The highschool I attended put on a major musical production every year. I LOVED theatre and drama and could not wait to audition for the play. The first year I auditioned I was nervous, but was happy with receiving any role. The second year however… I went into the audition that second year with a very different mindset. I had already audtioned the year before- I knew what to expect this time. I was ready to audition for the lead female role! I knew that earning that role wouldn’t come easy but I wasn’t afraid of that! I was ready to work my tail off to get it!
Once we found out which musical we were doing, my Mom ordered me the video and we got to work! In the weeks leading up to the big audition my Mom helped me practice. We watched the video over and over and over! I spent hours learning the songs and the lines, practiced moving how the main character moved, practiced speaking how the main character spoke and tried to perfect every note of every song. I spent hours every night preparing for my audition. My Mom even sewed me a costume to wear. The day of the audition came and I was confident! I walked to the school holding the bag with my costume in it. I was walking fast. I couldn’t wait to get there! There is no way anyone worked as hard as I had. This role was perfect for me. This was going to be my year.
The audition couldn’t have gone better! I nailed every song and recited every one of my lines perfectly. Later that week the big day finally arrived. The director called us all into the auditorium to assign the roles. I thought I was going to jump out of my seat. I could hardly contain my excitement! I glanced over at some of the other girls I knew had also auditioned for the lead role. I hoped they wouldn’t be too disappointed. The director started with the smallest roles, calling out each name assigned to that role and worked his way up the list and to the lead role. I was smiling so big….this was it! This was it!! He was almost to the top of the list! Finally he announced the lead character…and called out another girl’s name.
I didn’t hear a word he said after that. I felt as though I’d been punched in the stomach. How could this be? There must be some mistake! My mind was swirling. I was confused. I had worked so hard! My audition went perfectly. I could feel the tears welling up and they were welling up fast! I knew that if I tried to speak I wouldn’t be able to hold it in any longer. I quietly got up from my seat. I slipped out the back doors and walked outside.. As soon as I stepped off of the school property it was like the flood gates opened and the tears came fast and hard. I was absolutely crushed. I walked and cried for 30 minutes all the way home. I wanted that part sooooo badly! AND, I was positive I had worked as hard as I could to get it. It wasn’t fair! Isn’t that what they teach you in life? That if you work hard for your dreams you will succeed?! How did this happen?!
I don’t think I had ever felt disappointment so deep. It made me feel physically sick. I went to my room, crawled into my bed and closed my eyes. I had experienced my first great failure in life and it felt horrible.
The next day when I went to school I tried to focus on school and not think about the play which proved to be difficult as the director was also my math teacher. I walked into my math class carefully avoiding eye contact with him. I tried to act normal. I didn’t want him to know that I was upset. I was silently hoping he wouldn’t bring up the play. With only a few minutes left of class Mr. G asked if he could speak to me in the hall. My body went numb. Oh no..no .no… I really didn’t want to talk to him about this. I could feel the tears trying to creep up again. I bit the inside of my cheek hard. I could NOT cry! How humiliating would that be?! I slipped out of my desk and followed him out into the hall. He started to talk about the play and explain why he chose the people he did for each part. I was trying to smile, nod my head and throw in the occasional “uh huh”. He said the reason he wanted to talk to me was that he wanted to offer me the part of ‘Mammy Yokum’, the second female lead. He said that during my audition he kept thinking how great I would be for that role. I was stunned. The part I had auditioned for was the part of a beautiful, sweet 17 year old girl. ‘Mammy Yokum’ was a loud, quirky old woman. I was trying to be excited about this news, but really I was just confused. I was perfect for the young girl part- not for the old granny part! How was this going to work? I didn’t think I would be good at that role and I didn’t think I even wanted to play that role. I was more confused and disappointed than ever…
Little did I know all those years ago that I was beginning to learn one of the most valuable lessons. It’s a lesson that I would learn many times through the years. It’s a lesson that is hard to accept and even harder to implement, but is something that has the potential to be life changing.
Accepting disappointment and adjusting your expectations.
What do you do when your dreams take a sharp turn into a ditch?
What do you do when you wake up and your married to the most annoying person on the planet?
What do you do when your spouse is cold, distant, selfish, irresponsible, lazy, or unkind?
What about when you feel trapped and suffocated in your marriage?
What do you do when you feel like you might have married the wrong person?
There may come a time when you look at your spouse and look at your life and come to the hard realization that the dreams you once had will never come true with this person. That truth hits hard. You may feel trapped and backed into a corner with the only feasible solution being the big “D” word. The thought of moving on can be so scary and yet alluring all at the same time. The thought of a fresh start, a second chance to begin again and to get it right this time around. These thoughts begin slowly at first like a quiet whisper at the very back of your mind. But with every argument, every hurtful word, every disappointment, that voice that tells you that, ‘you deserve better’ gets louder and stronger. It will convince you that you’ve done all you can. It will try to steal your hope. That voice will make you believe that things will never change. And then, as the final and fatal blow it will stir up bitterness and resentment. That voice will aim to harden your heart and convince you that the only thing left to do is walk away.
