Have you ever been caught off guard by unrealistic or unfair expectation of your spouse? Have you ever been surprised that you even had expectations? I have, sadly, and I regret what I put Tom through. Thankfully I have a husband who not only puts up with my struggles, but who honestly wants to grow in his understanding of them.
God bless him!
It is no easy task to understand what causes my ups and downs. In fact, I often don’t understand them either.
My birthday was in July. Tom asked what I would like to do for my birthday. I mentioned a few ideas and he went to work making sure to check them all off his list. Have I mentioned he’s a list maker? I love this about him. Rarely does something go overlooked on his end. He is diligent and faithful and he loves me.
So why did I struggle with my birthday this year? I thought I knew the reason. You see, I love gifts – giving them and receiving them. Tom knows this. But to him an experience counts as a gift even though you can’t gift wrap it. But to have a birthday with no gift from him to actually open felt wrong. I was disappointed at best and hurt at worst. I prayed and asked God to help me not be so sensitive. And then I forgot about it, or so I thought.
it was Tom’s birthday a month later. I planned to have a couple of friends join us for dinner at our cabin. It was all going well until they had to back out for various, understandable reasons. Then, I had no plans. The day ended up being ok, but lacking my normal all day plans to honor this man I love so much. I didn’t even think about baking him a pie. I had made a special breakfast, but dropped the ball after that. He was perplexed at best and hurt at worst.
Four weeks, two birthdays and we were both struggling to make sense of it all. After bringing this up to some dear friends, they helped me realize that probably what was behind my desire for Tom to do everything possible to give me the best birthday, including a wrapped gift, was my sadness that we could no longer have big family celebrations over birthdays. When they mentioned this, I couldn’t hold back the tears. They were right! I was placing an unknown expectation on Tom to fill the void I was experiencing for the lack of having my family close.
My poor husband. No one can fill that place, only God. He is able to fill the sad and broken places in my idealistic heart. I had a wonderful birthday, and I let my husband down by doing to him the very thing I didn’t want him to do to me.
Marriage is messy. We fail each other. Sometimes it’s me disappointing him and sometimes its the other way around. The important thing is to not stay there. We ask forgiveness. We talk. We ask questions to better understand. And we forget the offense.
This year’s birthdays may not have been the best of the best, but they did teach me an invaluable lesson–watch out for unexpected expectations. It is a demanding taskmaster that wants nothing more than to hold your relationship prisoner, tearing your marriage apart one disappointment at a time.
Thankfully, we have many more celebrations to come, God willing, so we don’t make more of this than it is. It is simply a bump in the road that I will watch out for next time.
Birthdays are a great opportunity to grow in our understanding of each other. I know what my birthday wish will be next year when I blow out my candles–enjoy the day whatever is planned. The gift is found in the giver, not within a disposable box.