No expectations. If we all lived this way I believe we would know more personally what it means to be happy. It has been my goal to practice having no expectations lately, and I'm realizing how many times expectations take effect on choices and emotions. For instance, last week there was a day that my husband arrived home later than I had expected him to. I found myself getting more frustrated as his dinner became cold. When he came home, it was not to the bright, cheery and loving girl he thought he had asked to marry him years ago. I had to then choose to change my attitude over the course of the next hour. A few days later however, I decided not to expect him to be home at the time he estimated. Rather, I recognized that I have been married for a few years now to a husband whose awareness of time is not his passion. Rather than hold him to my expectations, I decided I would do my best to prepare dinner in a way that the last preparations could be done as he walked in the door; meaning I would do most of the preparation but try to be flexible about when it was actually warm and ready. I also decided to drop my expectation that no matter what, we must eat together ALWAYS in order to be happy. When my husband came in the door I was not even aware of what time it was, I was just happy to see him. We ate our meal and enjoyed a great evening together. What I noticed about these two different scenarios was that my husband's actions were the same, but mine were very different. I had essentially chosen my own happiness as it was not dependent upon what he did.
I decided I want to practice this in all aspects of life, and I want it to be my focus for the next 30 days.
How to Be Happy: Living Life With No Expectations
What would it be like if you always gave gifts and acts of service with no expectation of gratitude in return? Or if you had no expectations for what your birthday, anniversary or Valentine's would turn out like? What if you lived life with the belief that no one owes you anything (when in fact, they really don't)? What if you gave your life to your children with no expectations that they would ever give you praise for it? I like to think that we would all be much happier. Think of a time when you did something for someone, but they expected you to do it. How did it feel? Was it as rewarding? I like to think of my 15-month old daughter for this example. She is not yet to the point that she expects me to give her certain things. Sometimes I like to surprise her after lunch with a fruit snack because her reaction is so rewarding. The pure excitement that appears on her face just absolutely melts my heart away. She in no way expects me to give her a fruit snack after her lunch, and because she has no expectations for such a treat, her excitement and thrill are accelerated. What if you drove around in your car with no expectations for how other drivers should act? It would no longer matter that someone cut you off because your expectation for them to respect your “space on the road” is now gone. What if you set goals for your day, but did not expect your day to turn out exactly as you picture it? I believe this would allow you to live in the moment and live a richer life. It is something that I want to spend the next 30 days focusing more deeply upon. By “no expectations,” I do not mean that I do not want to be motivated or driven by goals, or that I want to live a boring life without a plan; but rather, that I want to be open to various possibilities and I do not want to hold others to a certain standard, especially my husband.
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Which leads me to my main area of focus:
Having No Expectations in a Marriage
I'll be honest, when I first got married I struggled for a while and it had nothing to do with my husband. It had everything to do with my expectations for what a husband should be. I had been living with my best friends for the last 5 years, all of whom were females. We spend many late hours before bed having “pillow talk” and talking about everything under the sun. If something was on my mind, one of my friends were quick to notice, and they almost always knew how to make me feel better. And then I got married. Don't get me wrong, I love, honor and respect the differences between men and women. But we are different. I went into marriage expecting my husband to know how to comfort me. I went into marriage expecting him to have long and meaningful conversations with me often. And then came a night when I had something weighing heavy on my mind. I don't remember what it was, but I remember wondering why he hadn't clued in that something was wrong. Finally we retired to bed and I gave up on waiting for him to ask, I just poured out my whole heart and soul. And then nothing happened. Just silence. And more silence. Finally I said, “really? are you just going to lay there?” And half asleep he said, “What do you want me to do?” Although I was heartbroken at the time, I think back on this experience with fondness because that is exactly how we both are. I thank my husband for being patient with me as I have tried to get rid of my unrealistic expectations, because I most definitely don't fit the “typical” expectations he thought a wife should be either, and I desperately do not want to be held to those expectations. I do not greet him in an apron as he walks in the door, and I am not always (okay, rarely) holding a Pinterest-worthy casserole dish in my hands. Sometimes my meals turn into disasters actually (like last nights “cheesy vegetable enchiladas” that I invented myself), and I rarely finish all the laundry in one day, let alone press and iron his shirts.
This last Valentine's Day was one of the best that I've ever had. I had no expectations for how the day would go and we planned what we wanted to do together. Rather than play some type of game to see if we could “figure each other out” and make the day special, I made it a point to let him know that I had no expectations. I started with flowers. “Please don't get me flowers,” I said. I had just walked through a store that was crowded with flowers, teddy bears, chocolates, and a bunch of men scurrying around hoping they had bought the right thing. The “expectations” that the holiday brought disappointed me. I said, “I enjoy flowers, but I enjoy them most in the most unexpected moments. ” He then asked if there was anything I wanted. Really there wasn't. “If you must get me something, I could use some oven mitts.” The next day did not bring oven mitts, but instead he had left me little notes expressing all the things he loved about me. It was so meaningful because I honestly wasn't expecting anything even close. That evening we decided that rather than get a babysitter, we wanted to take our toddler out to eat and celebrate the holiday as a “Family Love Day.” We had so much fun together and it was my most favorite Valentine's Day ever. This all came because I had absolutely no expectations for how the day would turn out. We made it our own.
So that is my goal for the next 30 days. To drop my expectations as much as possible. I don't get uptight if my mom doesn't get my car door for me, in fact it would just be silly if I did. Then why do I care if my husband doesn't? It's all about expectations. That doesn't mean that I can't express desires and preferences, but when my emotions and choices are affected by my high expectations, it is time to let them go. It is okay to express to my husband that I feel love and respected when he does a certain thing, but if I then expect him to do it, and only feel loved if he does; then I am setting myself up for disappointment. I grew up in a home with the rule that if my mom did the cooking, she did not touch the dishes. It was up to my dad and us kids to get it taken care of. I carried this expectation into my marriage and feel badly that I did so. My husband is good enough that he just gets up and starts doing them anyway, but no one enjoys doing something they are expected to do. And to be honest, my fondest memories are when we do the dishes together. I would have missed out on these moments had I held to my expectations and refused to wash the evening dishes.
How to Start Living Life With No Expectations
I read a great article on having no expectations, and one of the things I liked was learning to train our inner voice. If you find yourself giving in to negative thoughts or emotions, go to the main cause and you will usually find an expectation that was not met. Learn to identify these expectations and it will gradually become easier to override the negative emotion. This was one of my favorite quotes from the article that I read:
” Life unfolds in miraculous ways the moment you embrace it, you expect the unexpected unexpectedly. Every day is an opportunity to learn something new.”
This is another great article on living with no expectations, and it describes in steps how you can do so. A great one to read, and worth your time (It's not very long)! 😉
What are some expectations that you went into marriage with?