James and Connie were approaching their first anniversary. They had been so much in love! After an eight-month engagement their church wedding had been like a dream. They thought they knew each other exceptionally well, and looked forward to a bright future.
But it was only a few weeks into their marriage when things started unraveling. Connie divided her time between volunteering at an after-school children’s program and making their house into a home. James worked irregular hours at the shipping department of a major local company, and often came home tired. One day he came home earlier than usual, and Connie wasn’t there. When she arrived about an hour later the fight began.
“Where were you this afternoon?” James asked.
“We had three new children at the center today, and I spent some extra time getting them settled. I’m sorry I’m late,” Connie responded.
“Why didn’t you call and tell me you were going to be late?”
“Why didn’t you call and tell me you were coming home early?”
“You know I work irregular hours. But I expect you to be here when I come home!”
“You said you wanted me involved, and you were glad I volunteered at the children’s center. Why are you being so possessive?”
Their voices got louder and louder. And the accusations started. The fight ended in James taking a long drive, alone. Connie was in bed when he got home.
The next time there was a fight Connie went into the bedroom and cried. And James spent the evening watching TV. It wasn’t long before they were spending more time trying to avoid each other than enjoying each other’s company.
And today, Connie told her friend at the children’s center, “I’m sorry I got married!”
There are many things that go into making a marriage successful. Two of the most important ones: managing expectations and handling conflict. We’ll talk about handling conflict in the next post.
Each person comes to marriage with different expectations of what life will be like. Connie expected James to be the primary breadwinner, and to take care of the major decisions about the house. She expected him to read the Bible to her and pray with her daily, and to make life interesting. When James left early without praying with her, and was too tired to do so later, she felt disappointed. When he was unhappy or confused she saw him as weak and unworthy of respect.
James expected Connie to keep a nice home for him, and to make him happy. He expected her to be sympathetic and understanding when he had a bad day, to be a loving companion, and to keep him from being lonely. When Connie was moody or anxious he felt she was letting him down. He saw her as demanding more from him than he was able to give, and he felt he could never satisfy her.
Your expectations of marriage ARE different than your spouse’s. Even if you communicate well before getting married, the realities of life together WILL challenge those expectations.
And you WILL be disappointed.
I don’t mean you have to be disappointed in your spouse. But something, or more likely many things, about marriage will be different than you expected.
I’m not sure pre-marriage counseling is often very effective: two people madly in love have a very hard time seeing things clearly. But if post-marriage counseling could be mandatory, dealing with frustrated expectations would be the number one topic.
If you are disappointed in marriage, start with this:
- What do you expect from your marriage? Be honest. What did you think life with your spouse would be like? Write down some expectations. Ask your spouse to do the same, if possible.
- Where are you disappointed in marriage? What about your expectations is not being met? Where do you get that sinking feeling that, “Oh No! I’m stuck with this?”
- What do you want or need from your spouse NOW? Not all expectations can be met. But realistically think about what your spouse could give you now that would help.
No other human being can meet all your expectations. Only God can be everything! But in a healthy marriage, both partners get many of their needs met a majority of the time. Be specific about what you want. And ask, respectfully.
And then allow your spouse to ask YOU for what they want also. Do all you can to fulfill their needs and expectations.
Being honest with yourself and with your spouse about your expectations is a must for a healthy marriage. If you haven’t talked about it before, start now!
Your turn: Where have you found your expectations disappointed in marriage? Have you talked about that together? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
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