Today’s post comes from Radical Mentoring Executive Director Kevin Harris . . .
This September, Susan and I will celebrate our 18th wedding anniversary. I’d love to say I remember the small details of that day . . . the flowers, the music. But I would be lying. However, I would be quick to recall the words shared by our pastor, Glenn Campbell (not the Rhinestone Cowboy), focusing on the simple concept of expectations. He said, “Coming into today, you both had grand ideas of your wedding day . . . but remember as you leave here, neither one of you can live up to the expectations, spoken or unspoken, you have for each other.” 18 years later, we can both recall those words. They’ve served as practical wisdom and a stern reminder of the greatest problem most married couples face: expectation management.
This month, my mentoring group is reading Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage. In the book, he shares an article entitled “Controlling the Unpredictable–The Power of Promising.” Here is the article’s author Lewis Smedes reflecting on his marriage . . .
“When I married my wife, I had hardly a smidgen of sense for what I was getting into with her. How could I know how much she would change over 25 years? How could I know how much I would change? My wife has lived with at least five different men since we were wed—and each of the five has been me.”
Looking back on our 18-year marriage, I see several distinct personas Susan has lived with . . .
- No Kids Kevin: Limited baggage. Career-focused. Selfish. Expectations of sex when I wanted it (most days . . . ok every day).
- With Kids Kevin: Pressure building. Money concerns show up. Sharing Susan with another person. Jealousy enters the picture. A more active wandering mind when my expectations weren’t met.
- Career Kevin: Responding to the pressure of children and money by traveling weekly, leaving Susan to manage her career and our two young children. Entertaining clients because “that’s what you do,” leaving little room for emotional support.
- Depressed Kevin: Life on the road leads to diagnosed depression. Emotionally, physically, and spiritually withdrawn. Resulting in two people living together managing a household . . . certainly not how we expected life to be.
- Called and Content Kevin: Over the last three years, working with RM and committing the time to my marriage and children. Leading to healthier relationships at home. A stronger marriage. Much improved mental health.
When Susan and I married, we thought we loved each other. In reality, we loved the idea of each other. Ultimately, crisis reveals character. These critical times expose our flaws, weaknesses, and true motives. The Message version of James 1:2-4 says it this way: “You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work, so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.”
We’re all aware of the ‘consumer marriage’ culture present today. We see the divorce rates for Christian and non-Christian couples. We know couples in our inner circle who have fallen out of love. Wouldn’t it be easier to find another person to love than to change our expectations and enjoy the stranger we’re married to?
Maybe. But love isn’t easy. Marriage isn’t easy. Managing expectations isn’t easy. Plus, that approach leads back where you started. I’d rather accept Tim Keller’s challenge . . .
“You must stick to your commitment to act and serve in love even when—no especially when—you don’t feel much delight and attraction to your spouse . . . And the more you do that, slowly but surely, you will find your ego-heavy attraction being transformed into a love that is more characterized by a humble, amazed reception and appreciation of the other person.”