Loving relationships are not easy. Marriages always will be tested, and it is in the testing that the cement of the heart is found to be true. However- even the strongest rock will erode over time when subjected to a continuous drip. Likewise, love may be more prone to diminish with ongoing and unabated criticism, and judgments. When a standard of expectation is not met, the result can be disappointment, mistrust, disillusionment, and a feeling of frustration. Fingers get pointed, and hurtful words are exchanged in a battle of language that is baggage ridden and emotionally toxic. All too often expectations are not communicated beforehand- it is assumed that the other person “should already know” the rules of engagement. “If you really loved me you would [insert option]…”. This kind of interaction is not only unreasonable, but scripturally unsound. “Do not place a stumbling block before the blind..” could be interpreted as “do not assume that another person will be able to read your mind, and respond to all of your unvocalized needs and desires”. To leave another person guessing about what you are all about is just like that- he or she is doomed to trip and fall over what could not possibly be seen. Furthermore, assuming the worst about the motives/intentions of another is guaranteed to bring out the worst of behaviour- for “as a man/woman thinks, so is he/she”. We rise (or sink) to the level of others expectations. But why are we so quick to judge others? Is it because we fear our own fallibility? Is it because our imperfection symbolizes an inherent lack of worth- or worse, a loss of love and dignity? Or is it a matter of control? Our insecurity is like a warpy mirror, magnifying and distorting our perceptions of who we are- and thus how ‘others’ ought to relate to us. To illustrate: if I am operating on the assumption that a ‘loving husband’ is one that always shows up on time for dinner properly bedecked with flowers and chocolate, then I will interpret the routine tardiness of my beloved as proof that love has waned. My assumption will kick in and blind me before I get a chance to find out that his lateness is unintended- perhaps he might be stuck in traffic, or held up because a good friend needed support in a time of crisis. When we entertain unspoken expectations about others, we put invisible fences around them- fences that they are guaranteed to breach. In a self-righteous state of ‘slightedness’, we then nurse our wounds and imagine things that are as far from reality as Oz. In the very heat of discord, we unearth those secret judgments and hurl them at each other. And like a bag of feathers caught in the wind, rash words become difficult if not impossible to retrieve. We need to communicate in ways that ensure we both hear, and are heard. We need to listen as carefully as we want to be listened to, in an atmosphere of mutual regard and respect. Different does not mean “inferior”. Long lasting, loving relationships are built not on mercurial emotions, but upon commitment, upon covenant, and upon “preferring one another in love”. There are times to stand firm, but many more times to bend together. Children, as always, say it best. When a 4 year old was asked to give his thoughts about love, he said that he knew he was loved when his “name was safe in the mouth of another”. May we be as careful with the ones we love.