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
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 Habits/Styles -
Diet - 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) -
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
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 expectations (perhaps even a demanding spirit). What
happens now if he gets home and Diane 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-follower's
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
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
"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!"
Cindy and Steve Wright
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