Monday, Feb 23, 2015

The Dangers of False Expectations

Are you disillusioned with your life? Do you feel that the grandiose plans you once had have turned sour? Perhaps you feel stuck in a relationship that’s going nowhere, but you can’t figure out what’s wrong.

Well, maybe the problem in all of the above examples involves a false, or unrealistic, expectation. Let’s take the marriage relationship, for example. It has been said that disillusionment is the number one cause of divorce today. When a young man and a young woman marry, they have certain expectations about their life together. For instance, the wife may expect her husband to remember their anniversary. When he doesn’t, she’s disappointed. Her disappointment may lead to sulking or a cold shoulder.

The husband, on the other hand, may expect his wife to warn him before she writes a check for over $50.00. When she doesn’t, he becomes angry and yells at her. As a result, an argument ensues that may last several days. Each of these negative scenarios could have been avoided had the young couple discussed their expectations early on in their marriage, or better yet, before their marriage.

The same is true in any relationship or in any situation in life. All of us have unspoken expectations that color our view of life. When, however, our expectations do not correspond to the expectations of those with whom we are in relationship, conflict results. The sad thing is that such conflict could have been avoided had the people involved openly communicated their expectations. Unfortunately, however, we usually assume that others can either read our minds or read between the lines. When they don’t, we become angry or disappointed.

The Bible, God’s instruction manual for man, gives us a key to dealing with unrealistic expectations. In John 2:24-25, we read that Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man. In other words, because Jesus understood human weakness, He did not put all his hope in people. He did not have unrealistic expectations of them. Not only was He not disappointed when they failed Him, but He also did not base His life or His self-worth on other people, but on God. Such an attitude enabled Him to live in perfect peace.

When you feel disappointed by an unfulfilled expectation, ask yourself if your expectation is realistic. For example, is it realistic to expect your wife to maintain a spotless home when she works a full-time job while raising three kids? Is it realistic to expect your husband to remember every detail about your first date? Does it mean he no longer loves you if he doesn’t? Is it realistic to expect your teenager to keep a perfectly neat bedroom or your toddler to be the epitome of a sharing heart?

Finally, remind yourself that you too have very likely failed to meet someone else’s expectations of you. By looking at our own weaknesses, we get our eyes off the weaknesses of others and we become more understanding of them.

So next time you’re tempted to be disappointed by someone or something, take the time to evaluate your expectations and to communicate them if necessary. You’ll find that in so doing, you’ll live a happier and more fulfilling life.

Questions:  What single false expectation has caused the most suffering in your life?  How did you develop a new paradigm regarding that expectation? You may leave a comment by clicking here.
Copyright 2015 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All Rights Reserved.

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