Managing Expectations

I’m leading a study at the church for married people called “iMarriage.” So far it’s very eye-opening. The first session brought up the fact that we come into marriage with a whole load of “expectations” of what we think our spouse will be like, what our marriage will be like, and what our life will be like in general. And, my friends, we all know how that typically turns out for the majority of us, right? expectations = disappointment.

As I was putting the study plan together for class, I asked my husband what expectation he brought into the marriage that quickly became something he realized was not going to be reality. Without missing a beat he looked me in the eye and said, “Sex.” Apparently he thought once we were married it would be “all sex all the time.” But not long after the wedding he had a rude awakening that this was not necessarily part of my expectations of marriage (which was more like having sex 3 times a week or so). We’ve argued over the frequency of sex often in our marriage and it wasn’t until just a few years ago that we finally came to a good place with all of that.

I, on the other hand, waltzed into marriage thinking my husband would treat me like a precious doll – he would open doors for me, insist on lifting heavy things, take care of all “icky” things like car maintenance and home repairs, etc. Being a southern girl this was what I was brought up with, so it was what I expected my marriage to be like. Needless to say, I open my own doors, take my own car in for an oil change, and I’m pretty handy around the house. Now, before you think my husband is a slouch, I assure you that if I asked him to do any of these things he would gladly do it. But, he doesn’t treat me like I “shouldn’t” do it because I’m his delicate flower, or anything like that :).

It’s totally normal to walk into any relationship with a certain amount of expectation because when you are facing an unknown, like heading into a marriage when you’ve never been married before, you walk into it assuming it will be like the marriages you’ve experienced from the outside (like your parents, your friends, TV and movie marriages). The problem isn’t the expectation – the problem is that when your spouse fails to meet that expectation (and often times our expectations are never verbalized, so they don’t even know your expectations!) you immediately express anger or disappointment in them and/or view them as someone who has let you down in some way or is now painted as “not the person you thought they were.” Then the disillusion begins and half the time your spouse is blindsided never realizing that they were doing anything wrong.

We are still early in the study and I’ll keep reflecting here on the great lessons from it. But, perhaps a good exercise for you and your spouse is to consider what expectations you have of one another. Perhaps you have had an expectation that has never been met and you’re still harboring resentment over it (and maybe your spouse still has no clue you expect this of them!). Or, maybe you don’t think you have expectations of your spouse, but your spouse feels as though you expect the world of them. What a great honest conversation this could be if you truly explore this subject!

Good luck and I hope you are still committed to praying together every day!

 

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