Tip #3 – The joys that come from managing expectations

Secrets to a long love storyexpectation

I’ve been thinking that I am probably about due for the next instalment of “Secrets to a long love story”, but what to write about next? I have a bit of a list of topics, but nothing was really tickling my fancy, until I wrote “Seven steps to a happier me”. And it hit me. Managing expectations!

Managing expectations is a basic that goes beyond marriage or even personal relationships – it extends to pretty much any relationship you’ll ever have. And if you manage to master this skill, you’ll avoid a world of trouble and hopefully end up with a few more smiles on your face.

1. Managing your partner’s expectations of you keeps you out of trouble. For years I have been giving this little piece advice to all of my male friends, but despite my insistence it is a mistake that is so easily made.

A few months ago I had a farewell do to attend. However the farewell happened to be on the same day that hubby was leaving for a week or so away. My plan was to have a few drinks then head back home around 6:30 so I could catch hubby before he went away. The problem was that (as per usual) I had more than just a few – I got carried away by the socialising, the banter, the fun and it only takes someone shouting me another beer/wine/cider (or an espresso martini in this case) for me to stay on. I ended up calling him at 7:30 saying I’d be home in an hour, and he ended up needing to leave before I got home. I was not very popular that night.

Surprisingly, it’s not the first time I’ve done that 😛 I had every intention of keeping time, but… If I had just been honest with myself I’d recognise that I get carried away in social settings and I should have just said goodbye to hubby that morning. That way he wouldn’t have been waiting for me to come home, and most importantly he wouldn’t have ended up disappointed.

I think that’s the key here. Most people don’t mean to disappoint, and they have every intention of keeping their promises and commitments. But if they had a good hard look at themselves they’d probably recognise that they may have overpromised, which most often leads to under delivering. And if you do find yourself in a situation where you look to be falling short, inform your partner sooner rather than later. That way you’ll have an opportunity to reset the expectations before it’s too late and you’re really in the poo.

2. Managing your own expectations keeps you from being disappointed.

disappointmentI’m pretty lucky that although I wasn’t particularly popular that night, hubby wasn’t completely angry with me. As I mentioned before, that event was pretty much on form for me, although in my defence I hadn’t offended in years (I had gotten much better in managing expectations in recent years). My “relapse” wasn’t entirely unexpected from my hubby’s perspective, and he adjusted his expectations when I didn’t call on or before my planned 6:30 return. He knew then that I’d probably be more than an hour late, and started prepping for his own departure. When I did finally call he voiced his disappointment, but he was pretty much over it straight afterward.

Moving away from my own flaws, a friend of mine (lets call him Mr A) used to go out for massive boys nights out. He’d tell Mrs A that he’d be home late, however unfortunately he’d often just not come home at all. This used to result in massive and frequent fights between the two of them. In a way, I thought that if Mrs A just adjusted her expectations to think boys night = he won’t be home, then she would have ended up with a lot less stress and tears. That’s not to say he shouldn’t have explicitly told her boys night = I won’t be home; it’s just common courtesy and respect. However sometimes it doesn’t really matter who was late for what at the end of the day. If you can learn to manage your own expectation of others, you end up with much less disappointment, and possibly pain. Proactive expectation management is almost a self preservation technique. It’s the difference between realism and optimism.

3. “Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life.”
William Cowper

Managing expectations gives you an opportunity to surprise and delight. As your partner is so used to knowing what’s coming up, any positive activities that you do plan will have a much bigger impact. There was a time when hubby was away (on a different trip) and as per usual he’d call me in the afternoon to recount the day’s activities and say good night. We finished our conversation and said we’d see each other the next day upon his return. About half an hour later he appeared back at home (scared the bejeezus out of me) and gave me a big kiss and hug. He’d come back home early because he missed me, and it was SO nice to have him back to warm my bed.

Managing expectations is a weapon that, if used properly, can smooth out so many bumps in a relationship. And the best thing is that it is a weapon that everyone has access to. You don’t need to be a Cassanova or a psychologist. You just need to be self aware and remember to communicate.

