Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Marriage Killer – Enemy Number 1

Whether it’s a marriage, partnership, friendship, team or group, there is one sure way to kill it, dead!

There is a uniqueness that shapes humanity into a hopeful creation, which has within it, the tenacity to stand against most adversity, yet there is no surer way of exhausting that hope and breaking that bond than continually eroding its foundations.

Marriages are not made IN heaven; they are worked OUT on earth.

Some years ago, I watched an interview of a couple who have been married for 75 years. After they answered a series of questions, the interviewer asked them for their secret of a successful marriage. The man said “I’m deaf and she can’t speak.”

There is no doubt in my mind that the basis of a successful marriage, partnership or team is meaningful and effective, considerate communication.  It is the basis of all intimacy and is not merely limited to conversation. 
Wherever and whenever communication has failed, intimacy and partnerships dissolve, but it doesn't start with the breakdown. The breakdown started with lack of meaningful communication.  

The number one killer of marriages, partnerships, friendships teams or groups is expectation.

1. projection, supposition, assumption, calculation, belief, forecast, assurance, likelihood, probability, presumption, conjecture, surmise, presupposition. 

2. anticipation, hope, possibility, prospect, chance, fear, promise, looking forward, excitement, prediction, outlook, expectancy, apprehension, suspense. 

3. requirement, demand, want, wish, insistence, reliance.

"Blessed is the man who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed" [Alexander Pope letter to Fortescue] Collins Thesaurus of the English Language

Pope also said “Blessed is he who expects NOTHING, for he shall never be disappointed”

  • The missed anniversary gift,
  • The forgotten dinner date,
  • The interrupted evening at home,
  • The long awaited vacation on hold yet again
  • The flowers that never came
  • The dream of the future, overtaken with reality of the now

Expectations can be inferred, implied, imagined, expected or declared, but whichever way they are packaged, they’re real and have the power to demoralize, weaken or strengthen hope, which in return can either weaken or strengthen the relational bond. Expectations can also be unrealistic, yet if they are never truly defined and communicated effectively, they serve as an anchor for pending disappointment.

Throw away comments such as, “let’s do coffee”,” we must catch up soon”, or “let’s go fishing someday” “I promise to make it up to you”, are two a two edged sword (particularly if you have a history of never following them through). Expectations are powerful motivators, but can be just as destructive, if the expectation has been aroused in the hearer.

I recall some years ago such an expectation providing excitement and anticipation in a senior management team retreat, only to be dashed and argued away when the initiator chose to interpret the expectation differently to the general consensus of the rest of the team.

Once credibility in expectation is lost, intimacy of relationship deteriorates, communication weakens and we consider our options in both relationships and business activities. We have all been there at some point and in some scenario or other, but when the revelation in the power of expectation is discovered, we have the tools to rebuild the relationship again. Sadly, we cannot determine the expectation of another, but we CAN ensure that the expectations we initiate, have integrity in them.

Here are FOUR critical responsibilities in setting your expectations:

1.         You OWN the expectations YOU publicly set

2.         Whilst you can’t be responsible for what  your partner imagines, you are responsible for not correcting a confused  or misunderstood expectation

3.         Assumption is the poorest form of communication.

4.         What I SAID, may not be the same as what you HEAR. Read between the lines and elaborate, clarify, write it down, but most of all seek out feedback.

Sometimes we expect more from others, because we are willing to do so much more for them. Yet, ones expectations are intrinsic to ones relationships. As Ivan Illich saidWe must rediscover the difference between hope and expectation.”
What will make for a successful team are not the lowering of expectations, but rather defining and redefining them, through transparency and ongoing communication.  

A comedian once said ‘That woman fall in love by what they hear and men fall in love with what they see which is why woman wear make-up and men tell lies.” Perception often defines expectation. Rightly or wrongly, we live with and out of our expectations (realistic or unrealistic), and the longevity and success of our relationships are in direct response to how we communicate them to others, and communication is the basis of life.

So how’s your partnership expectations these days?