It all starts with disappointment. Disappointment that your relationship is not what you hoped it would be, that your spouse isn’t the person you need them to be, and that the dreams you once had may never be.
I’ve been at this exact dark place. I’ve felt hopeless and disappointed beyond what I thought I could bear. And thank God I learned this one valuable lesson.
What I’m about to tell you won’t likely be what you want to hear.
It’s not slick, and it’s harder than you’ll want it to be.
It’s really really hard to actually do but it really does work.
If you can learn to do this it has the potential to change everything!
Adjust your expectations
As children we are pliable and open to new concepts, but with each year that passes that window of open-mindedness closes a little more. We adults know what we want. We’ve had years to dream about it and we are not going to let it go without a fight! You throw in our own selfishness, stubbornness and pride and you’ve got yourself a recipe for marriage: World War III style.
I had to learn to let go of a lot of things. So many of the issues that annoyed me and frustrated me about my husband I had to let go of. I had to (and still have to) ask myself, “can I live with this?”. It may not be my first choice, and it may be frustrating but is it worth ruining my marriage over? If you think about it; most issues that couples argue about (that can ultimately lead to divorce) are totally 100% solvable! Let that sink in for a minute! You are likely having the exact same argument over and over again which makes it feel impossible to work out – but in reality it CAN be overcome.
You cannot continue to argue the issues the same way. Something big has to change. Someone has to do something different-something radical that has not been done in past arguments.
One of you has to CHANGE your expectations.
That does not mean that your expectations were wrong or unrealistic. It does not mean that your spouse is right and that you were wrong. It does not mean that your spouse wins. Sometime changing your expectation means accepting something that you are not 100% okay with. It means “letting something go” that is important to you in order to improve your relationship. I know – it sucks and it’s really hard and it doesn’t feel good right away. It is an assault to your pride. It’s going to be really tough to follow through with this. But, if you can do this it will improve your relationship little by little.
One really small example of this with my husband and I is that my husband is often (almost always) late. Like ALL the time! The man will be late for dinner, late for appointments, even late to funerals and weddings! No event is sacred. He is late – which many times translates into that WE are late. This drives me BANANAS! Like Gwen Stefani belting it out at the top of her lungs kind of BANANAS! I couldn’t even begin to guess how many fights and arguments we’ve had over this one issue alone! I have tried EVERYTHING to get him to be on time to no avail. I drives me nuts. It’s embarrassing and it bothers me.
Now this is something that I’ve tried to change my expectation for. I still hope for him to be on time. I still try to help him to be on time, but if he’s late, he’s late. I try to let it go. In my mind I prepare myself that he will likely be late and I’m not going to get upset about it. Do I still feel frustrated inside? You bet I do – but I make a choice not to make a huge issue out of it everyday. Does this mean that I think it’s “okay” for him to be late? Absolutely not. But it is not something I am going to fight about and let affect my marriage anymore.
I’m going to let it go. (sing it with me Elsa)
I’m going to change my expectation. It does not mean I am wrong. It does not mean that it’s okay. It is what it is and I’m not going to let it put a wedge between us any longer.
It’s hard but it works. And the thing is – I know my husband has done the same thing with me. He has changed the expectation for frustrating things that I do. We are a team. We have to give grace where it is undeserved. We have to forgive and let go. Marriage teaches you a lot about yourself and sometimes it ain’t pretty! Sometimes you realize you are not as forgiving and gracious as you think you are. Ouch!
I accepted the role as “Mammy Yokum” in the school play that year. And do you know what?! I really was good at it, and the girl who was chosen as the lead played her part perfectly! We each ended up with the role that was best suited for us. It wasn’t what I had originally wanted and worked for, but in the end it turned out to be an amazing experience! I LOVED playing ‘Mammy Yokum’ and when I look back I couldn’t imagine not playing that part! I think about all that I would have missed out on that year if I had just quit when my expectation of playing the lead role were not met. I could have given up when I felt the most hurt and disappointed. I could have walked away when I couldn’t see a better plan in sight.
What if I had not accepted my disappointment?
What if I had not adjusted my expectations?
Instead of feeling frustrated by the disappointments in your relationships let it be a signal that there is a deep love that is worth fighting for.
The best way to start is a little at a time. Try consciously choosing one major issue and commit to adjusting your expectation with that one issue. I will confess: I have to work on this every – single – day and some days I am much better at it than others. It is easier said than done, but the rewards are great.
There is power in laying down your pride and extending grace where it is not deserved.
*This post was written in partnership with Greg Sykes
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