DeVon Franklin isn’t afraid to admit that his nine-year marriage with Meagan Good involves a lot of hard work.
The author and super-producer chatted with ET’s Nischelle Turner about his new book, Live Free: Exceed Your Highest Expectations, where he discussed the finer points of his latest work. As Franklin explained it, Live Free provides readers with tips and tools on navigating the unexpected and empowers them to set expectations for themselves. “Because if you do not set your expectations, you do not set yourself up for success,” he said.
A perfect example of when you should set your expectations? Your marriage! Franklin recalled a situation early in his marriage to Good where he was going off of the “unspoken expectation” that the actress would cook for him. The book details how Good had one good baked chicken recipe that she frequently made for the producer. The problem occurred when Good returned from working on a show in New York after six months and no longer cooked that baked chicken for Franklin.
“Every day I come home from work, I’m going to microwave, I ain’t smell nothing,” Franklin recalled. “I had an unspoken expectation and then I treated her as if it was spoken.”
When the tension finally became too much for the couple and Franklin revealed his anger, Good explained that she could “feel the weight” of her husband’s expectation, which turned a task she did out of love into something joyless.
According to Franklin, Live Free details ways for couples to communicate their expectations and set realistic expectations for everyone involved in the relationship. “You set your expectations by control and by communication. If something is out of your control, I’d argue it’s unrealistic to expect,” he said. “A lot of time, who are we trying to control? Everybody else.”
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The producer acknowledged that communication is hard in relationships, noting that therapists are great for helping people learn how to express what they need from each other. “And not just individually — like collectively,” he added, explaining that he and Good see a therapist as a couple as well as individually. It’s a choice largely inspired by one of Franklin’s mentors, Will Smith.
“Will has been a mentor and a friend, and has been very helpful to me in terms of helping me do the work that I need to do as a man — to be a better man, to be a better husband and getting that work and getting that therapy,” he shared. “And so, I do think it’s important because then, to me, when both people are doing their work, they have more to bring.”
Will and wife Jada Pinkett Smith have been married for almost 24 years, and both have been remarkably open about the struggles and the triumphs of their union over the years. In a June 2019 episode of Jada’s Red Table Talk web series, the actress admitted that expectations drilled into her mind by society and people closest to her placed a strain on the couple’s relationship.
“[I was told] you have to be a perfect wife, you have to be that source that supports his dream, no matter what it is,” she said. “Whatever he wants to build, you’re there to support that. Our whole life looked like his dream.”
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She added that they managed to rebuild and recreate their marriage by redefining how they saw their relationship, as well as respecting and valuing each other’s autonomy and ambitions. Will echoed those sentiments in a past Instagram Story video in which he talks about “retiring” from trying to make his wife happy.
“We realized is that we were two completely separate people on two completely separate individual journeys and that we were choosing to walk our separate journeys together. Her happiness was her responsibility and my happiness was my responsibility,” he said. “We decided that we were going to find our individual, internal private separate joy and then we were going to present ourselves to the relationship and to each other already happy. Not coming to each other begging with our empty cups out, demanding that she fill my cup and demanding that she meet my needs. It’s unfair and it’s kind of unrealistic and can be destructive to place the responsibility for your happiness on anybody other than yourself.”
Franklin has a similar philosophy and hopes that Live Free will inspire his readers to do the work, individually and collectively.
“A lot of times we’re not reacting to reality, we’re reacting to our expectation of reality. So if something exceeds our expectations, we’re happy. If something doesn’t, we’re devastated,” he said. “So I wanted to write this book to really give readers the tools to set realistic expectations for themselves.”
He went on to add: “In my experience, so many people are not living free. They’re not living their truth, they’re not living their purpose, they’re living for everyone else’s expectations. And then I had this question that I had to ask myself. What if I got to the end of my life and I realized I did what was expected, but not what was destined? And I couldn’t live with that. I didn’t want anybody else to have to live with that. So living free is when you decide how you want to feel. And you don’t give that power to any situation or any person.”
Live Free: Exceed Your Highest Expectations was released on May 4 and is currently available to purchase.
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