Have you ever bought something online that you were so excited about, but when it finally arrived, it looked nothing like the photo? The description read “high quality denim” but the product ended up with more loose ends than your mum’s famous spaghetti.
There’s a popular saying, “disappointment sets in when expectations aren’t met” and this applies to marriage.
Sometimes we can experience disappointment or frustration within marriage – or any relationship – simply because our expectations are out of order. They can be unrealistic, distorted or even downright unreasonable. At least, that has been my experience.
In the early days of my marriage, I would find myself frustrated at Ben, not because he was doing something wrong, but because he was simply just not doing what I expected him to do. In the area of romance and marriage it’s so important we take a step back and bridge this expectation gap.
Here are four tips that will help you (and me) do just that in our relationships.
1. Identify your expectations and get rid of the wrong ones
Author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, Peter Scazzero puts it like this, “Unmet and unclear expectations create havoc”.
We expect other people to know what we want before we say it, especially if they are invested in the relationship. The problem with most expectations is they are:
- Unconscious – we have expectations we’re not even aware of until someone disappoints us.
- Unrealistic – we may have illusions about others. For example, we think, a spouse, a friend, or a pastor will be available at all times to meet our needs.
- Unspoken – we may haven’t told our spouse what we expect, yet we are angry when our expectations are not met.
- Un-agreed upon – we may have had our own thoughts about what was expected, but it was never agreed upon by the other person.
Instead, try making your expectations:
- Conscious – become aware of your expectations.
- Realistic – is what I am requiring of the other person even possible?
- Spoken – have I been clear, direct and respectful about communicating my expectations?
- Agreed upon – expectations are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon.
So often, we don’t even know what we want from our partner or spouse, but still hold them to it, even if subconsciously.
Take some time to think about what you’re actually desiring from your spouse. Ladies, do you expect flowers or gifts on significant occasions? Are words of affirmation your primary love language? Men, do you expect your wife to be solely responsible for managing the house, keeping it clean and cooking dinner every night? How does your worldview and opinion on gender roles and family dynamics influence your interactions?
Some of your expectation may be valid, but others may be setting the bar far too high for any person to reach. Talking about your expectations and agreeing on them together is key!
2. Recognise the fundamental purpose of marriage
Marriage is a beautiful thing, but we need to recognise the purpose of it isn’t just for us, but for others.
When the Bible speaks of love, it measures it primarily not by how much you want to receive, but by how much you are willing to give of yourself to someone.
Timothy Keller said in his book The Meaning of Marriage, “The purpose of marriage was to create a framework for lifelong devotion and love between a husband and wife. It was a solemn bond, designed to help each party subordinate individuals and interested in favour of the relationship, to be a sacrament of God’s love and serve the common good. Protestants understood marriage to be given by God not merely to Christians but to benefit the community”.
What’s your view of marriage based on? Is it Biblical? Is it healthy? Are you experiencing disappointment in your marriage simply because you’re expecting marriage to be something it’s not actually designed to be?
3. Realise that marriage takes energy and effort
There’s a saying that I put in virtually every wedding card I write: “Almost no one is foolish enough to imagine that he automatically deserves great success in any field of activity; yet almost everyone believes that he automatically deserves success in marriage,” – Sydney J. Harris.
Marriage isn’t easy, but anything worth it, usually isn’t. Marriage takes work, but it is 100 per cent worth it.
As 1 Corinthians 13:4 says, “Love is large and incredibly patient. Love is gentle and consistently kind to all. It refuses to be jealous when blessing comes to someone else. Love does not brag about one’s achievements nor inflate its own importance. Love does not traffic in shame and disrespect, nor selfishly seek its own honour. Love is not easily irritated or quick to take offense. Love joyfully celebrates honesty and finds no delight in what is wrong. Love is a safe place of shelter, for it never stops believing the best for others. Love never takes failure as defeat, for it never gives up. Love never stops loving. It extends beyond the gift of prophecy, which eventually fades away. It is more enduring than tongues, which will one day fall silent. Love remains long after words of knowledge are forgotten”.
4. Stop comparing
Far too often we compare our spouse or our marriage to what we see on TV or social media.
Honestly, if you want to be happy, stop that (let me say that again, stop that). Comparison is a curse, and it will cripple you. It will steal your joy and rob your marriage of strength and dignity. Nobodies’ marriage is perfect. No couple lives in marital bliss 24/7.
The problem is we often only see the personas of others, but we experience our spouse up close and personally.
Things always look better with a filter. I love the way Steven Furtick puts it, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel”.
Appearances aren’t always what they seem. So many “perfect couples” end up breaking up. Look no further than Hollywood.
Forget about presenting an image, create a marriage that is healthy on the inside, that’s better in real life than on Instagram. Stop comparing and complaining and start loving the person right in front of you. You marriage, is largely what you choose to make it.
Article supplied with thanks to Sabrina Peters.
About the Author: Sabrina is a writer, pastor and relationships blogger. She is passionate about Jesus and changing the way people think about God & sex.
Feature image: Photo by Carly Rae Hobbins on Unsplash