Managing Expectations in Relationships: 8 Great Christian Books That Help

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Managing expections in relationships and the Christian books that can help.

My small group did a study on the book The Bait of Satan by John Bevere a couple of years ago. It went a long way towards helping me in managing my expectations in relationships with others.

The subtitle of the book is “Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense.”

When you think about it, we tend to get offended most when our expectations aren’t lived up to. We take it as a personal affront.

If your baby pulled your hair or throws food, you do not take offense. You don’t expect them to behave any other way, they just haven’t learned better yet.

If your spouse or another grown-up pulls your hair or throws food, now that is a different story. You have entirely different (reasonable) expectations in relationships like those.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links for your convenience. If you make a purchase through one of the links, I may make a small commission. I only recommend books and resources that I’ve enjoyed personally, or believe that you would like. You can read my full disclosure here. You will also find information on Scripture translations there.

managing expectations in relationships, picture of a family

Managing Expectations in Relationships

I’m going to be real with you here. I have higher expectations for some people than others.

For example, my parents, my husband, my pastor. Because pastors are perfect, right?

I’m here to tell you that I have taken offense with more than one pastor in my life. I hope that I have learned how to not do that anymore but we’ll see.

Should I mention the expectations I have of my older son? Probably not…

Managing expectations in relationships with others will level the playing field and gives everyone a little more breathing room.

But God said All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God. (Roman’s 3:23)

Having Expectations in a Relationship

Having expectations in a relationship isn’t bad. In fact, it’s healthy. Because human nature being what it is, people generally tend to put in the least effort possible.

This means that even unintentionally we don’t always (ahem, often) consider the other person.

Yes, I just turned that around and put us in the hot seat. Oops. Just know I’m right there with you. I’m writing this to myself every bit as much as for anyone else.

Today, I really want us to consider both sides of managing expectations in relationships. What we expect from others, and what we expect from ourselves.

Let’s talk about healthy relationship expectations for a moment. I know they could be boiled down to “LOVE ONE ANOTHER” but sometimes we need a practical list.

5 Reasonable Relationship Expectations

It’s hard to quantify exactly what are reasonable expectations in relationships. We’re all sinful, selfish individuals, and we need so much help it’s not even funny. Managing expectations in relationships, while hard for sure, will go a long way in minimizing hurt.

Honesty:

Relationships only work if there’s honesty. If you can’t speak truth, or hear truth spoken, then there’s a problem. There won’t be trust or any sense of security. If there’s no room for honesty, managing expectations in relationships becomes way too difficult!

Respect:

There needs to be respect (high regard, admiration), again, going both ways. If you can’t think of a tangible – individual reason, that doesn’t give you license to be disrespectful and rude*. Because Every Person is created in the image of God and is considered valuable beyond measure by Him!! Genesis 1:27, Jeremiah 31:3, Romans 5:8

*It doesn’t mean you have to continue to put up with bad behavior, mistreatment or danger, though! This is an excellent podcast/article on the Ephesians marriage respect verse!!!

Kindness:

We are called to kindness (Colossians 3:12). We may call it ‘human kindness’ but it’s actually part of the fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22-23) This doesn’t have to be big and elaborate. Even small, simple acts of kindness count. Need some ideas?

Here are over 100 random acts of kindness for you. After all, you never regret being kind!

Disagreement and Discussion:

Disagreement is normal. Average. Healthy even. (As Gibbs said in the NCIS rerun I just watched, “Nothing is more boring than perfect”). That said, discussing your disagreements, and working through them, is reasonable. Sweeping them under the rug, or fighting over every little thing is NOT.

Grace:

It is, or should be, one of the reasonable expectations in relationships, to extend Grace. And to receive it. This might look like forgiveness or patience. It might look like withholding an earned scolding in favor of offering a treat. (You’d be surprised how this works in parenting, as an OCCASIONAL method of discipline).

Now turn that around. Look in a mirror. That person deserves to have you treat them with honesty, respect, kindness and grace. You are fearfully and wonderfully made, in God’s image. He loves you and calls you valuable.

