Give up… unrealistic expectations of yourself or your spouse
I had this crazy idea when I got married. I literally thought that when my husband and I said our vows, we would be mystically infused with all these graces, and loving each other would become natural and easy. Boy, was I wrong! The sacrament absolutely confers tremendous graces on husband and wife, but it doesn’t just happen. We have to ask for them, and we have to ask constantly.
Nowhere did this unrealistic expectation rear its ugly head more than when it came to NFP. We had it drilled into us in marriage prep that NFP is something we share, and an “easy” way for husbands to be involved is to have them keep track of observations on a chart. Naturally, I assumed that my husband would be a master of charting all on his own – thanks to this new super power ability he acquired on our wedding day to love me intrinsically.
Hah, nope! Getting my husband to be involved in charting was like pulling teeth. Based on how we were taught, I came to think of his lack of enthusiasm with charting as evidence he didn’t love me as he should. Talk about unrealistic and plain untrue!
Not to mention, learning my fertility was a challenge that left me feeling defeated even with regular cycles. Our two surprise babies made me feel like a total failure until we switched to our third method which suited our fertility and lifestyle.
I never considered that marriage is something my husband and I would start as amateurs, and that getting good at sharing – and more importantly learning – our fertility was going to take practice, patience and a different way of thinking. Despite being well prepared, we walked into this sacrament mostly blind, about each other and ourselves.
But you know what I realized? That’s ok! It’s how it’s supposed to be. Love doesn’t grow through the good times. It grows through the struggle. It grows through working out the misunderstandings and hurts, those times when you have to take a step back and see where your ego got in the way, and crush it.
Week 1 Challenge Question:
What expectations do you have of yourself or your spouse that are unrealistic – understanding or sharing your fertility, having children when and how you planned, etc? Are they based on what the world tells you, someone else’s marriage, or just something you thought reasonable? How can you begin to give up those expectations so you and your spouse can embrace who and where you are?
Scripture and Prayer
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.
And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection.
Colossians 3: 12-15
Father, you have called me to love myself and my spouse as you do, yet as selfish sinners, we fail often. I give you those expectations that hinder rather than help my marriage. Grant that when we fail in bearing with each other, holding to what we want rather than what is best, that we may always turn to you for the grace we need to love each other as you love us.
Read this week’s Challenge Accepted from Mary
Raise your hand if you could be a poster child for unrealistic expectations
Sure I can eat lunch, wash clothes, dishes, and my hair in an hour- “it’ll be fine.” 12 years of undiagnosed endometriosis carries a risk of infertility- “nah, it’ll be fine.”
Then there’s charting. Any consistent long-term FA charter will tell you that emotions can vary about said charting, regardless of intentions in use. I had charted for years and had multiple surgeries which had adequately treated my endometriosis. “It’ll be fine!” And for many it is. But my chart would never seem to get the message.
The more surgeries I had, the less my chart (my cycle) would “recover.” I kept expecting my chart to reflect the internal improvements, but it just wouldn’t. Forget getting pregnant! I couldn’t even go through a row of white baby stamps, and kept running out of red stamps 🤨.
Luckily, my local Napro doc is a Saint who allowed me to cry my feelings out at an appt one day about a year ago. She understood and affirmed me, explaining that the chart had been a daily reminder of how my body doesn’t work and that is painful. She recommended that I either take a break from charting or change my expectations of what my chart “should” look like.
I took several days to thoroughly think and pray about what was bothering me so much. As soon as I stopped expecting the chart to be something it wasn’t and accepted it for giving me information that was simply true, the anxiety and pressure began to fade and I was able to continue charting for my health.
I still struggled with my reality, but was finally able to begin accepting it and focus on the parts of me that needed healing.
The same can be said about our lives in general. There is great peace in accepting what is simply true and focusing our hopes and efforts on the goodness God already desires for us- whatever that is and whatever our chart looks like.
Consider giving up unrealistic expectations for lent to see things more clearly. You may actually be more “fine” with it than you expect