AFTER 40 YEARS ◽ MARRIAGE
We all have expectations of our spouses. We expect him to do his share, work hard, help with the house, make romantic gestures, sweep us away on vacations, and all that jazz that we watched on television and movies, and heard about prior to marriage. And then when we’re married, we’re both working, we’re tired, we have kids, life is hard, and all those wonderful expectations are sometimes unmet…never to be resurrected again…or maybe they never were met in the first place.
But what about expectations of the emotional kind? For example, we want him to know what we’re thinking without us having to ask him. Sometimes, it would be nice if he’d just understand our need for him to just listen without saying anything or offering advice. And a big expectation is that he will always be our best friend, the one most interested, and our biggest fan. But just like we aren’t always his biggest fan (but rather his biggest critic), neither is he. At least we both succumb to life and forget to be “perfect” as expected.
I had a simple check-up for my ears because they felt a big clogged, and he knew it. I went to the appointment and never heard from him all day, to ask what the doctor said or how I was doing.
I knew in my heart that he cared about me, but for some reason it annoyed me that he didn’t even ask when I talked to him a couple of times in the afternoon. Sure, I could have just told him (which would have been mature and right) but I decided to play that game I learned early on in marriage…to test him…and see just how long it would take for him to say something (no one ever wins at that game!)
After all, if he really cared, he’d ask, wouldn’t he?
He didn’t ask, and when he arrived home, he confessed that it was a busy day and he didn’t feel so well, as his stomach hurt. (I knew then why he didn’t ask…but I still held on…) He sat by me on the sofa as we watched a show and realized I was a bit indifferent and asked me what was wrong. So I spilled the beans…
“You haven’t even asked me what the doctor said,” I said with a disappointing and unattractive face.
All day I knew I had a choice to say nothing, just tell him how it went, and go on my way unoffended. In fact, I just read a book about being unoffendable, but I just didn’t feel like doing the right thing. I felt self-absorbed, selfish, and sad as I had a pity party of the most ridiculous kind. Seriously, what a petty thing to even be writing about…
We all do it. We let ourselves become accusatory, we allow our minds to wander, and we fall into the pity pit and start to wallow like a pig enjoying every piece of dirt we’re slapping around on ourselves and others.
The moment I lost myself was in doubting the character of my husband. He has proven to me for decades that he loves me, as imperfect at his love is. Neither of us is perfect, and that’s totally why we rely on the Outside source for our affirmation and love above each other’s. I knew for certain that he cared about my ear (it was just a bit of inflammation and nothing more) and I wish I’d just chosen to tell him when he got home, and had let it go.
Thankfully, after I confessed my expectation and he told me he’d been feeling bad, I did let it go. I didn’t pout or treat him badly all evening, like I would have done…say…30 years ago.
Isn’t it silly what I did? I even think it is. But we’ve both gotten offended at each other for much less and much more. There are so many factors (like tiredness, how our day has gone, how we’re feeling about ourselves, etc.) that play into our response when an expectation is unmet. But there’s only one factor that’s huge and has to be present with the other one fails…or when we perceive them to fail and they haven’t, really. And that’s forgiveness.
We are both human. We both forget. We both get busy. We both get tired. We both love each other.
This story isn’t meant to downplay unmet expectations of fidelity and honor, as those are a whole other kind of hurt that requires counseling. This story is to confess that sometimes we are just thinking about ourselves and what we need, when what we need is to lighten up and enjoy the good.
Life’s too short and marriage is too fun to ruin it all because of a little pain in the ear…