Lower your expectations and increase your gratitude to experience lasting happiness.
When it comes to happiness, I am starting to notice an interesting pattern in my life. In fact, I am noticing this pattern not only in my life but in my children’s and my husband’s as well. So maybe it’s even bigger than us. Maybe it’s as true for me as it is for anybody else in the world. That is, my happiness can greatly increase when I simply lower my expectations and learn to be grateful.
I took a class before I got married about how to communicate and essentially make the best of marriage. I don’t remember a single thing from that class except my professor telling us this: “If you want to be happy in marriage, lower your expectations.” I think at first that sounded extreme. Lower my expectations? Doesn’t that mean that I will settle for something less than what I could have? I later understood that the phrase, “lower my expectations” would mean something much deeper: having gratitude for what I have now and not comparing that to my perceived expectations of what I should have. This perceived expectation is me basically trying to live in a “made up” future rather than living and enjoying life now. I got married about a year later, and I forgot about this advice until I had a truly life-changing experience.
My husband and I were fighting. I don’t remember what it was about- as I am finding tends to happen once you let these things go- but I do remember that I was so upset that I called up our mentor. When I explained to him what had happened and how frustrated I was, he was quiet for a minute. He had hardly looked at me the whole time I was crying and sputtering about the events of the evening. He then slowly asked if I wanted him to talk to my husband. I said he could if he thought it would help. Then, he gave me some advice, “You know, it might help if you give him a break.”
Up until that point, I thought that whatever had happened was so wrong that it constituted serious action on my part. I thought that it was something out of the ordinary and that his lack of conforming to what I thought was “the norm” was going to cause us serious issues down the road. But when our mentor told me to- essentially- lower my expectations, it was like he was telling me that whatever was happening was normal and that we were going to be okay. I suddenly realized and accepted that these perceived problems are part of life and that we can become that happy, communicative married couple.
I went back home and told my husband what happened. He talked to our mentor as well, and things got better after that, a lot better. We took some small steps here and there, but I started to realize that I was holding him up to a standard that was most likely unattainable and my thoughts associated with that standard was not only affecting my happiness but our relationship. These expectations came from a combination of my personal beliefs about life, but also from other people. I learned to care less about other’s expectations and thoughts about “how things should be,” which made a world of difference.
I still have standards and expectations, but I realize that my happiness is not dependent on them. One of those expectations is that sometimes he or I will falter sometimes in our decision-making. I also started to understand that being grateful and humble are instrumental in my outlook concerning my marriage, life, and ultimate happiness. This was something that was unfathomable to me because I thought that my marital happiness had everything to do with my husband’s accommodation of my expectations. Clearly, it didn’t, and now I am choosing happiness in a way I never would have considered and my life is better than I could have imagined.
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