Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Great Expectations

Awhile back, I had some discussions with a couple planning their wedding - and their marriage. One of the things we talked most about was expectations. 

Expectations, especially unspoken ones, can be the root of a lot of strife in a marriage. Expectations for how to spend the holidays, how to do the grocery shopping, how to share the bathroom, how to divide the chores, etc. are best dealt with up front and out in the open.

The importance of clear and shared expectations was shown to me again a couple weeks ago when my son had some friends spend the night. There were four of them - the most we had ever had for a sleepover. 

Apparently, one boy and my son had shared the story of a Lego "war" they had had at a sleepover earlier in the year. They had had so much fun with it, they wanted to do it again as a group. This seemed like a no-brainer because it had gone so well when the boys did it the first time.

It was soon apparent that we we headed for a different sort of war. The two boys who had played it before wanted it to be like they had had it then. My son, in particular, wanted to pull out all the same pieces and set it up in a very particular way, and he wanted the other boys to wait while he got everything in place. The other two boys just wanted to play. They had their own ideas of what this war might be like. My son's expectations were leading to a lot of "Guys.... guys!" and finally I had to step in. I pulled him aside and tried to convince him that it would be more fun, and less stress, if he went with the flow rather than trying to recreate the war they had the last time.

I tried to explain to him the next day that the four of them came to the "war" with different expectations about what it was going to be like, and because of that, they had trouble actually getting to play what they wanted. I don't know if he "got" it, but I know I sure did. 

In my marriage, I have learned to say things like, "Tell me what you think this weekend is going to look like," or "In your head, how do you have this playing out." It's a really fast way to discover if we are headed for disaster. I've learned to ask my new boss, "Where do you want me," or "What do you see my role being for this event" so hopefully I can be where I am supposed to be, or I can seek clarification or compromise rather than dealing with problems later.

Clarify your expectations. Ask others what their expectations are. Clarity can lead to peace.

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