If you’re wondering how to change your life as a Christian woman, I’ve found these resources very helpful.

Unrealistic Expectations in Relationships

Unrealistic Expectations in Relationships

There are more unrealistic expectations in relationships than I could begin to cover, but here are a few that could stand some healthy pruning!

Mind Reading:

Do Not expect the other person to read your mind. THEY CAN’T. Any more than you can read theirs. I know, you try. Sometimes, you’re even successful. But I would imagine that more often than not, it’s not quite right.

For example, Your kid is screaming in the shower when it’s time to wash their hair. You might assume they’re being difficult for no reason, or over-tired, uncomfortable, or something along those lines.

If you ask questions though, you might just discover that someone told them water in their ears means they’ll lose their hearing! Take a minute and ask questions at the next unexplainable outburst. The solution could be as simple as explaining that the water drains back out, and hearing returns quickly.

Controlling/Manipulation:

Whether it’s direct, authoritarian control, or subtle manipulation to get your own way, it’s wrong. We may or may not notice at first. but whether we are on the giving or receiving end, things need to change. Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say NO by Drs Cloud and Townsend, or When Godly People do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore are good books to read for help in this area.

Healthy Relationships are not meant to be full of one-sided benefits, or even bartered benefits. If there’s an attitude of “I do abc, so you must xyz, obviously” that should send up some red flags of unrealistic expectations in relationships.

We’ll Never Disagree (because you will!)

Whether it’s a group of friends trying to decide where to go to dinner, a couple planning Christmas holidays, or parent-child bedtime negotiations, there’s going to be disagreement. Even Boss-employee salary negotiations can get dicey. If you’re walking around thinking that everyone thinks just like you, knows the same facts as you, and they should naturally agree with you, well, you’re normal, but deceived.

Beware of the temptation unreasonable expectations present. Read The Bait of Satan, Living Free from the Deadly Trap of Offense today!

Unrealistic Expectations in Marriage

Unrealistic expectations in marriage are all over the place. From the “We’ll never disagree” above to ‘I deserve this abuse/its normal” mentality, there’s far too many to choose from.

Codependency: try inter-dependency instead!

Blame or abuse: you were created in God’s Image, and are worthy of respect.

A free ride: marriage, it’s a team effort. A two-way street. Both people should be invested.

True Story

My brother and sister-in-law have a unique way of managing expectations in marriage.

The four of us were on a day trip. My husband and I had only just begun dating. My brother and sister-in-law were not even discussing dating yet. We had a 6 hour round trip ride, plus 3-4 hours visiting at our destination.

Those two spent half the day listing their marriage expectations for each other. Things like she would do the laundry, but he would iron his own shirts. He’d work outside of the home and she would stay home with the kids. What arguments would look like… It was hysterical.

And all at least a month prior to any discussion of actually dating one another (which is a story in itself).

Talk about preventing unrealistic expectations in marriage! To my knowledge, they have stuck with the things that they agree to pretty well for almost a decade.

That’s not to say they have no unmet expectations, because, well, they’re both humans. And men and women just don’t see things the same way all the time. No two people do.

Book Recommendation For Expectations In Marriage

The Great Sex Rescue is brand new, and is designed to correct the harmful expectations in marriage that popular Evangelical Christian marriage books have (perhaps unintentionally) taught. Based on faulty research and opinions, many Christians are taught things that don’t match up with the Biblical principle of Love One Another.

There are many dimensions to intimacy, and this book reframes and rescues many of them, but especially those related to sex and purity. Including duty, respect, faithfulness, pleasure, and much more.

I would recommend it for anyone (both men and women) who’ve been married for any length of time. I would also recommend it to anyone 16+ with a note that it should be discussed with someone trusted. If they’re allowed to read the second half of Judges, then they should be okay with this.

There are some “try this at home” sections meant for married couples only, and some extremely dangerous/hard situations that will need processing. But it also has some extremely beautiful situations, too. The kind that proves Good Men exist and can be found! Excellent role models for those teen boys to look up to and follow after.

