After nearly 14 years together, and 10 years of marriage, I can confidently say I've learned a lot when it comes to long-term relationships. And, if I'm being honest, I have to admit that my initial expectations were based on unrealistic falsehoods that could never measure up to reality. In other words, there are more than a few ways I set myself up for disappointment in my marriage, and I think acknowledging them is one way to combat those "picture perfect" notions that only lead to letdowns.
My partner and I knew early on we'd have to work hard if we wanted to sustain any kind of long-term relationship. While the connection between the two of us was immediate, once we started dating our differences became painfully clear. For example, he's an only child and I'm the oldest of two. He had two engaged parents that were able to give him everything he wanted and needed, and I grew up low-income with a single mom on food stamps. He's more optimistic and positive, and I'm more realistic and not afraid to face the negative.
It took awhile to figure out how to compromise, find our middle, and meet each other there. In fact, we're still figuring it out. And because we love one another, are committed to one another, and raising two kids together, I believe it's important to understand how we might be setting ourselves up for failure. So with that in mind, here are some of the ways I've set myself up for disappointment in my marriage. You can't learn from your mistakes if you don't acknowledge what they are.
I Assume My Husband Can Read My Mind
For many years, I hoped my husband could somehow tap into my thoughts and do the things I wanted him to do without having to ask. Relationships don't look like that, though. If anything, assuming he can read my mind causes resentment and a breakdown in communication.
Now, I say what's on my mind and we're better for it.
I Sacrifice More Than He Does
If my kids need anything, they ignore their father and come straight to me. As a parent I've sacrificed more sleep, more "me" time, and more sanity because I'm the first to step up whenever our kids need anything. Doing this only leads to a long, lonely road of martyrdom and disappointment. My sacrifices are my choices, and mine alone, and unless I hold him more accountable and speak my mind I have no one to blame but myself.
I Expect Him To Do The Things I Do
My husband and I are two very different people. It's unfair for me to assume he's going to think and act the very same way I do, or that he'll do something exactly the way I would.
I Try To Control Everything
I admit that I always want to feel in control. But expecting my husband to fall in line, or listen to me the way the kids do, get us nowhere. In the end, giving up control to meet my husband in the middle is the only way we will be able to maintain a healthy relationship.
I Focus On The Negative
Honestly, I shouldn't expect so much from my husband. At least, not without communicating with him so he knows what I want and need to happen. If he doesn't know where the bar is, he can't reach it. I've already set him up to fail by spending so much time agonizing on everything that goes wrong, focusing on the negative, and allowing those feelings to fester.
I Expect Immediate Change
You can't change people. You can't change people. You can't change people.
You can want to. You can dream about it. You can wish for it. But if you've hoped a person will change — and they don't want to change themselves — it's a lost cause. And if they do want to change, and you're both working on changing together, know that it will take time. Expecting someone to transform themselves overnight is unrealistic.
I Demand Perfection
I certainly don't mean to set the expectations so high for my husband. I think, over all these years, I've just become comfortable with a very specific way of doing things, and want him to do things that way, too. I'm the one who works from home, the one who primarily cares for the kids, and the one who does most of the errands and chores. I don't mean to put so much pressure on him (and honestly, it's exhausting), but I also think it's about time he raises his own standards and his own bar.
Because of all the things I've realized, the biggest is that I can be better and do better — but so can he.