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.

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.

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Brian Olesen never imagined he would end up homeless.

The former U.S. Air Force medic had led a full and active life, complete with a long career in the medical field, a 20-year marriage, and a love of anything aquatic. But after hip surgery and chronic back pain left him disabled in 2013, he lost his ability to work. Due to changes in eligibility requirements, he couldn't qualify for federal veteran housing programs. His back issues were difficult to prove medically, so he didn't qualify for disability. Though he'd worked his whole life, having no income for five years took its toll. He got evicted from a couple of apartments and found himself living on the streets.

But in 2018, two things completely turned Olesen's life around. He was able to both qualify for disability and to move into an affordable housing community in Miami's Goulds neighborhood called Karis Village.

When people think of affordable housing, they don't usually picture a place like Karis Village. The 88-unit development is brand new, and built with an attention to design that is not always expected for developments that serve as home to people on limited incomes. The apartments have tile floors, marble countertops, and all new appliances and furniture, and the grounds are beautiful and well-kept, with a playground and common areas for residents to gather.

Brian Olesen in his kitchen at Karis VillageCapital One

Karis Village isn't just a housing development; it's a home and a community. Half of the units are set aside for veterans who have experienced homelessness, like Olesen. The other half are largely occupied by single-parent families.

"To me, this building was just a gift," says Olesen. "All of the different parties that got together to put this building together… making half the building available to veterans. We've got no place to go."

Addressing veteran homelessness was one of the goals of Karis Village, which was built through a partnership that included Carrfour Supportive Housing — a mission-driven, not-for-profit affordable housing organization in southern Florida — and Capital One's Community Finance team. More than just an affordable place to live, the community has full-time staff on hand to help coordinate services—from addiction recovery programs to transportation options to job search and placement. Also included are peer counselors who provide emotional and psychological support for residents.

Karis Village, an affordable housing community in Miami, Florida.Capital One

Carrfour President and CEO Stephanie Berman says the core function of the services team on site is to build a supportive community.

"Often when you think of folks leaving homelessness and coming into housing, you think of shelters or some kind of traditional housing," she says. "You don't really think about a community, and that's really what we build and what we operate. What we're really striving to create is community. We find that our families thrive when you create a sense of community."

The intention to create a supportive community at Karis Village was a priority from the get go. Fabian Ramirez, a Capital Officer on Capital One's Community Finance team, says the bank did a listening tour in southern Florida to explore community development and affordable housing options in the area and to hear what was most needed. After deciding to partner with Carrfour, the bank provided not only an $8 million construction loan and a $25 million low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) investment to help build Karis Village, but it also kicked in a $250,000 social purpose grant to help fund the social support services that would be put in place for residents.

"It's not just all about providing the brick and mortar," says Ramirez. "It's about being able to contribute to the sustainability of the development and of the lives of the people who move into the building."


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Olesen says he and his fellow residents benefit greatly from the network of support services offered in the building. He says a counselor comes to meet with him once a month, sometimes right in his apartment. He also gets help maintaining a connection with the Veteran Affairs office. Other services include social workers and counselors for drug addiction and alcoholism.

Olesen loves being around other veterans, and he says hearing the sound of children playing keeps the community lively. He says anywhere else he could afford to live on disability wouldn't be nearly as nice and would likely involve shared kitchens and bathrooms and neighborhoods you wouldn't want to go out in at night.

If it weren't for Karis Village, Olesen says he doesn't know where he would be today: "I had nowhere to go and this is a safe, beautiful place to spend my retirement."

"I don't think they could have done a much better job of putting this place together and supplying us with what we need," he says. "I have so much appreciation for the ability to have a place to live. And then you add to that that it's beautiful and completely furnished and you didn't need to bring anything—I don't know what more you could ask for."

Karis Village and another development for veterans built the same year enabled the neighborhood of Goulds to meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to declare an end to veteran homelessness in the area.

Ending veteran homelessness altogether is a complex task, but communities like Karis Village show how it can be done—and done well. When government agencies, non-profit organizations, and corporate funding programs come together to solve big problems, big solutions can be built and maintained.

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