Just this past weekend my wife and I had our son’s baseball team over to celebrate a successful year. There were kids everywhere, parents were laughing, and it was an absolute joy. As the chaos subsided and the house came to rest, Karen and I had to go into clean-up mode. Having ten boys aged 8 to10 boys in the house and back yard lends itself to a certain amount of clean up. We were both okay with it; we knew it was coming.
Something amazing happened in that moment, something so subtle that I didn’t even notice the miracle until it had passed: My wife didn’t have to tell me what to do. I knew exactly what my part in the clean-up was and I could embrace it fully. I wish I could tell you that this is because I’ve become the most aware husband in the world and I can now anticipate my wife’s wants or desires. The truth is that we’ve done this before. We have now come into a rhythm about what our roles are when we have people over. Karen takes care of everything inside and I take care of the patio/backyard as well as trash pick-up.
Some of you may be scoffing at the thought that we have assigned roles, but what I would like to suggest is that they aren’t assigned as much as they are agreed upon. Karen and I have come to the conclusion (mostly through doing it the hard way initially) that our best chance for success is when we each know exactly what is expected of us, when we’ve discussed the end goal and agreed on the path to get there. It is very similar to a clear job description. When you know what you are supposed to do there is significantly less chance that there will be failed expectations. There is less chance that someone is going to get upset because he had to do more than the other person, or that someone’s feelings will get hurt because something wasn’t done. Having assigned roles also gives us the opportunity to sit down and talk about how things went without assigning blame. If the patio cushions aren’t out, I know that this was a clear “Tony” problem. There is no need to blame me, because I already know that was my fault.
Discussing the roles, agreeing upon the roles, and embracing the roles gives us the freedom to enjoy more of the day without worry. While there will always be “other duties as assigned,” the truth is that those are even more manageable because I know what else needs to be done.
Failed expectations lead to bitterness and disappointment.
The best way to avoid failed expectations is to discuss what role you play. If you know your role, you’ll increase your chance of success.
Where can you and your partner establish good expectations?
What areas need to be established before feelings are hurt?