My husband, Mike, set the bar very high during our whirlwind courtship, fairytale wedding, and over-the-top honeymoon. He pursued me like a glass of cold water in the middle of a desert. He spoiled me with gifts and sent huge bouquets to my work (too big to fit on my desk!) He was a man on a mission. I felt loved and valued.
So, when we got married, I expected him to continue to pursue me with the same fervor he showed while dating.
Before you laugh, I felt justified in that expectation since he promised to pursue me in his wedding vows.
We were both naive to think we could pour into our marriage the same level of energy we had before the wedding. I brought an adorable daughter into our marriage (my second), and we added two more children to the mix in the first three years. Mike went from single to married father of three almost overnight.
Add to that a job change and a move and you can see how his focus necessarily changed. Any reasonable person might have given her husband a bit of slack in the area of creating romance. I can’t always claim that title.
I held on to my expectations, creating a bar too high for Mike to clear.
And little by little, the romance faded.
I wanted (expected) him to initiate dates with me and go all-out for birthdays and holidays. One of my top “love languages” is gifts. My expectations made it hard for him to feel confident in buying gifts. He thought it wouldn’t be enough (and, in all honesty, he might’ve been right). I expected thoughtful gifts that reflected his love for me and that showed he really knows my heart. (No pressure, right?)
Mike’s love language is acts of service. He’ll do anything for me: chores, filling the gas tank, he’ll even go grocery shopping. If it can be checked off a list, he’s happy to do it.
That’s all wonderful, but what I really wanted was to know that he still loved me as much as he did when we dated, when he expressed his love in ways that flooded my heart with joy. All his acts of service just weren’t doing that for me.
My expectation kept me from enjoying him in the present
Every time Valentine’s Day rolled around (or any other special occasion), my expectations soared and were dashed.
I knew Mike had it in him to shower me with romance and create a memorable day, but he didn’t. My disappointment festered.
Then, after a lot of pain and struggle, I laid down my “right” to be pursued and dated, and began to accept the husband God gave me.
Now, anything he does – a gift, a date, holding my hand on a walk, or simply cuddling on the couch to watch the latest installment of Victoria — I express my gratitude to him. More than that, I feel gratitude toward him. It’s a great place to be.
And you know what happened? He started exceeding my expectations!
If you have unrealistic expectations this Valentine’s Day, here’s what you can do:
1. Let your husband off the hook. He’s already proven his love to you. Let him know he doesn’t have to vault over the high bar of your expectations anymore.
2. Shower him with gratitude. If your husband gives you a Valentine’s Day gift or card, let him know you appreciate it. If he doesn’t, pick something else to express gratitude for. Focus on what he brings to the marriage.
3. Accept your reality. Celebrate Valentine’s Day in a way that works for you, your unique marriage and your season in life.
Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to look like a Hallmark movie – or even a Hallmark commercial – to be special. Celebrate the man God gave you, not the fantasy of who you think he should be. Celebrate your love free of unrealistic expectations and I promise you’ll have more fun!
Elizabeth M. Thompson is an inspirational writer and speaker who helps women lead Scripture-based, Spirit-graced lives. She lives in Gold River, CA, with her family and enjoys kayaking and walking along the American River with her two adventurous dogs. Connect with her at www.elizabethmthompson.com