marriage letters: on unmet expectations

Dear Eric,

Early on in our relationship, our primary disagreements were on unmet expectations. I expected, when you were coming to pick me up from church, that you would arrive 15 minutes before it started so we could get there right on time, maybe a few minutes early to mingle and find a seat. You expected that picking me up at 5 till 9 and walking in 8 minutes late was the best approach. Needless to say, we had a lot of silent, tension-filled car rides on Sunday mornings.

After getting married, we found that we had different ideas on how to spend a Saturday.You enjoy sleeping in a little, taking the morning slow, savoring the pleasure of not having anything to do. My internal alarm clock won’t let me sleep past 7 am, so I am always out the door at 7:15 to go grocery shopping, then coming home and clean and organize. No such thing as “slow” in my vocabulary.

Then there were the date nights. You would so lovingly plan out every detail of our evening, but a disconnect in my expectation of eating first versus your expectation that dinner could happen later would stir up tension and frustration (until you caught on that I don’t function well when I’m hungry).

So – out of necessity – we started communicating expectations. I think this has been one of the best practices in our marriage, one of the areas I have seen the most growth for us. Very rarely do we miscommunicate because we take precautions to talk about everything.

Each Friday night, we ask, “What do you expect for tomorrow?”
Every Sunday while driving home from church, we talk about how we want the day to look.
Throughout the week, we talk about which evenings are free and if there is anything the other wants to prioritize.

Plus we know each other well enough to know how the other usually wants to spend free time.

Recently, though, I have recognized more significant unmet expectations that we are still working through, ones that additional communication won’t repair.

It’s you with your job – working in a corporate office is not where you expected to be four+ years after graduating. You question what you are doing and why you are there and if there is any hope for something else. We dream together about grad school and ministry and what it will take to help you thrive, but it all seems just out of our reach. I sense you fighting bitterness against the life you wanted but don’t have, the disillusionment of being a twenty-something. You want to have it all figured out before we have kids, before we enter a new season, but it doesn’t seem to be happening the way you expected it would.

But unmet expectations are also held by that idea of entering the next season. The work and the waiting in starting a family was not what we expected. I am still processing what it means to not have control over this timing while finding myself each month wondering if it is time. We haven’t been in this new journey for very long, and I know it’s not time for me to be frustrated yet, but it’s been long enough for me to realize that I still struggle with not getting what I want when I want it. With unmet desire and with plans I don’t get to plan. And unlike in our marriage, God doesn’t sit down with me and discuss His expectations or His ideas. He simply sits with me, lets me talk, and asks me to trust Him.

To be honest, I think we fear asking God for specific things because of past unmet expectations. We fear setting deadlines and praying big prayers – not because we don’t believe God is capable, but because we deep down don’t believe He will answer.

We can’t fix these unmet expectations on our own, and we have to learn how to handle them just how we had to learn how to do with the little things in marriage. We are processing with words and with tears and with presence. Instead of a disconnect, our unmet expectations are pulling us together. And that might make all the difference with whatever we will encounter in the future – that we are a team. We are doing this as one.

Starting today, let’s both work to believe God for big things and to grow together as we ask for more faith. Life may not meet the expectations we have set, but I’m grateful we get to work at it with each other, rerouting our plans and rearranging our desires to match what the Lord has for us in the present.

You are the best teammate, and the Lord exceeded my expectations when He gave me you.

Love,
me.

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