This is really heavy for a Friday afternoon, but oh well…🙂
I’ve mentioned before that Matt and I are leading a parenting small group this fall. I thought I might write a post every week or so about the different topics we have been discussing and what we have learned along the way. The funny thing is that by leading this group, Matt and I are learning so much about each other…and not just about our parenting styles, but also about our personalities, our marriage, our values….things we just assumed we already knew. You’d think that after being married for almost eight years we would have covered a lot of these topics, but we are finding that we did not. The prep for each week’s discussion is really helping us to communicate more frequently and effectively. We’re learning stuff about each other while also learning how to be a better husband/wife and a better parent to Asher Wade. Overall it’s been really beneficial. And fun!
The first week we talked about expectations in the marriage and how they have changed from when we first got married to now – particularly how having a kid has caused them to change. The funny thing that Matt and I realized is that we really didn’t have any expectations early on in our marriage; or at least we didn’t think we did. I guess if we had to pick one it would have just been to have fun and be happy, lol, and that’s exactly what we did. Marriage was easy and relatively effortless and we pretty much just did whatever made us happy. We didn’t think we had to discuss what we expected from each because we figured as long as we were happy, our expectations were obviously being met. I guess this is why they call those first few years the honeymoon phase. We were having fun, enjoying life, enjoying each other and doing whatever made us happy. Expectations? Be kind, be loving, be respectful, be faithful, fill my car up with gas because I loath doing that. Nothing too profound;)
Fast forward to today. Post baby.
Now we have A LOT of expectations of each other. This almost seems ironic considering that we have way less free time on our hands than we did B.A.W. (Before Asher Wade). You’d think our expectations of each other would have gone down considering that most days we are in survival mode, just trying to get through the day and keep a child alive;) You’d think we would be more apt to give each other a “free pass” in the marriage department since this current phase requires us to put a lot of focus on this little person that is always at our feet, demanding our constant attention. We both recognize and understand that this stage of life requires us to give AW a lot of attention, and we may not be able to give each other the same amount of attention that we are used to giving, so you’d think in turn we would expect less from each other, right? It’s actually been the opposite for us. B.A.W. if someone asked me what my expectations of Matt were as a husband, I’d probably list the obvious, general ones: love me, protect me, respect me, honor me, make me happy, remember special dates…nothing too profound and nothing really specific. Today if you asked me I’d rattle off those same ones, plus like 20 more: be the spiritual leader, provide for our family, handle the finances responsibly, help take care of AW, pick up after yourself, fix dinner every now and then, spend time with AW, spend time with me, take the garbage out, plan a special date night every now and then, fix things around the house, quality time over quantity time, etc, etc, etc. I could probably keep going too;) And I know from talking to Matt that he can spout off a list of expectations that he has of me now. So even though we both have way more responsibilities now that we have a child, it also feels like we have way more responsibilities to each other, as spouses, which can definitely create a lot of stress and pressure if you don’t talk about them.
We have really had to learn on how to communicate better because of this shift in expectations, and although some of these conversations have been hard and have forced us to become very vulnerable, the outcome has been positive and ultimately worthwhile. It’s definitely still a work in progress (and probably always will be), but we are getting better. The thing is, throughout this process as we are trying to figure out our expectations so that we can communicate them with each other, I’ve been so concerned with making sure I cover everything single thing. Got to get them all on paper or I may forget. It’s almost like it’s this sales presentation I have to give and if I leave one little thing off, it won’t make it to the final cut and I’ll never have that expectation met. As if it were some end-all-be-all situation, which is of course ridiculous. If I’ve learned anything over the past eight years, it’s that expectations change a lot, depending on what stage of life you are in. Just like my expectations have changed from year one to year eight, they will continue to change. What I expect from Matt right now, while AW is a young child, will probably be pretty different from what they will be when he’s a teenager. They will constantly evolve, just like our marriage does. And by understanding and ultimately fulfilling each other’s expectations now, we will be better equipped to fulfill them later, when things change again. It’s kind of like a “practice makes perfect” situation.
What about y’all? Have you found that your expectations have changed over time? Have you, or do you, discuss expectations with your spouse? Have you even thought about your own at some point? While I was doing some research in preparation for our small group discussion on this topic, I came across a list of expectations for a great marriage. One in particular really caught my attention. “Expect to be with him until the end.” What an obvious, yet easily forgotten expectation that I’m embarrassed to say I never even thought of. Think of how much that encompasses. If you meet that expectation, then man, you’ve certainly succeeded in marriage. That really changed my thinking and made me realize that once you’ve committed to being together forever, and it’s a shared expectation, everything else should fall in to place because you’ll have to keep working to get to “the end.” In other words, if you know you’re in it for the long haul, don’t you want to enjoy it? So may as well figure it out now:-)