Expected Expectations

Wednesday July 7, 2021

Before my husband and I married, over 20 years ago, we attended a marriage preparation course. It had been recommended by the vicar who was to marry us, and it proved to be one of the most useful courses we have ever attended.

One of the areas addressed was the expected roles within the marriage. The leaders of the course, a married couple themselves, spoke about their own marriage where, for the first ten years, they held no parties or social events in their home. Growing up, it was her father who organised parties and his mother; they both expected the other to do it.

My husband and I quickly decided that we wanted a traditional marriage. I would take care of the housework, cooking, laundry and childcare, and he would be the main wage-earner, take care of the finances, the cars, household maintenance and so on. The gardening would be shared between us. He likes planning, so he would organise holidays; I am good at organising parties, so the social side would be up to me.

In the past 22 years, there have been some adjustments, not least owing to my periodic times of severe depression where I have been unable to do anything very much. I still feel guilty, however, when I see him ironing his own shirts. That is my job; he shouldn’t be doing it.

It took a friend, just this week, as I emerged from the latest depression, to point out that maybe it was time for a review. Times change: people change; perhaps the roles with which we were once comfortable now feel as if they don’t fit. Our daughters are now 16 and 19: their needs have changed too.

It’s a novel thought for me and an uncomfortable one. I can see, however, it may be time for a review. We need to sit down as a family and look at what needs to be done for the house and family to run smoothly, then assign responsibilities for each area. Both my husband and I hate confrontation and dislike change, so this will be a challenge.

This same friend also brought to my attention another issue. When I emerge from a depressive episode, which happens instantaneously (this time, 6.05am last Thursday morning), my immediate reaction is to try to do everything at once and to snap back into “normality.” There are all the tasks left undone while I was ill and the usual level of activity I wish to pursue. This friend pointed out, gently, that I am nearing 60, and cannot expect to behave as if I were 30. These days I need more time for recuperation after an illness (and depression is an illness as much as influenza or pneumonia). I am forced to admit the truth in this — another uncomfortable thought.

All my expectations need to be adjusted. And, importantly, the expectations I expect others to have about me.

Times change. Expectations change too. What about your expectations? Are there adjustments needed?

A Moodscope member.

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