In searching out profound quotations for "expectations" I found incredible opposition. On one end of the spectrum, I found "When one's expectations are reduced to zero, one really appreciates everything one does have," by Stephen Hawking and on the other end, I found one that said "Set your expectations high; find men and women whose integrity and values you respect; get their agreement on a course of action; and give them your ultimate trust," by John Akers. There seems to be no middle ground on expectations, but I would like to suggest some thoughts to consider on the matter.

I was recently in the home of a friend who was struggling with a new baby and was depleted, both physically and mentally. There was a husband who worked very hard, but when he was home from work, he expected to have the privilege of relaxing. There were also daughters who were old enough to help, but rarely offered to pitch in and help out. They could engage in this behavior because it was not expected of them; rather, it was expected that they wouldn't roll up their sleeves and help. So they didn't.

There are certainly a lot of people who have unrealistic expectations:

  • I am going to marry this schlub, even though he is abusive, because I expect that my love for him will change him over time.

  • I just landed this great job and I'm in my probationary period, but I expect they will keep me, so I'm going to take out an enormous mortgage on this awesome house that I can't really afford.

  • I give my children everything they want, so I don't expect they'll ever give me any trouble.

Yea, OK. Let me know how that works out for you!

Setting these and other ridiculous ideas aside, there is nothing wrong with letting people know what you expect of them. I can guarantee you that very few people will exceed your expectations and most won't even try to live up to them if they don't know what you expect. Unless everyone you are close to is clairvoyant, you may have to do some speaking up to clue them in. Nice, clear, non-flowery messages work best.

To illustrate, I'll share an exchange that I had with my husband and what resulted from it. One of the things we had talked about before marrying was that we should observe our faith's recommendation of a "date night" every week. We set Friday night aside for that and were doing a fairly good job. However, after a while, I was beginning to feel like an afterthought. He would breeze in the door after work on Friday night and get caught up with things pertaining to his business and then later, when he got his ducks in a row, we'd run out and do the grocery shopping or something to that effect. I wanted our dates to be more thoughtful and deliberate.

Me: "I would like to change our routine date night."

Him: "Oh, how so?"

Me: "I'm feeling a little like it is obligatory and not very thoughtful."

Him: "What can I do to make it right for you?"

Me: "Well, I would like for you to come to the front door and pick me up like you did when we were dating."

Him: "I can do that. Anything else?"

Me: "Yes, I'd like for every date to include some small token of your affection, even if it's a flower you picked or a pretty rock you found. I'd also like for every date to include something to eat."

Him: "No problem. Let me see what I can do."

Our kids got a kick out of answering the door every Friday evening and asking him to sit down in the living room and wait for me. He was so good about it.

Dr. Phil preaches that we need to teach people how to treat us. Tell the people in your life what you expect of them and save them the trouble of guessing.

All Family. All The Time

Trustworthy relationship and parenting advice exactly when you need it.

From time to time you will also receive special offers from our partners that help us make this content free for you.