I didn’t get married until my thirties. I was the girl who got lost in fairytales as a child and grew up with an emblazoned picture in my mind of what my marriage would look like. I imagined a slightly demure pursuit like the one between Edward Ferrars and Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, mixed with a little bit of the passion and drama of Wuthering Heights. In the end I hoped we would get along like Ma and Pa Wilder from Little House on the Prairie, walking off into the sunset at the end of our lives.
I know —not exactly a realistic picture of marriage. In many ways I had entirely unreasonable expectations for my poor husband to live up to. An expectation is, a strong belief that something will happen; the feeling, anticipation, or expectation in the prospects for the future.
I believe all of us, if we’re honest, come to the table with expectations of what our marriage will be, what it will notbe (usually based on our childhood), along with hopes for what our spouse will heal, fix, fill, or complete in us.
- It will be easy to transition from single to married.
- I’ll never be lonely again.
- I won’t be bored anymore.
- We’ll never argue.
- He’ll change after we’re married, in the ways I want him to.
- He’ll know how I feel and what I want; I shouldn’t need to tell him.
- He’ll do chores the way I want them done.
- Sex will always be great.
Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, says, We have to stop asking of marriage what God never designed it to give — perfect happiness, conflict-free living, and idolatrous obsession. Instead,he says, we can appreciate what God designed marriage to provide: partnership, spiritual intimacy and the ability to pursue God — together.
If you are waiting on someone else to make your life meaningful and happy, you will almost certainly be gravely disappointed, says Todd Clements and Kim Beair, authors of First Comes Love, Then What? When you learn how to be truly happy alone, you’ll begin to be the most successful in every relationship.
Every marriage is made up of broken individuals living in a broken world. Yet if we allow Him, God will use our marriage as the canvas to heal us, teach us, and transform us as individuals.
The truth is:
- Getting married is a big Change. It takes time to adjust to your new roles and to each other.
- One person cannot satisfy all your needs for companionship. Maintain friendships with others.
- You are responsible for keeping yourself entertained and interesting. It’s not your partner’s job.
- Conflicts occur in close relationships. You can learn to manage them well.
- “What you see is what you get.” Don’t expect your spouse to change basic character traits or habits.
- They can’t read your mind. If you want your partner to know something, you should to tell them.
- It’s better to give and receive graciously than to get all even-Steven about what’s “fair.”
- Your spouse’s standards and ways are likely to be different from yours. This is okay. Accepting our differences is a part of building a healthy, cooperative partnership.
- Sex should often be great but not every single time. Good communication helps here too.
If you identified with any of the beliefs at the beginning of this article, you most likely hold some unrealistic expectations for your marriage. You’re not alone —such beliefs are widespread. In my clinical practice I see the damage unrealistic and unhealthy expectations can create in marriages, yet I also see the powerful transformation that occurs when spouses learn to free each other, accept each other, and actually enjoy their differences.
Psalm 62:5 (NKJV) tells us, My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him.
If you struggle with knowing how to create healthy expectations, I’ve created two of my best resources for couples, including a Marriage Expectation Worksheetas well as a Marriage Health Quiz to help you assess the health of your relationship and learn to develop healthy expectations for each other. They are FREEwhen you subscribe to my weekly newsletter and will empower and equip you to discover the spiritual, emotional, and relational healing and wellbeing you’ve always desired!
Here are four things you can do to develop healthy expectations for your marriage that will bring you the connection and intimacy God has designed for you.
1. Acknowledge that you have expectations.
Individuals who either refuse to abandon their laundry list of unmet expectations or who have never allowed themselves to hold any in their relationships find themselves disconnected from a key stabilizing force that, if used properly, can yield tremendous joy and intimacy.
We cannot change what we cannot acknowledge. Whether realistic or unrealistic, we each carry expectations for the marriage and for our spouse. In reality, not all expectations are bad or unhealthy, yet acknowledging their power can determine the stability, contentment, and satisfaction in our marriages.
2. Discover and clarify what your expectations are.
Do a personal inventory. What do you personally expect in the various areas of your marriage? Do you have expectations for roles and responsibilities; expectations for respect? What about how you will communicate or resolve conflict? What are your expectations surrounding work, parenting, sex, faith, or finances?
Since each of us comes from different backgrounds and home environments, we cannot assume that we are automatically going to be on the same page as our spouse, even though we love them deeply. To discover and clarify your personal expectations will help you take the next step and…
3. Share your expectations with your spouse.
I encourage you to get the Marriage Expectation Worksheet to help you and your partner work through each step in discovering, then sharing your expectations for each other, as well as your expectations for yourselves. Many individuals like defining what they want their spouse to do for them, but some are reluctant to look within themselves and hold themselves accountable in their relationship.
Share your heart for the other with the other. Don’t expect them to be a mind-reader, tell them what you desire from them. Be kind. Listen to each other. Determine if what your mate is asking is realistic or unrealistic. This will help you…
4. Create mutual, realistic expectations together.
When expectations get cut to the floor, it creates space for us to pick them up and rebuild them with greater determination. Discovering new, more realistic expectations can reenergize your marriage and reignite intimacy.
Pray together. If one thing doesn’t work for you and your spouse, have another conversation and try something else. If both parties are working towards a solution, and putting in the effort, expectations meeting reality is not a hard goal to achieve.
Marriage is a beautiful, complex gift from God. Yes, there are hard times. There will always be growing pains, tension, and irritation, but God knows that it takes growing pains to grow.
Don’t run from the pain, don’t avoid the discomfort. God wants to build and create something in your marriage that will be a shining light in a world of darkness, something that will breathe healing and hope into the lives around you —something that will make His name famous.
And isn’t that what marriage is all about anyway?
I’ve included my two best marriage resources – my Healthy Expectations Worksheet and my Marriage Health Quiz for FREE when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. Discover the spiritual + emotional + relational wellbeing and abundance God has for you! Get Yours Now!!
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About This Community
Don’t we all want a little peace? My heart for this community is to provide just that – a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships. Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!
About Peace for a Lifetime
In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I’ve discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!
Peace for a Lifetime is available on Amazon.com.
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