Has your husband ever given you a gift that made you cry? Not because it was so good but because it was so, so bad? People only say, “It’s the thought that counts” to dull the pain of a crummy gift.
Who’s cares about the “thought” while trying to wrap your head around what you’re holding in your hands? Especially when it’s your first Christmas as a newlywed and you’re left holding unmet expectations.
Let me start at the beginning.
When my husband reached underneath the tree on our first Christmas as Mr. and Mrs. and handed me a diamond necklace-diamond earring-gold watch-shaped sort of a box, I was excited. When I opened it and pulled out a set of commemorative Liberty Coins–the Statue of Liberty coins–I cried. Hard.
History lesson: The U.S. government sold coins depicting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island to raise funds to refurbish the monuments in the 80s. (Lucky me.)
I know it sounds selfish and ungrateful to cry over a gift, especially when someone is trying to do something nice for you. But, Liberty Coins were not nice for me.
I wasn’t a coin collector nor had I ever expressed an interest in coin collecting. At that time, I’d never even seen the Statue of Liberty. I couldn’t even use the coins to buy something I wanted. I was disappointed.
I was upset because I didn’t think my husband was thinking of me when he gave me Liberty Coins. He was the coin collector.
I also cried because I thought of the hundreds of gift giving occasions to come.
At that time I didn’t understand the reason for my hurt. I now know it was unmet expectations.
Disappointment is a terrible feeling. I knew my husband loved me, and I didn’t want to hurt his feelings. I knew if I didn’t say something, my hurt would come out in the form of anger.
It’s pretty simple. James said in Chapter 4, Verses 1-2, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.”
I wanted something, and I didn’t get it. Maybe you’ve never been disappointed by an unmet expectation, but unmet expectations have caused a fair share of disappointment in our marriage.
We’ve been married for more than 30 years now. And, we laugh when we talk about the Liberty Coins. I haven’t always handled disappointment in the right way.
But I’ve learned how to identify the hurt of unmet expectations and how to deal with it.
Here are some ABC’s for dealing with disappointment in marriage:
1. Admit you’re upset. Don’t hold the feeling in and pretend nothing’s wrong.
2. Be kind with your words. Disappointment can sometimes come out as anger. Instead of immediately launching a verbal assault, remember your husband loves you so be careful not to say anything you’ll wish you hadn’t.
3. Consult with God. Pray and read Scripture.
4. Distance yourself from the situation. Sequestering myself for a little while usually puts me in a more level-headed state of mind and sometimes helps me see the situation from another point of view.
5. Express yourself without drama. Create an atmosphere for dialogue. When I’m upset or accusatory, I can put my husband in defense mode. It’s natural to want to defend yourself when someone attack you.
My disappointment over the Liberty Coins was obvious. Once my husband figured out why I was upset, he was more than apologetic.
Liberty Coins aren’t a bad gift, if you like that sort of thing. I expected something different.
People–husbands, friends, relatives– will let you down at some point. When you’re hurting or disappointed because of an unmet expectation, ask God for the liberty through grace to forgive.
Need skills to build intimacy?
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Also known as the Not So Excellent Wife, Sheila Qualls understands how tiring a tough marriage can be.
She went from the brink of divorce to having a thriving marriage by translating timeless truths into practical skills. She’s helped women just like you turn their men into the husbands they want.
She and her husband Kendall live in Minnesota with their five children and their Black Lab, Largo.
In addition to coaching, Sheila is a member of the MOPS Speaker Network. Her work has been featured on the MOPS Blog, The Upper Room, Grown and Flown, Scary Mommy, Beliefnet, Candidly Christian, Crosswalk.com, The Mighty and on various other sites on the Internet.