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Marital And Family Law Perspectives

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When People Fail To Meet Your Expectations

Everyone has experienced a time when someone failed to meet his or her expectations. Remember the time you got home from a takeout place and they forgot to give you part of the order? Remember when your favorite pizza place changed ownership, so the takeout special was gone, and the food did not taste as good? Or the time your pants got a shine when the dry cleaner pressed too much heat into the fabric? And during the holiday season, there is always someone who will be disappointed when they do not get what they want as a gift, they hear gossip that hurts, a remark between family members causes offense, or someone is not included in a group celebration.

Some typical responses when there is a change for the worse or someone sorely disappoints us? Frustration, resentment, sadness, and even anger or depression. The usual outcome? Almost always it is, understandably, a bailout. You do not go back to the takeout place, you find another pizza restaurant, you will not trust the cleaners with your clothes again, or you harbor bad feelings against a co-worker, friend or family member and do not communicate with them anymore.

The same type of thing occurs in many marriages, but it has much more serious consequences. When people get married, each person likely has an expectation of a happy relationship and future as a family. They have every reason to anticipate a steady joint income, a growing savings account, a nice home that eventually gets paid off, healthy children, and fun times on vacation. If that changes due to illness, decline in market values, job loss, or other tensions in the home, one person may contemplate bailing out. Just like we have seen with our national economy, a bailout does not mean immediate relief from the problems. In fact, most couples are surprised when they find out that separations cause even more problems, especially regarding children.

In over three decades as a marital and family lawyer, I have heard just about every type of complaint people can have against each other. And in my over eighteen years as a mediator, I have heard both sides of many disputes. Never once did I hear that someone deliberately or maliciously intended to offend the other person. I do hear a lot about people not being able to get over a harsh word spoken and holding on to an offense taken. The bottom line is this: do we really want to “burn bridges” every time our feelings are hurt, or do we value relationships enough to get over the unfortunate hurt, and just treat each other like good neighbors? Which do you choose?

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