Tip #31: Wives, have realistic expectations and share them with your husband
Happy spouses help create happy marriages! Makes sense right? And it turns out that one of the things that will keep you happy – and thus your marriage happy – is avoiding a situation where you are likely to experience unmet expectations.
Let me give you an example. How many times have you been in a situation where you felt disappointed – or could have felt disappointment if you let yourself? Maybe you went out for a few hours to relax while your husband was with the kids …only to come home to find him playing with the kids and the house looking like a small tornado whipped through it!
Instantly, the thought goes through your mind, I went out to relax! Why didn’t he pick up? Now I have to pick up! So much for relaxing!
I think many wives can relate to that sort of scenario… and it turns out the first key to happiness in marriage is what you think in the very next moment. I’ve done a bunch of researchon what makes happy vs. unhappy marriages and the moment you start to feel disappointed it is critical to make sure you’re focusing on the very real positives, not just the very real negatives. In other words: Instead of just looking at what your husband isn’t doing – look at what he is doing! Maybe he didn’t clean the house but he was spending priceless time pouring into your children while you were out.
And then evaluate whether it is really realistic to be disappointed. After all… did you talk to your husband before you left about your expectations for when you came home? Or did you just assumethat he’d think about cleaning, not just playing?
I mean, think about it: It’s amazing how we often can expect something from our spouse that we have never actually communicated to them. As much as we might wish they were, our husbands are not mind readers. With the scenario of coming home to a messy house, it is a legitimate desire to not have to clean up when you’re supposed to be relaxing. But maybe, just maybe, it is a bit unrealistic toexpect that someone who isn’t wired that way, will automatically think that through.
Or maybe …maybe he was thinking that through and was anticipating that he and the kids would clean up later, so you wouldn’t have to. Don’t automatically assume the worst.
If he is like 99% of other men (yes, that is a real statistic from our surveys), your husband cares about you, wants to make you happy and doesn’t want to cause disappointment. He wasn’t intending to disappoint you. So what he needs is a clear picture of what you are expecting. If there is something that matters to you, it will help to give him specifics: “It would make me feel so much better if you could put the dirty dishes in the dishwasher before 4:00 when I get home.”
This is a specific – and presumably realistic — example of a way he can make you happy and give you the break that he wanted to give you.
And finally: be aware of one probable expectation – or at least a hope! – on his part: that if he did make you happy, you let him know! In general, when we let each other know what we are expecting or hoping for, we avoid disappointments that didn’t need to happen. And when we focus on what the other is doing right instead of doing wrong, we’ll be much more likely to see those good things again.
Join us next Monday for the next installment in our Marriage Monday series!
Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Shaunti speaks regularly at churches, conferences, and corporate events. (Inquire about Shaunti speaking, or visit www.shaunti.com for more.)
Welcome to Marriage Mondays! Each Monday, join us here in the Book Corner as I share my top findings on the little, eye-opening things that make a big difference in creating great marriages and relationships. Today’s post is one of a series on what makes happy marriages so happy, based on nationally-representative research with more than 1,000 couples.