advice, Family, Growth, Relationships

Expectations vs. Agreements

Last week, as I aimed to wrap up my school year AND get ready for our next big camping trip, I felt my typical niggling feelings of resentment creeping in.

Though my husband is usually the target, I found myself feeling considerably irritated towards my oldest daughter too …

I’ve done a lot of work resentment-wise in the last year or so, because I KNOW this is a thing for me. I really dislike resentment’s grip on me. I hate who I am when resentment is “in charge” … I don’t like the sound of my own voice or how I (sometimes) talk to people … (see Resentment written in July 2020). 

So I sat down early one morning to sort this all out … what was it that was bugging me about these two? I started the “sorting-out” process with a list of “irritations” … they don’t do what I ask them to, they leave their stuff lying around, or they don’t seem to care if others are “slaving away” while they’re watching TV (or piddling away “re-decorating” their room) … to name a few …

From there, to determine the “roots” of my irritations, I tried to determine my personal beliefs or “attitudes” about some of these things.

People should help out. They should pitch in. Initiative is a good thing. It’s important. We should aim to be “free” (i.e. no vices). We should always consider how our actions might affect others. Work before play. We should mean what we say … follow through with our word, our commitments. We should pick up after ourselves. It’s considerate and responsible. We should focus on what we DO have, instead of on what we don’t. Give thanks. Say “thank you.” Give generously. Count our blessings. Do a good job … finish the job … 

As I crafted this list, I discovered the impossible standard I am holding my husband and my daughter to … the impossible standard I am holding myself to by believing and committing to ALL of these things … 

I started to wonder if these weren’t “beliefs” per se but actually some unwritten expectations that I was harbouring for my family members (and for myself) … as hard as I try, I cannot (or do not) do these things perfectly 100% of the time … is it really fair for me to have such a high standard for others?

Of course not! 

Once I recognized my beliefs (or attitudes) as expectations, I knew that I was only setting myself up for repeated disappointment … after all, I’ve done some work on expectations in the past (see Expectations written in April 2018) … it seems I’d forgotten what I had learned so long ago though … after all, “Disappointment comes easily to those who expect a lot” (Steve Chandler).

Too often we have expectations of those around us that they’re not even aware of … instead, they just feel our bitterness, our unkind words, our disappointment, our “turning away” … this obviously isn’t fair … instead of harbouring expectations for those around us, we should, instead, aim to work in agreements …

If there’s something I really need my husband or daughter to do (to get ready for a camping trip or otherwise), I need to talk to them. We need to make an agreement that works for both of us. After all, “Human beings love to follow through with agreements they’ve co-authored” (Steve Chandler).

I share this as an important reminder to us all … are you harbouring (unknown) expectations for your spouse? Your child(ren)? A colleague? A friend? 

Try working in agreements instead; after all even Shakespeare knew in his day that “expectation is the root of all heartache.” 

Despite my husband and daughter’s apparent “flaws,” it isn’t up to me to define or highlight those flaws … I’m not here to be constantly irritated or angry because of what they do (or don’t do). I am here to LOVE my husband and daughter ANYWAY … to support them … God loves them ANYWAY … He provides endless grace and mercy towards my husband, towards my daughter, and towards ME. He knows their sins, their tendencies, and He STILL loves them; HE knows MY sins, MY tendencies, and He still loves me; He still looks fondly upon them (just as He looks fondly upon me); after all, He KNIT them together, HE has numbered their days, He has an incredible plan for each of their lives (that includes me).

On my wedding day, I promised to love and honour my husband all the days of my life … it’s time for me to recall that promise … in addition to a loving, supportive and kind husband, I’ve been given the gift of a child (three actually!) … it’s time for me to LOVE as Jesus LOVES … as God loves … UNCONDITIONALLY … 

It’s time for me to move beyond EXPECTATIONS and move towards AGREEMENTS …

2 thoughts on “Expectations vs. Agreements”

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