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One man's take on the silent killer of relationships: unmet expectations.

What's the secret to a winning relationship? This guy thinks he knows.

One man's take on the silent killer of relationships: unmet expectations.

Right after my wife and I got married, we attended a seminar about aiding the rehabilitation of human trafficking victims.

Image from iStock.

During one of the presenter’s talks, he asked the audience what the biggest cause of divorce was.

Because I had just been through premarital counseling, I pretty much felt like an expert at marriage. I shot my hand up quickly to answer the question and blurted out, “Sex, money, and communication!” Then I looked at my wife next to me and grinned. Too easy.


“Wrong,” the presenter barked back. “Those are symptoms of the real problem.”

Ouch. Not only was I given a sharp lesson in humility, but what followed changed my life. I was about to be told the best piece of marriage advice that this young, prideful, newly married manboy could’ve ever asked for.

“The reason marriages end in divorce is because of one thing," he said, "unmet expectations.”

*mind blown*

Image via iStock.

My newly-married manboy brain couldn’t handle the revelation. I don’t remember much of what was said after that. I was too busy thinking of all the unmet expectations I was experiencing after being married for just a month.

But having unmet expectations isn’t just a marriage problem. It’s a life problem.

Since that seminar six years ago, I have seen the pain and frustration that plays out from having unmet expectations — not just in marriage, but in all relationships. It’s a deadly venom that flows to the heart and wreaks havoc in relationships.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re single, married, working, unemployed, old, young, or [insert demographic here]. Having unmet expectations is lethal to everyone. No one is immune.

So ... what’s the solution?

I’m a math guy. I love equations. I love crunching numbers, and I thoroughly enjoyed algebra and calculus in high school (although I probably couldn’t do a calculus problem to save my life now).

So after lots of searching, I came across an equation for this that helped me understand the whole issue:

EXPECTATION – OBSERVATION = FRUSTRATION

Here’s what that means: Below are two hypothetical versions of one situation played out.

Situation #1: Expectation

Image from iStock.

When I come home from a long day at work, I EXPECT that my partner will have dinner prepared and ready for us, so we can sit down and eat as a family. She’ll be wearing an apron with no food stains on it (because she’s perfect like that) and her hair will be perfectly done up.

Meanwhile, my 16-month-old daughter will sit in her high chair and eat with utensils ... never missing her mouth, which makes cleanup a breeze. After we all finish eating at exactly the same time, we’ll head out into the Colorado sun and go for a nice family stroll, while the butler (you read that right ... butler) cleans up the kitchen and prepares our home for evening activities.

Situation #2: Reality

Really, I come home from work 30 minutes late, and dinner hasn’t even been thought of ... much less started. Because of this, my toddler is screaming her head off, signing, “More! Please! Eat!”

Image from iStock.

When I search for my wife, I find her working on a design project, trying to meet a deadline that’s technically already past due. When I ask what’s for dinner, she glares at me the way only an overworked, overtired, work-from-home parent can glare.

After picking up my toddler, I make my way into the kitchen to find an abundance of no groceries. So, being the manly chef that I am, I set my eyes on cheese and bread. “Grilled cheese!” I exclaim. I put my daughter in her high chair as an influx of rage bursts from within her. I quickly grab the applesauce pouch to appease her. It works ... for now. I get to work on my grilled cheese sandwiches. Everyone eats. The kitchen is left a mess. Toys are scattered throughout the living room just waiting to break someone’s ankle. My wife and I collapse on the couch, avoiding eye contact and avoiding volunteering to clean the kitchen. I could keep going but you get the picture.

Frustration is the difference between these two scenarios.

It's quite an elaborate illustration, I know. But I’m trying to paint the picture of what our expectations can be like versus what life is actually like. Antonio Banderas says it best: “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.”

The fact of the matter is this: In life, we often have expectations that go unmet, and we’re often frustrated because of it. But we don’t HAVE to be.

What can you do? Let your observation take precedence over your expectation.

In other words, go with the flow.

Image from iStock.

Some would say to not have any expectations at all. But I wouldn’t go that far. I think healthy, realistic expectations that are communicated are good to have. They’re something to reach for.

But when you come into a situation and your expectations aren’t met, let your observation take the lead. Discard your expectation in the moment and deal with the reality at hand.

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

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