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Great Expectations

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Emerson Eggerichs, Ph.D.
Author, Speaker, Pastor

It’s been said that expectations often lead to disappointment.  I tend to agree. In fact, when it comes to behavior in marriage, I would say this:

When you do the right thing, expect two things: negative reactions or quiet unresponsiveness.

As much as one would expect a "favorable" response, the opposite is often the case.

Our expectations are what can do us in. They can let us down. I have personally found that when we do the respectful or loving thing, our spouse will often NOT respond in a favorable way right off the bat. In fact, stuffed anger or hurt can come to the surface.  A wife says, “I tried the respect test and he lashed out at me. This doesn’t work!”

Actually, it may have worked more than you know.  Is it possible that his reaction is revealing?  Has he been stuffing his feelings of deep hurt regarding your past disrespect?

I believe what happens is our spouse can feel as though there is a safe platform to voice their stuffed emotions when they see an open door. As a result, rather than receiving a loving or respectful response, we often get an angry one. We become a target.

However, in other cases, the opposite is true: our spouse may not feel safe with us. Therefore, they are not as likely to receive the loving or respectful act. For in doing so, they make themselves vulnerable and open.  A husband says, “I’ve been consciously more loving towards my wife but she won’t respond at all.  She continues to give me the cold shoulder.  This is hopeless.”

But is it possible she is afraid to hope as well?  Have you been distant or harsh for so long that she has shut down her emotions towards you out of self-protection?

These are really very tender & delicate things we are dealing with. I believe that we begin to wear our own armor in our marriages. It keeps us emotionally safe. It keeps the darts from hitting us.  But at what long-term cost?

All in all, because of the stuffed feelings as well as the vulnerability it requires, we won’t always be met with a good response from our spouse when we do the loving or respectful thing. But does that mean we should give up?  On the contrary!  It more than likely means you are on the right track.

Be patient.  Don’t give up so soon!  I often tell couples what took 10 years to break down can take 10 months to repair.  Ten months of fairly consistent (none of us are perfect) loving and respectful behavior to counteract ten years of consistently unloving and disrespectful behavior.

Don’t EXPECT immediate results.  Expect that this will take at least one month of doing a new thing to undo a year of old ways.

Are you up to the task?  What’s your alternative?


Questions to Consider