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Monday, August 22, 2011

Faking The Pain (Part 3 of 4)

I was having coffee with a friend who is struggling in her marriage.  I mean really struggling.  Yet she’s figured out how to get by. 

What’s her secret?  She’s given up all expectations in the relationship. 

“Marriage is about managing expectations.  If I expect nothing from him, at least I’m not disappointed.  I am so tired of opening myself up, only to be hurt again.”

I wonder, is she faking the pain?

While I don’t want to discount her pain – and I know firsthand that unrealistic expectations (or even reasonable expectations) can cause more hurt and pain when people disappoint us – I’m just not ready to subscribe to the theory that one can “manage” pain by giving up hope.

Numb the pain?  Maybe.

Ok, I realize there are seasons when we’re in survival mode – when numbing the pain is the best we can do.  But hear me out.  Have we missed the boat on this whole “pain management” theory?

We say things like, “People are always going to disappoint me.  I only need God to make me happy.”  We marginalize our relationships with other people so the pain doesn’t hurt as much.  We put up walls.  We pretend it doesn’t hurt.  Then, we tell ourselves we are spiritually mature for “managing expectations.”

Is this the best we can do?  Doesn’t God have something better in mind?  And hasn’t he put us in relationship with other people – people who will give us joy, hope, and even pain?

While expectations can kill, life without hope is sterile.  Lifeless.  Sure, I’ve heard it said, “Hope is in God.  Expectations are in other people.”  But in practical terms, the lines are a bit gray.  Which is why I’m constantly struggling to balance these two seemingly competing sisters:  Hope and Expectation. 

How do you reconcile the two?


Olivia Newport said...

I understand what your friend says. Sometimes we expect qualities from people, including spouses, that they just do not have in them to give us. So to continue to expect it is signing up for a fresh knife twist every time. For me, the point would be not to manage the pain, but to find some peace with the reality behind the pain--and to look for joy and hope in other dimensions of our lives. Some particular pains are not going to go away, but that does not mean pain defines us.

Bethe77 said...

I like the thought of balancing the pain. But... like your friend no expections then I dont have to be dissapointed or hurt.
Something to ponder.
Thank you for your very thought provoking insight.

Laura said...

Such good thoughts, Susan. And how many times have I used these same excuses? Take it from me, one can only "manage" for so long. Then those walls come crashing down. Then the pain is even bigger.

How are you, my friend? I was thinking about you just last night--knowing I needed to stop by for a visit. Hope all is well in your world. :)

Amber - Binkertation said...

Very thought provoking post and it hurts to hear of your friend's struggles. It sounds like she is doing her best to be strong and I agree with previous poster that one can only "manage" that kind of pain for so long...

Charming's Mama said...

"How do I manage?" Some days so pathetically that you can't tell the difference and some days I remember that "all's grace".

Laura@OutnumberedMom said...

"YES!" she shouted. "God DOES have something better in mind!"

Oh, Susan. I'm seeing this so much. I'm watching friends give up but stay in a meaningless marriage, and it's sad. That has made us work all the harder at keeping it real between us.

I'm seeing this as a big need in the Christian community, friend.