Saturday, June 21, 2014


A friend posed an interesting (and I hope theoretical) question recently: "'Expectations ruin relationships,'" she said. "What do you think?" I replied that I think that's ridiculous. (Actually, I used the word "hooey.") I said that I think unrealistic expectations ruin relationships, but that how one defines "unrealistic" varies from relationship to relationship.

I expect my husband to be honest with me, to treat me kindly and with respect, to take an interest in and support me and what I do, both personally and professionally. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, I expect him to come home from work every night at around the same time. I expect him to share his day with me, share concerns with me, tell me what's on his mind, tell me before he makes a major purchase. I expect him to treat my family with the same level of love, kindness, and respect that he treats me, and to visit them with me when it's reasonable to do so - not to avoid or evade my family. I expect him to support me in raising a child, if we're ever so lucky to have one, to help me raise that child as a (good) Catholic, to educate that child. I do not expect my husband to work more than 40 hours a week, or search for a job that would pay him six figures.* I would not consider it reasonable to allow him to denigrate me, my family or friends, my beliefs, or my career, publicly or privately, regardless of the circumstance. Those would be unreasonable expectations. I expect him to be as a good a man as he is capable.

I suspect my husband has similar expectations of me.

For us, these are reasonable expectations; they may be unreasonable for other couples or people in different relationships or in other situations or at other times. (I have slightly different expectations of my friends, of my parents, of my brother, of my extended family, but my expectations are similar.) If my husband were still flying, or if he had a job or other obligations that kept him away from home, a sick parent he had to care for in another state, I might see him less. Those situations might also be reasonable; I would have to judge whether I was willing to marry someone who was away from home as often (or more often) than not.

I don't think having expectations ruins the relationship; I think they can strengthen the relationship - if the expectations are reasonable. The tricky part is defining "reasonable."

* I don't think my husband would expect this of me, either. I do not have a career that is likely to pay me that type of salary - no one goes into teaching for the money - nor do I have an aptitude for jobs that tend to pay that. We also live in a part of the country where salaries tend to be lower - not bad, just lower. There are tradeoffs, such as being able to afford a nice house with a yard in good neighborhoods. We can pay more money for less house, and afford to retire. That's worth more to us than earning two or three times as much.

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