Expectations are so basic that we often don’t even recognize them. Yet they influence our behavior every day—how we treat people, how we react to different situations. This is especially true for those who have been previously married.
Each of us brings a certain set of expectations, a mental picture of how we will live and behave and interact, into a marriage. These expectations range from the routine to the profound—from dividing household responsibilities to determining who will take spiritual leadership in the home.
Expectations for Those Previously Married
Many of these expectations are not necessarily good or bad. It’s just that your expectations may differ from those of your fiancé. The challenge for most engaged couples is identifying some of the expectations that may later lead to conflict in their relationship.
For example, H. Norman Wright notes in his book, Communication: Key to Your Marriage, that:
Too many couples enter marriage blinded by unrealistic expectations. They believe the relationship should be characterized by a high level of continuous romantic love. As one young adult said, “I wanted marriage to fulfill all my desires. I needed security, someone to take care of me, intellectual stimulation, and economic security immediately—but it just wasn’t like that!”
People are looking for something “magical” to happen in marriage. But magic doesn’t make a marriage work: hard work does.
Buried expectations can poison a relationship. Unresolved expectations often lead to demands. And demands lead to manipulation. One partner maneuvers the other to meet the expectation while the other tries to avoid it. Inevitably, this leads to isolation in marriage with two partners playing absurd but dangerous games in an attempt to establish control.
While many of your own expectations about marriage, will inevitably remain buried until after you are married, there is great value in discussing some of them now. In the process you should learn how to deal with differing expectations so they will not cause disappointment and disillusionment in your relationship.
As you begin to identify and discuss your expectations, Philippians 2:3-4 provides a principle that should govern your attitudes:
Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
Complete the following statement:
- When one of my expectations is not met, I should…
The Christian life is ultimately “other” focused, not “me” focused. The aim of our lives is to meet the needs of others. This means our expectations, many of which are legitimate, must often be put aside for the needs of others. This is what Christ called “dying to self.”
1. Review each category below and ask yourself this question: What unique expectations might I be holding on to from my previous marriage that I haven’t yet discussed? Or to put it another way: What are areas of this marriage that I’m expecting to be different from my previous one?
Children and Parenting:
2. If your fiancé needs to contact his or her former spouse (due to finances, business, in-laws, children, etc.) how do you want that to be handled?
CHILDREN (If applicable):
1. What kind of relationship do you expect your new spouse to have with your children?
2. What kind relationship do you expect to have with your spouse’s children?
3. How will you handle the children’s need to see your former in-laws —their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins?
4. What guidelines need to be developed in disciplining the children?
5. How will you handle disagreements with former spouses about how to raise the children?
6. What are the financial burdens involved in raising the children? How will these be handled?
7. Will you have additional children? When? How many?
The above article/discussion questions come from the VERY helpful workbook, Preparing for Marriage: Discover God’s Plan for a Lifetime of Love, written by David Boehi, Brent Nelson, Jeff Schulte, and Lloyd Shadrach, with Dennis Rainey as the General Editor, published by Gospel Light.
There was a lot more to the chapter on this subject than we weren’t able to include in this article/ questionnaire. They had additional text as well as an extensive “Great Expectation Survey” which contained several pages of very important questions that couples would greatly benefit from filling out and discussing with their intended mate. But we wanted to show this part of the workbook because of the uniqueness of it. It’s difficult to find workbooks that are geared to ask questions to those who have previously been married. This workbook has questions for both those who have never been married before as well as those who have.