“I thought he would buy me roses for Valentine’s Day,” the young woman looked distraught. “He knows they’re my favorite flowers.” She shook her head and sighed. “He didn’t even remember the day at all. His work always comes first.” Her husband, sitting beside her had called to make the appointment for counseling. He admitted he did not know how to make it better for himself, for her, or for their relationship. He felt he just did not understand her, but he desperately wanted to make the marriage work.
Couples come into my counseling office on a regular basis seeking help in how to connect and experience peace within their relationships. Unmet expectations are one of the struggles that regularly come up as we explore their challenges.
Early in our marriage my husband, David, and I experienced the same problem. As I would head out the door to attend an event or meet up with friends, I would think to myself, “I hope David cleans the kitchen tonight.” However when I came home, the kitchen was not cleaned and in fact was dirtier than when I left. And then the argument would ensue. “Why didn’t you…?” “I didn’t know….”
One day, it occurred to me that David could not read my mind. It was a moment when I realized that instead of just thinking about it, I could say “Honey, could you clean the kitchen sometime tonight while I’m gone?” So, I tried it! And it not only worked, it brought peace into an area that previously had garnered frustration for both of us.
Does this sound like a familiar scene in your home and relationships? It’s about believing that someone will notice our need and take care of it. This is faulty thinking. It is up to each of us to know what we need and learn how to respectfully ask for it.
Here are the steps to managing expectations and voicing needs.
- Know what you need.
- Realize that no one can read your mind.
- Be okay with asking for what you need.
- Learn how to ask for what you need with “I” statements. An example of this is “I would like for you to take me to dinner to celebrate my birthday.”
When I learned to ask for what I need, David and I turned a corner in our relationship. It actually feels good to practice this strategy. I appreciate that both of us can be open about what our needs are and we work hard to accommodate one another.
It’s a good feeling to be loved! And with Valentine’s Day around the corner, I’ll be sure to tell David which box of chocolates will make me smile!
Sandra B. Stanford, MS