Tip #2: Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Secrets to a Long Love Story

I bet you’re thinking cliché right? I know, I know, but the saying must have come from somewhere. Hubby and I have been together for 15 (plus) years and I sometimes wonder whether we’d still be together if we didn’t manage a few breaks from each other. I’m not necessarily talking months and months apart across continents (although we did that too), but more so short stints – a long weekend here, a couple of weeks there.

Fortunately or unfortunately my hubby is a hobby fiend – fishing, hunting, dirt bikes – you name it and he’s probably been into it at some point. And again fortunately or unfortunately, all of these hobbies seemed to be best executed on boys’ trips away (and require he spend a bomb on accessories). Sometimes I’d be the one to go away – girls’ trip, family trip back to Thailand, work trip.

Time-Alone-QuoteThese breaks were great, as I love a bit of ‘me’ time – a little space every so often to re-evaluate, relax and reorganise my home and my mind. Self-examination is much easier to do without someone else there, and generally you need more than one or two days to do it. I’d also put in some extra family time, to be a good sister to my brother and a good daughter to my mother. Or sometimes I’d use the time to catch up with friends – I’d go out for a large one, come home completely drunk, take ages to get in the front door making as much noise as possible, then cook myself some 2 minute noodles and pass out on the couch (noodles uneaten), all without getting into any trouble for waking hubby up!

Whatever happened during our time apart, the little break would allow us time to miss the other and all those lovely things that come with them -the skin contact, the conversation, that other person to share some laughs with. It helps you forget (just a little) about those annoying habits your partner has too, so serves to extend those gaps between one tiff and the next. It gives you an opportunity to experience things without them, build some stories to tell, and best of all it allows you to reunite with them and have all those great emotions flood back.

But there is an unexpected bonus of a mini-break: it helps you remember how to be you, an individual, rather than one half of a couple. And that the world doesn’t fall apart if you’re by yourself.

I think the great poet Kahlil Gibran sums it all up beautifully in his passages from “The Prophet

But let there be space in your togetherness,
And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.
Love one another, but make not a bond of love:
Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.
Fill each other’s cup but drink not from the same cup.
Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf.
Sing and dance together and be Joyous, but let each one of you be alone.
Even as the strings of the lute are alone though they quiver with the same music.
Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping.
For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts.
And stand together, yet not too near together
For the pillars of the temple stand apart,
And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.

Secrets to a long love story

Spend quality time

Secrets to a long love story

The CatCat and Hubby story is a long one. We met in highschool, and through the many peaks and troughs we’ve managed to stay together, stay in love and stay happy. So it probably comes as no surprise that there have been a few people over the years asking me for the secret to our success. I’ve been hesitant to provide too much advice as I can honestly say that our relationship isn’t perfect, and nor is it easy. We argue, we’ve been through a few rough patches, and sometimes it’s just plain old hard work. And I have this strange relationship with Karma where I’m afraid if I give any advice or if I criticise I will be met with the exact opposite, just to spite me. I never comment on parenting for the same reason – I’m afraid that I’ll be cursed with an uncontrollable, tantrum throwing devil child some day. So at the risk of Karma coming to get me later on, I will pen a few tips for those that are interested.

Tip 1: Spend quality time together
Sounds easy right? But sitting next to each other on the couch while you’re both on your iPhones doesn’t count. Going out for drinks or dinner with friends doesn’t count either. What I’m talking about is 1 on 1 time when you can actually have a conversation with each other. Hubby and I do a couple of things that allow us some time together, that don’t even cost a thing.

If the stars align (i.e. he’s working and doesn’t have an early job), Hubby gives me lifts into work. It’s actually much faster for him to take a different route but the drive time (complete with traffic) gives us a good opportunity to chat. If we have time we stop off to pick up a coffee on our way and we chat about what’s coming up at work, what we might be doing socially (seeing as Hubby is terrible at keeping track of stuff like that), and we listen to AM radio (!) which often results in healthy debates over current affairs.

Another activity which gives us a bit of time together are our after dinner walks. These 4-6 km walks are only something we started recently as part of our health kick and they’ve worked a treat. We have really improved our fitness, and we get around 45 minutes to chat (when we’re not puffing from walking up those steep hills).

Hopefully that’s given you some ideas as to how to get a bit of extra QT with your love.

Watch this space for more tips and tricks for a long love story.