Guest Blogger Matthew Sheehy: Changing Your Expectations

by | Guest Blogger | 15 comments

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?  

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  1. Susie May

    I really love this post. I think life is all about realigning our expectations to be in line with God’s expectations for us. Wow, it takes the pressure off to know that God works to will and to do His good purpose in our lives. (Phil 2:13!) Still, I remember the first time I got published…I thought I’d end up on the NYT! I’m still waiting….:) I remember having a “come to Jesus” moment with my agent who told me the truth: You are doing what you love to do and getting paid for it. How many people can say that? I have been about defining my success in other ways since then – in living in peace with myself, in having right relationships, in investing in others, in searching for truth and putting it in my books, in my relationship with the Lord. Since then, I’ve found great joy, even when I my publishing life doesn’t go as planned.

    Great post, Matthew. You rock. SMW

    • Lisa Jordan

      Susie, love the truth your agent spoke to you and that you can find the joy even when your expectations don’t go as planned.

  2. Beth K. Vogt

    Y’all know me — I love Matthew for his whit and his snarky comebacks. But the wisdom in this post, coupled with his honesty, makes me like him all the more. Tossing confetti his way today for encouraging us to let go of expectations and to love people for who they are, not for what they can give us.

    • Matthew Sheehy

      Thanks, Beth. Transparency is so important and most people are afraid of it. You are what you are and you have to figure out how to use that to help people.

    • Lisa Jordan

      The way you and Matthew play off each other…I think this post gives him a free “Get out of the corner” card.

  3. Michelle Lim

    Matthew, what fantastic thoughts about true love looking out for the other person in the relationship. You are so right, it is not what we can get, but what we can give. Thanks for the reminder!

  4. delores topliff

    Well said, Matthew. Solid valuable input. Keep it up–and I think you have one of the friendliest, handsomest heads I’ve seen.

    • Matthew Sheehy

      Thanks, Delores. I’ve often thought that about myself also. 🙂

      • Lisa Jordan

        So humble…one of your shining attributes, Skywalker. 🙂

  5. Jean Dotson

    Once again, Matt, you have caused me to re-evaluate my expectations and how deep and true my love is for everyone placed in my life. Your wisdom, transparency, postitive outlook AND humor make you AWESOME!!

  6. Arlene Coulter

    Thank you, Matthew. There are some really great thoughts there. From what I’ve seen, when my expectations are centered on loving Jesus and serving others, He always makes sure my needs are met. Consistency would be a key component for me!

    • Lisa Jordan

      Arlene, consistency is so key in many areas of our lives. God models consistency on a regular basis. 🙂

  7. Roxanne Sherwood

    Lisa, Thanks for hosting Matt.

    Matt, This is a great post. How awesome that you recognized your attitude was the problem, not your wife’s infertility. God can work with that. I’m so glad He blessed you with your daughter.

    I had a friend who had one daughter and was devastated that she couldn’t have more children until her doctor urged her to concentrate on loving the child she had, not mourning the ones she thought she was missing.

    P.S. I loved the verification math. Even as a writer, I can do simple subtraction. Much better than trying to figure out those squishy letters.

  8. Paul W

    Great post.

  9. Pat Trainum aka P. T. Bradley

    Matthew, your story about your birthday party has such a great point. I shared it with my daughter and a few other friends and they totally agree you are an awesome guy! Thanks for pointing out that sometimes our expectations are so unrealistic we need a wake-up call.