If we’re completely honest, we all came into our marriages with unrealistic expectations, which eventually took us by surprise. Even though this can be both disappointing and frustrating, we don’t have to continually live that way.
To help us work through these issues, in this Marriage Message, we’re providing some practical advice, which we found in the book, “Marriage— Clues for the Clueless,” published by Barbour Publishing. Please prayerfully consider the following:
FOUR PROFOUND LAWS ABOUT EXPECTATIONS:
1. We ALL have them about EVERYTHING (from books to movies, from holidays to how we spend our days off).
2. The degree to which reality fails to measure up to our expectations is the degree to which we will feel disappointed.
3. Repeated disappointments may lead to disenchantment, despair, or even disgust.
4. These first three laws are especially at work in marriage.
A few of the main areas about which married couples have expectations:
• Intimate Issues • Spending Patterns • Holidays • Time with Family • Vacations • Exercise • Use of Free Time • Communication • Diet • Habits/Styles • Hobbies • Shopping • Clothes • Sleep Habits • Pets • Time Apart • Socializing • Children (how many, discipline, etc.) • Decorating • Finances (giving, saving, investing) • Roles (as a husband or wife) • Entertainment
Are any of these areas ones that you’ve had conflicts over? Well, marital expectations are generally subconscious and seldom verbalized, so that, for example, HE comes into the marriage “assuming” that the husband and wife go to bed together at 10 o’clock. (After all, this is what his mother and father did.)
Meanwhile SHE is envisioning that they will stay up late and if she isn’t tired at the same time he is, she can stay up later. (Because this is what was modeled for her as she was growing up.) Do you see the potential for disappointment or conflict?
What can couples do to minimize the disappointment?
1. Talk about your expectations. The ideal time to clarify expectations is before marriage. It’s really helpful to know (prior to saying, “I do”) that, while your heart is set on five or six kids, your beloved is expecting maybe one (& only if that one can come with a low-maintenance guarantee.)
However, every couple (even after the wedding) is wise to make a list like the one above and work through it together. And that leads to the next important step.
2. Compromise. If SHE wants to hang the giant cat picture over the living room sofa, but HE was expecting many motif-like heads of slain animals, clearly both sides need to give a little. Stubbornness will get you nowhere. Well, actually, it will get you lots of places… they’re just not places a couple needs to go.
3. Do away with unrealistic expectations. If you’re both schoolteachers (and thus, like all educators, vastly underpaid) it’s probably not realistic to expect that you and your spouse will be able to spend each summer at your own private villa overlooking the Mediterranean. Be a bit more reasonable. Lower your sights a tad. If you’re really careful and creative, you might be able to afford an annual camping trip to some national park.
4. Learn the difference between hoping for something and demanding something. Example: While at the office Dave catches a whiff of perfume. Somehow (and scientists are not sure how this happens since this is such a rare phenomenon among men) this scent causes Dave to envision an intimate evening with his wife Dianne.
As he mulls over the prospect in his mind, he moves subtly from, “Man, that sure would be romantic!” to “By golly, I’m going for it tonight!” Now Dave has an expectation (perhaps even a demanding spirit). What happens now if he gets home and Dianne has a headache?
5. Learn the art of contentment. Be appreciative for what you’ve got. Develop an attitude of gratitude. Those with long “wish lists” tend to be the unhappiest people.
The Apostle Paul gives us the picture of what a Christ-followers attitude should be in Philippians 4:11-12 where he says, “For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”
6. Be accepting. Romans 15:7 encourages us to accept one another, just as Christ has accepted us. It’s wise to apply this principle when discussing expectations with your spouse. Yeah, his expectation of “no leftovers ever” is a bit extreme. But so is your expectation that he never be a minute late anywhere.
Now would be a good time begin the process of looking at areas in your marriage, where you’ve encountered conflict (tackling them one by one), to find ways to work as a determined team THROUGH these issues to arrive at a more peaceful compromise. Proverbs 24:32 says, “I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw.”
Keep in mind that it’s not just what you’ve lived through, but what you’ve “learned through” that is important. We challenge you to apply what was presented above to build relationship bridges, rather than the growing walls of contention you’ve lived with in the past. Prayerfully do this with the Holy Spirit as your Wonderful Counselor, and like us, you will stand amazed!
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! (Romans 15:5-6)
Cindy and Steve Wright
Also, another article, which may help you deal with expectations in marriage, is written by Paul Byerly, posted on The-generous-husband.com web site. To learn more, please read:
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