually come to creative solutions.

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