Rather than dooming them to ‘Every man’s battle’ and their wives to constant doubt and fear, set them up for success by teaching them to value the whole person. That makes managing expectations in relationships much simpler.

Unrealistic Expectations in Parenting

Turanski and Miller describe 3 events in parenting. Tasks, problems and conflict. The tasks are the daily to-do lists. Problems are when something doesn’t go right. Missing items, ducking chores, attitudes, etc. Conflict happens when problems are escalated by emotions. Taking a problem and breaking it into tasks will go a LONG WAY toward preventing conflict and encouraging family health and harmony!

If we can keep our emotions under control, then managing expectations in relationships within our homes will be easier.

Books for Expectations in Parenting

Turanski and Miller have a few good parenting books out there, such as Parenting is HEART Work, which offers an entirely different strategy than rewards and punishments.

The Christian Parents Handbook: 50 Heart-Based Strategies offers practical tools for all ages of kids. My husband and I are about a third of the way through this one, and wow!

Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent’s Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told teaches the theology of internal motivation, and emphasizes strong moral and spiritual development. This emphasizes honor, and root causes of conflict, which gets under the behavior issues, and helps kids develop 3 level thinking. This is the one I’m studying right now.

I recently discovered Behind the Behavior: 4 Steps to Capture & Influence Your Child’s Heart, Beliefs, & Behavior. It changed the way I parent. It reframes those ‘bad behaviors’ as a child who’s not yet equipped, and encourages parents how to equip them for the various situations in life. IT also does an excellent job of reshaping those parenting expectations where you feel judged by your kids behavior.

A library of printables for Avid Christian readers

Parenting and Adult Children

Managing expectations in relationships with adult children, and as adults, dealing with your parents in a respectful way is a whole new ballgame of tough sometimes.

Don’t forget that yes, your kids have grown up and are allowed their own opinions and methods and values.

And kids, your parents taught you how to use a spoon, and how to get dressed, and odds are, they’ve prayed for you. A lot. Show them respect for their position, and their investment in your life.

Healthy Relationship Expectations

Again, successfully managing expectations in relationships comes down to having healthy relationship expectations. As we discussed earlier, some healthy relationship expectations are:

  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Kindness
  • Healthy Discussion over Disagreements
  • Grace

These reasonable expectations in relationships work together as a team. When Kindness is feeling a little weak, Grace picks up the slack. Healthy discussions over the disagreements that occur can only happen when we trust each other to be honest and respectful.

Setting Expectations in a Relationship

If you’re going to get started on the right foot, then having a discussion like my brother and sister in law, setting expectations in a relationship upfront can make all the difference in the world. It still won’t be perfect, but it helps. This is an important part of any solid premarital counseling.

If you’re already hip-deep in the relationship… setting expectations in a relationship that’s been established for years, or decades is a bit different. Managing expectations in relationships that are already well established can be much more difficult.

Maybe you expect constant disappointment. Or negativity. Or laziness… Maybe it’s something else entirely. At that point, when you’ve been in this pattern for year after year, you treat that person the way you expect them to behave. Then they do exactly what you expect.

Let’s try an experiment. Reset your expectations. For the next 30 days, try treating them as a brand new person. You wouldn’t walk up to a stranger and say ‘that’ would you? Let’s try looking them in the eye, smiling and being friendly. If nothing else, you’ll mess with their minds! But they may totally surprise you.

  • Don’t expect them to read your mind.
  • Ask them if there’s anything you can do to help.
  • If you need something, Ask!
  • Be honest and respectable.
  • Try a few random acts of kindness.
  • Give yourself (and them) grace.
  • Pray for God to bless them.
  • Watch God Work!

Here’s a free lockscreen/wallpaper, to help you remember these things.

The Key to Managing Expectations in Relationships

So the key to success in managing expectations in relationships is to have healthy relationship expectations, and choose not to take offense. Prayer and spending time with God are going to take you farthest in this direction than anything else I can think of.

Easier said than done, but definitely worth the effort. What are your top tips? What key to managing expectations in relationships am I missing here?

Until Next Time, Love God, Love Books, Shine The Light!!

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