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Guest Blogger Matthew Sheehy: Changing Your Expectations

I met Matthew Sheehy through My Book Therapy. He’s one of the nicest (and funniest) guys I know. We work together on the Voices e-zine where he writes A Manly Mindset–a column for female writers from a man’s point of view. When I started blogging about romance and marriage, I thought it would be great to have a guy share every now and then. Matthew gives us a wonderful perspective from a happily married husband and father. 

Matthew is a 2012 Genesis finalist in the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller category. He writes from Northwest Indiana, just outside of Chicago. He is a graduate of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry at Syracuse University, Duke University, and Hyles-Anderson Seminary. When he’s not working on his stories, he’s working a full-time job in the environmental field or writing and editing Sunday school material for the First Baptist Church of Hammond, Indiana.

~*~

My enthusiasm for my sixth birthday party butted with my mom’s sanity as she cleaned and baked and stuffed party bags. To get me out of her hair, my dad took me to the store where I used birthday cash to buy my first four Star Wars figures.

When I got home, the party was awesome. When my best friend’s mom picked him up and said, “See you later, Dotty,” to my mom, the gears of my young brain cranked as I assumed she meant later that day. I thought, “Why will she see my mom later today?”

She said it because I was having a second birthday party! At least, that’s what I figured.

For the rest of the afternoon and evening I dropped hints that I knew something big was going to happen that night. However, I cried as my mom tucked me into bed. She was frustrated and asked, “Why are you crying? You’ve had a great party and got lots of presents!”

Through my water-logged eyes, I whimpered, “I didn’t get my second birthday party.”

Mom was right. It had been a great day, but my expectations didn’t allow me to savor its quality.

You evaluate the quality of your relationships based on the standards of your expectations. Someone could treat you like royalty and throw you a party every day, but if you’re expecting two parties out of them, they disappoint you and you question the relationship.

Have you ever considered if your relationship problems stem from unrealistic and selfish expectations?

My wife and I were married ten years before we had a little girl. When we got married we planned to have our first at three years and to have four total kids. After a few tests the doctors determined that my wife had fertility issues. For the next few years I wrestled with the thought, “Maybe I made a mistake marrying her.”

I felt cheated.

Sometimes seeing moms with their kids triggered a smothering grief.

I eventually had an epiphany: I didn’t love my wife like I should.

My struggles stemmed from my expectations. I made new expectations, putting aside how many kids I should have, how much money I planned to make, what type of car I’d drive, or how big of a house I’d live in. I expected myself to love her as is, without expecting anything from her. I expected to struggle, to not get my way, to see what good God would do with the hurts.

Don’t aim for nothing. Expect yourself to reach for the stars. However when it comes to relationships, maybe you need to change your expectations and treasure whatever others give you instead of demanding something from them.

Give yourself without expecting reciprocation.

If you did, you might realize that your life is a fun party. It might even be like two birthday parties…in the same day.

Your turn: Share a time when you felt cheated because of your expectations. How did you overcome those expectations?  

Lisa Jordan
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4 Cs of Marriage

“God created marriage.

No government subcommittee envisioned it.

No social organization developed it.

Marriage was conceived and born in the mind of God.”  

~ Max Lucado

This past weekend I attended a 50th wedding anniversary celebration where a couple from church renewed their wedding vows followed by a nice dinner at a local hotel.

As we watched this lovely couple pledge their faith and renew their commitment to one another and their families, I kept thinking about the examples they set for others. They have servants’ hearts for God, others and each other. Married 50 years, and they continue to go on trips together, show affection toward one another and model Jesus in the skin. 

I didn’t need to ask about their secret of a successful marriage because I knew–when they recited their first vows in 1962, they didn’t repeat words. They made a promise to one another and to God. They put others before themselves. They maintained a strong faith in their household. He is so considerate of her, and I’ve never heard her speak a negative word about him. They have raised four children together and continue to model Jesus in the skin for their grandchildren. I know they’ve had their problems, but they don’t put them on display for public viewing. 

In today’s society, marriage gets a bad rap and is often proclaimed as an archaic institution. Many people are blinded by infatuation and lust and rush into marriage before taking the time to consider making a promise for a lifetime. Check out the tabloids and you’ll see headlines of marriages lasting hours. Why is celebrating 50 years a momentous milestone instead of a norm?

I believe it’s a combination of 4 Cs: choice, commitment, compromise and communication. 

  • Marriage is a choice. We live in a society where marriage is a choice unless you grew up in a culture where your future spouse is chosen for you. The majority of us met our spouses, fell in love, and chose to spend our lives together. Sometimes people put more thought into buying a car than into their marriage. 
  • Marriage is a commitment. Many people put their own wants, needs and desires first–before God and before their intended or current spouses. Putting yourself below God and the needs of your spouse doesn’t mean you should be a doormat or your spouse’s slave. Putting God and others before yourself is a Biblical command that applies to marriage and to life. 
  • Marriage is a compromise. Maintaining a strong and healthy marriage takes work, consideration and compromise. God instructed the husband to be the leader in the home, but the wife is his support. Making decisions together and reaching compromises shows your ability to work together. 
  • Marriage is about communication. I believe this is the biggest obstacle married couples need to overcome–failure to communicate. Yes, it’s tough talking to your spouse about certain subjects, but if you’re willing to rant to your friends about the things that bug you, why can’t you talk to the one you promised to love, honor and cherish for the rest of your life? And, by the way, I’m so guilty at this, but getting better. We all have those lies that echo in our heads, and those lies flare up when the need to talk with our spouses about the big things arises. Whether it’s money, parenting styles or even drawing attention to an issue that drives you nuts, you need to talk about it. Otherwise, resentment builds a wall between the two of you. Before you handle those tough issues, pray about it, seek wise counsel from a trusted individual such as your pastor, then go to your spouse when you have his or her full attention, and ask, “Hey, can we talk?” Be sure to begin your conversation with you instead of directing the blame on your spouse. For example, “I have concerns about the way our budget is being handled.” instead of “You’re doing a crappy job of making the house payment on time.” Speak to your spouse in love and focus on the positive. 

I completely understand marriages do fall apart despite a spouse’s or a couple’s best efforts to keep it together. I believe there are solid reasons for dissolving a marriage, but that’s a different blog post. 

Each marriage is different, and your relationships are unique. Comparing your relationship to someone else’s is like comparing your kids. Pray for your spouse daily. Ask for God’s anointing on your marriage. Support and encourage your spouse to be the best he or she can be. Together, you can strive for that 50th anniversary milestone. 

Your turn: What’s the best piece of marital advice you’ve been given? What advice would you share with a newlywed couple? 

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Lisa Jordan
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