Great Expectations … is there a key to great relationships?
I wanted to write a really funny story – something to make people laugh and this latest offering has been sitting on my desk for a month now until I kept getting reminded so many people are seeking as a priority to have great relationships with their partner and families. So, here goes, it may not be a funny story but it is true for me.
Partner comes home late from work and the dinner is cold on the table and tempers flare and frustration is high – unmet expectations. What is at stake? Is it a signal there’s a problem in the relationship? What is going on underneath unsaid and unheard and does it become a pattern where “late for dinner” grows into not home at all for dinner and an avoidance of conflict which moves into a breakdown of communication and relationship where the person not being heard (both parties) opts for avoidance/blame rather than communication and being understanding of complicated pressures in living day to day in the fast lane of paying bills and keeping it all together.
How do we deal with these undercurrents of unmet expectations so they don’t build up into at best resentments and misunderstandings and, at worst, a daily grudge match?
What does it look/feel like for a person to come home after a difficult day at work to what he/she hopes will be a sanctuary – a place of peace where they are accepted and loved but instead face more of what they just left at work. Often we can go for avoidance when we think we can’t win and, when it escalates into argument, it becomes a walk away mentally and emotionally and, eventually, physically from a conflict zone.
Men put on a “facade smile” of being unconcerned when underneath there’s a feeling of failure and of not knowing what to do to fix it. If he responds with anger from frustration and a feeling of being judged unfairly and that he is not being heard – it can be treated with disdain or anger in return so it’s a “no win” for either party. So he plasters on a facade half-smile and tries to shut down the nagging feeling inside of not cutting it in the relationship – of not being the hero any more to the one person he thought he could rely on to trust and love him regardless – the person who he hoped would be not just a life partner but a love partner.
Where there are children involved, the domino effect can’t be quantified. The frustrations of the father and mother can filter into a child’s mind and emotions whether young or in their teens. They desperately need a place of sanctuary and serenity to stand up to pressures in their lives outside of home base.
How can this be overcome and what is the way through this?
I guess for me – we have done the: late for dinner, clothes left on the floor, rubbish needs to go out, even the why don’t your socks match thing! There seemed so many points of difference in the initial days of our living together as a couple which weren’t even on the radar in the five years we spent getting to know each other before committing to a permanent and, for us, “marriage” relationship.
It’s hard to even remember what it was we argued about as so many of these “major” issues became trivial and forgotten as we worked through it.
The one steady thing which has helped us has been putting the love and respect we have for each other’s gifts and talents to the front and remembering the first love and speaking these words into our today and our future days together. We speak great expectations of what we plan for our future together and the promise of times of fun and laughter to share.
We both individually and together recognise we live under the personal unconditional love and grace from a God who creates so much beauty with immense attention to the finest detail and we know whatever he wants for us is going to be a good thing. We try to figure out as best we can what his plan is for us and go do that and it’s funny how what Graham gets matches what I get and my personality and experience is a perfect match for what Graham lays out as his ideas and perspective – we get the whole picture and build on it together.
It amazes me in the early days of writing and realising creating something “original” also meant needing “original” photos and then, hey presto, Graham gets the idea he wants to take photos of what he sees in nature – capture it and while I am finishing off my latest story is the same moment he walks in the door inspired by his latest photo which is a perfect match to the words I’ve been inspired to write. We’ve both seen this as a miracle each time – a gift from above. For him when he takes a photo of a dragonfly on the tip of a grass stalk which, honestly, is not an easy shot and I didn’t ask him: Hey, can I please have a dragonfly photo today – ‘cause I didn’t realise until he walked in how it fitted with a new story. When he took a perfectly timed photo of a butterfly – I was there and saw his patience to anticipate the exact moment its wings were fully opened – all I see is a butterfly madly flapping its wings but he’s simply inspired by the gift of nature around him and sees and gets the photo – not only for himself but to share unselfishly to inspire others – and, lucky me, its a perfect match to a story I’d written.
To get back to the dinner on the table going cold or maybe being thrown out in frustration at expectations not being met from our efforts. How important is this in the big picture of our life?
When faced with these misunderstandings/angry resentments – what would be a key to unlocking future plans for us together instead of getting bogged down in the yuk of today?
Simple but true: “love overcomes all”. To walk over to Graham as he sits at the table in the early days and even now after he’s had a tough day and just massage his shoulders to push out the aches, to tell him what a wonderful person he is, to thank him for all the good he is and does and remind him he’s a fun person and I love being around him. To encourage him to express his thoughts and feelings without judging and listening to him, unconditional love – not always easy ‘cause I can be wanting to talk about me instead of listening to him.
Kids know what’s at stake when they see their parents angry and not working it through. They see broken homes and lives around them every day and the fallout from this is, firstly, them. It steals their hope that love/relationships can work. It is serious to them. So if they get angry and are being defiant maybe its because they are resentful when they see their parents not cutting it and arguing rather than working it through and acting in love and kindness towards each other. They need to see and learn a future path for themselves and quite rightly expect: show me, don’t tell me and allow me the same right and grace (favour) to make mistakes as I learn. I am not a carbon copy of you but an original and one of a kind.
Graham explained recently “gratitude” is the parent of being happy and part of the formula to being healthy and having well-being – quality of life. Being grateful because we are together and for what God does each day. Gratitude towards each other makes us strong. Small acts of kindness like emptying the dishwasher when he gets home, checking the car tyres for me to make sure I’m driving safely – he says it makes him feel like a man, it makes him feel more complete – that he’s in sync with the balance he sees around him every day in nature and the role-play he sees in nature between male and female and their young and roles adjust to get the necessary result. We all realise when nature is out of balance there are challenges and conflict.
Armed with a “listen for what comes next” attitude, we can build foundation stones in our path together towards a shared future and how exciting and sometimes scary is this!! Life is meant to be an adventure and what better way to go than share it together and savour this remarkable ride.