By Lavern & Ronda Nissley
How often do you experience unmet relationship expectations? Have you noticed that even a few unmet expectations can feel like a wet blanket over an otherwise good thing?
After almost 42 years of marriage, both of us can point to a lengthy list of disappointments in each other. Generally speaking, all disappointments are the result of unmet expectations.
What if we adjusted our expectations to more realistic levels. Like from being met 100 percent of the time to, say 70 percent of the time?
Family systems scholar Edwin Friedman said, "In reality, no human marriage gets a rating of more than 70%." In other words, 70 percent of potential is the norm.
"Wow!" You're likely thinking, "How freeing is that!" There's more.
In writing about the 70 percent rule in The Christian Man, Patrick Morley calculates that about 5 out of 7 days could be characterized by marital satisfaction. The other 2 days "are likely to be a little off -- mood swings, job woes, money pressures, the stress of children. In other words, even the most successful marriage will only be symptom-free about 70 percent of the time."
As we (Lavern & Ronda) chatted about this adjustment of expectations we found ourselves resonating with the concept. With an important qualification. The expectations in question must relate to personal and personality preferences, NOT moral or ethical failures. For example, it wouldn't be appropriate for Lavern to be maritally faithful only 5 out of 7 days a week or for Ronda to exercise financial discipline only 21 days out of a month!
But both of us have quirks that are going to offend or irritate the other. Adjusting our expectations means becoming more realistic -- accepting that we're imperfect and in need of grace from the other -- about 30 percent of the time. Both of us like Patrick Morley's statement about his own marriage and the agreement he and his wife have with each other: "I let you be you, and you let me be me."
Even in the short amount of time since becoming aware of the 70 percent concept, we've both made conscious choices to give grace to each other. That's freeing!
Lavern & Ronda Nissley are co-directors of Encompass. Married since 1978, both enjoy coffee, riding their tandem bicycle and working together to build strong relationships.