By Ashley McIlwain
What should you expect when you are expecting? You might hear that question and immediately think I’m referencing pregnancy and childrearing. I’m not. However, I am referring to the birth of a certain mentality that can be potentially destructive – expectancy. What I want to discuss is what happens when we begin expecting things in our relationship.
Expectations are something that we all carry around with us. They play a role in every aspect of our lives, especially relationships. Sometimes we don’t even realize they are there until they aren’t met, and we experience disappointment, anger, or even resentment. On the other hand, when expectations are met, we may feel euphoric, excited, and giddy.
Having expectations isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, in many situations, it’s a good thing to have expectations. For example, when you enter the dating scene you may have expectations surrounding how you want to be treated, what you’re looking for in a significant other, and what your purpose in dating is. Or perhaps you go into a conversation with your husband or wife expecting his/her full attention. Those are examples of where it’s good to have high hopes.
The problem arises when expectations become entitlement. Entitlement is when we hold our hand out demanding that others serve us because we feel a sense of superiority. It’s an attitude that others are somehow indebted to you. Obviously this occurs on a continuum where some of us are downright obnoxiously entitled to a level where we are barely aware of it. Whatever degree of entitlement, it can be deadly to your relationships, especially your marriage.
How can you know if you are bordering on entitlement? Well, there are a few things to think about that may indicate you’re headed down that road …
When we start demanding things of people, we cut off the love circulation. Meaning, it’s impossible for someone to commit an act of love if you aren’t giving them a choice. When you make requests, it allows for your spouse (or anyone) to choose to do it for you because they want to and love you.
There are times where I have started feeling entitled. In my head I start ranting about all the things that I do and how great of a wife I am. Usually that train of thought leads to the failings of my husband. Soon I find myself in an ugly place – feeling as though I am something more than I am, and my husband is something less than he is. The truth is, the times where I think I am doing so great are usually the times I am failing the most.
I have to pull myself out of that disgusting, self-righteous pit that will just devour me and my marriage. I’m reminded of how Jesus, though the King of Kings, humbled Himself as a servant (Philippians 2:7). He knew that true love had no room for entitlement or superiority, but rather, it requires humility, grace, and a servant’s heart. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”
Having expectations isn’t a bad thing, but they can easily move into the realm of entitlement. And when entitlement enters the picture, you can expect self-righteousness, selfishness, arrogance, resentment, decay, and a lot of other things that have no room or right in our lives. It’s ugly, and it kills a relationship because it cuts off the ability to demonstrate and experience love.