One of the great relationship destroyers is that of unrealistic expectations. Expecting something out of the relationship that the other is either ignorant of, unwilling to provide, or simply unable to provide. Frustration and anger is the result. This article deals with differing expectations and how to deal with them. Everyone has expectations. I met a guy once who argued that point. He told me that he had no expectations in life. I challenged him with, “You go to school right? If you answer all the questions on a test, do you expect the professor to give you an A?” He was quiet for a moment, and then sighed. “Well,” he muttered, “I guess I do.” He did. He does. And so do you. Everyone has expectations of things. In marriage, we enter it expecting certain things. No one looks at someone else and says, “If I marry you, I’ll be so utterly miserable that I’ll want to quit on everything. Will you marry me?” No we expect things. We expect our mate to be faithful to us. We expect our spouse to love us. We expect our friends to back us up. We expect things from the government, from our boss, from our coworkers, and from life itself. We are full of expectations.
SOURCES OF OUR EXPECTATIONS
1. From our own desires. From things we want, or like to have. 2. From what we think we deserve. Even the Declaration of Independence says we deserve some things. Most people think this way too. 3. From what we are used to. We all grow up differently. But we all grow up a certain way. That ‘way’ becomes familiar, and normal. We come to expect that. 4. From observation of potential. Gambling is an example of this. Casinos feed this expectation. You know that the odds are against you, but you know there is a potential that you can win. You see others winning. So you play expecting to eventually win. But on a more practical note, you observe a friend’s generosity, and you come to expect the same level of giving in the future.
DANGERS OF DIFFERING EXPECTATIONS
See if this common scenario sounds familiar: She is a clean freak. Her mother was a clean freak. She grew up with everything in its spot, in its proper location. She can’t abide untidiness. But he grew up in a rather sloppy environment. It wasn’t filthy, but clutter was the norm. They get married. Not too long after the honeymoon, a common scene can be witnessed at their house. He comes home after work, dumps his shoes in the hallway, tosses his jacket on the back of the couch, plops down on a chair, opens the mail, and then leaves all of it on the end table. Not too many months later, she’s fit to be tied. She’s nagging him, yelling at him, calling him a slob, a pig, and so forth. The problem: their expectations don’t match. If she is a 10 and he is a 1 they’ve got a huge problem. This disparity in expectations will only drive her crazy. He’ll feel pressured, and begin to wonder what he got himself into. A little clutter, in his opinion, is no big deal. So why is she making it so? He loses his sensitivity, and before long neither can say a civil word to each other.
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT? – MARRIAGE QUESTIONNAIRE
Everyone has expectations in their marriage. When those expectations (wants/goals/values) are openly verbalized, spouses can better understand and care for each other. When expectations are unspoken, unknown, or hidden—trouble is just waiting to happen. These kinds of expectations are a ticking time bomb in a marriage, eventually leading to resentment, heartache and sometimes divorce. When both spouses expect to have dinner together each night, they make it happen as much as possible and enjoy their time together. When one spouse expects dinner each night and the other spouse expects to travel six months of the year, resentment can build both ways. The list of expectations is both endless and unique for every couple. What are yours? How well do you know what you want and value for your life and marriage? How well do you know your spouse’s expectations? How realistic or unrealistic are your expectations? Do you expect her to stay forever 21? Do you expect him to never watch football? Do you expect each other to speak respectfully and control your anger with each other? Your expectations can lead to a more loving marriage or to a resentful marriage. This questionnaire helps you to know your own expectations, wants and values in your marriage. It will also help you to better understand your spouse’s expectations. Fill out your answers separately, and then share your answers with each other. Your goal is to simply understand and listen to each other. Be as honest and practical as possible in your answers. After you write your answers, judge for yourself if they are reasonable expectations or unrealistic.
Print your own questionnaire here!
