A couple may be dependable, faithful, and loving to one another, and yet it is within this context that Appreciation can still deteriorate to mere Expectation.
Appreciation is a positive feeling of gratitude that we experience when our spouse does something for us that we do not [secretly or openly] demand of them in our relationship. Even the smallest of things can result in a sizable positive feeling of gratitude.
Expectation is when we [secretly or openly] demand something to be done for us because of the relationship. Unfulfilled expectations are a bitter feeling that we experience when our spouse does not fulfill our [secret or open] demands. Completely fulfilled Expectations never produce the same feelings as Appreciation, at best they trigger a neutral bland feeling, which makes the relationship feel blah.
As for my use of the term “demand,” some would resist the thought that they demand anything in their relationship. Well, let them tell themselves that the next Valentines Day, Birthday, and Christmas when their spouse suggests that no “gifts” be given to each other on those occasions.
Some might say that gifts on those special days are tradition and not their “demand” of the relationship. Again, if they did not receive gifts on those special days, would their feelings be neutral, or that of bitterly unfulfilled and slighted?
My point here is simple, and it’s not to point the finger. It is however to shine a flashlight so that we can see ourselves in the dark mirror and be genuinely honest with what we see in ourselves. If we are feeling gratitude as a direct result of our relationship, we are likely people of Appreciation and our spouse is free of our [secret or open] demands called Expectations.
I have looked in the mirror and have seen a change within me that I want to make. I want to starve, uproot, and burn my tree of Expectation; I want to plant, nurture, and be blessed by a tree of Appreciation. If we are cultivating two trees in our heart at the same time, both Appreciation and Expectation, the Expectation tree will soon overpower the Appreciation tree. We must eradicate (with extreme prejudice!) our own trees of Expectations.
The Book of Proverbs speaks directly to many matters of the heart, including those of married couples. Here is a passage that speaks to us directly as couples; it isn’t only referring to physical intimacy, but to the big picture of keeping the relationship fresh throughout the years of living life together:
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice with the wife of your youth. As a loving deer and a graceful doe, let her breasts satisfy you at all times; and always be enraptured with her love.”
~ Proverbs 5:18-19
In nature, most trees absorb carbon dioxide and other potentially harmful gasses from the air and release oxygen. One large tree can supply a day’s supply of oxygen for four people.
In our analogy, the trees of Appreciation absorb potentially harmful feelings such as unfulfilled expectations, and release gratitude into the atmosphere of the marriage. If in nature one tree can provide oxygen for four people, think of how rich the atmosphere of a home will be if there are two trees of Appreciation for just two people!
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