A woman marries a man expecting he will change, but he doesn't.
A man marries a woman expecting that she won't change, but she does.
Often our expectations about love and marriage begin when we are young. There are subtle, buried hopes and dreams within everyone. We may unconsciously hope our spouse will heal our childhood hurts and unmet needs and magically create a perfect marriage. After all, that happened in Cinderella!
We all want an amazing mate to grow old with. And many of us wait for years searching for just the right person. But imaginary fantasies about what your spouse should or shouldn’t be can be harmful. It might be unrealistic for your spouse to understand all your emotions, give you a nightly massage or enjoy your favorite hobby. Our beliefs range from how often we’ll make love, to hoping we will be filled up with happiness and never be alone. The greater the expectation the greater the disappointment we can suffer.
When we expect too much of our spouse or hold them up to an ideal standard we are creating undue stress and pressure on the relationship that God never intended. Your mate will not always meet your needs. We must learn to tolerate disappointment without leaving the relationship, blaming our spouse or acting out. You can’t remake your spouse into someone you want them to be. Love them for who they are right now. People have patterns since childhood and their flaws go with them.
The Bible makes it clear that God is our primary source for all our needs. He is the one we cry out to when we are scared, sad, or disappointed. He does use our spouse to comfort us and meet some of our needs. However, he also uses other people such as our same sex friends. And sometimes God wants us to grow and learn to manage our discomfort on our own. Maybe we have things in our heart that we need to let go of or childish demands that really need to be refined internally.
Differences aren’t the problem in marriage, irreconcilable expectations are. Uncover and identify your hidden expectations about your marriage. Discuss them as a way of getting to know each other more deeply, using assertive speaking and empathetic listening to understand the feelings beneath the expectation or desire.
Ask God to help you see what the specific expectations you have deep in your heart are for your spouse. Then take each one and ask God if that particular expectation is right for the relationship to promote closeness and connectedness between the two of you.
Terri Haley, MFT
When looking deeply, what expectations do you hold of your spouse?
Where did these expectations come from?
Was it fun to identify and discuss them openly?
What are your thoughts and comments?