For a great summary of God’s Purpose for Marriage we recommend you read Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. You can find it at www.pointchurch.com/bookstore. You can find a book summary below, which is a good summary of God’s expectations. Happy is good. Holy is better. Marriage is more than a sacred covenant with another person. It is a spiritual discipline designed to help men and women know God better, trust him more fully, and love him more deeply. So what if God’s primary intent for marriage isn’t to make people happy . . . but to make them holy? Sacred Marriage reveals how marriage trains husbands and wives to love God and others well, how it exposes sin and makes us more aware of God’s presence, how good marriages foster good prayer, how married sex feeds the spiritual life, and more. More than just a manual to a happier relationship, Sacred Marriage challenges readers to look at marriage in a whole new way and uncover the mystery of God’s overarching purpose. Most people look to their marriage for happiness. But is that the ultimate goal of marriage? If we were to answer truthfully, we would admit that our spouses don’t make us happy all the time. Some even go as far as divorcing their spouse simply because they are no longer happy. My perspective on marriage made an about face as a result of reading Sacred Marriage – it is one I wished I would have read 15 years ago.
HERE ARE SOME OF THE MOST EYE-OPENING IDEAS I HAVE TAKEN FROM THIS BOOK: A GODLY MARRIAGE IS NOT DEPENDENT ON ROMANCE
Romance is a relatively new premise for marriage. Romantic love as the basis for marriage became the prevalent idea when poets like Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, and Keats argued that one should marry for love. But when you look at the great marriages of the Bible, most married because of commitment and then love followed. “Romantic love has no elasticity to it,” Gary Thomas proclaims. “It can never be stretched; it simply shatters. Mature love, the kind demanded of a good marriage, must stretch, as the sinful human condition is such that all of us bear conflicting emotions.” This doesn’t mean that romance has no place in a godly marriage; it is simply not the foundation of a godly marriage.
MARRIAGE CONTRIBUTES TO OUR SANCTIFICATION
I never knew how sinful I truly was until I got married. It was shocking! There was a person in my space who came face to face with my sin on a daily basis and reflected it back at me. The author says it best: “What marriage has done for me is hold up a mirror to my sin. If forces me to face myself honestly…” This spotlight on our own sin can motivate us to grow in grace. The author encourages his readers to not enter into marriage to be fulfilled, or emotionally satisfied, or romantically connected, but to become more like Jesus.
MARRIAGE IS A CONSTANT PRACTICE OF FORGIVENESS
A single friend recently asked my husband and I what the key to a successful marriage is. While my husband had his own idea, I asserted that the only way to have a successful marriage is to be willing to forgive. We are married to a sinful being who will hurt us and will sin against us – that is a given. We then have the opportunity to learn to forgive. I didn’t realize the impact at the time, but as part of our wedding vows, Brent and I said these words: “I will forgive you as Christ has forgiven me.” Those words come to my mind all the time – I promised and I have to follow through on that vow.
MARRIAGE REQUIRES PERSEVERANCE
This idea is nothing new, but one of my favorite passages from the book threw a new light on this. “One of the most poetic lines in Scripture, one that I wish every husband and wife would display in a prominent place in their home, is found in verse 5 of 2 Thessalonians 3: ‘May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.’” If I rely on my own ability to love my spouse, or depend on my own ability to persevere, I will fail. Instead, I should pray that I be directed into God’s love for my spouse and Christ’s perseverance. It is only with His strength that my marriage will find success.
ALL ASPECTS OF MARRIAGE POINT US TO OUR GREAT SAVIOR
In our marriage, we are reminded of our sin and we go to our Savior for forgiveness. In our marriage, we are sinned against and follow the example of the Savior in forgiveness. In our marriage, we face difficulties that cause us to go to our knees and seek our Savior’s help. In our marriage, we become more aware of God’s presence as he works miracles in our families. In our marriages, we learn truths about God, we learn the true meaning of love, we learn what it means to be a servant. Our marriages can be the catalyst to a deeper relationship with God.