“Um, thanks for the anniversary gift, but where’s the rest of it?”
“It’s Sunday. Where are the bacon and eggs?”
We all enter relationships (and marriage) with expectations. Many of our expectations are buried so far back in our minds that we don’t even think about them until circumstances cause them to pop up!
“What do you mean you’re not going to the wedding with me? I can’t go alone!” “My mom went to dozens of weddings alone. It won’t hurt you!”
Assumed Expectation: My husband will always attend weddings and other social functions with me.
Expectations can also be healthy!
“Why are you texting that girl? You are married now. There should be no more texting of ex-girlfriends!”
Assumed Expectation: Faithfulness
And sometimes, expectations can also be unhealthy!
“We don’t have enough money. You have to get another job. We can’t live on $80,000 a year – we need more! I don’t care how you do it, but do what you have to in order to take care of our family!”
“We are doing just fine. So what if we can’t take two European vacations a year. We have more than enough to be comfortable!”
Assumed Expectation: My spouse will make us enough money that we can live to the standard of living my parents do – without having the thirty years of hard work and sacrifice they did!
What Are Your Expectations?
Expectations, if they are not expressed and discussed prior to marriage, can come as a shock to your new bride or groom! And, though it is unrealistic to think that you will be able to retrieve and verbalize every hidden expectation you have, it is wise to think of the more important ones and get them out in the open.
Some of my former expectations of a husband included:
- He will mow the grass
- He will hold doors open for all women, even if they are several yards behind him
- He will avidly watch televised sports.
What I got… was a man who detests yard work enough to pay someone else to do it, a man who is so forward thinking that he doesn’t look to see who is behind him, and a man who knows enough about sports to fit into a conversation about it, but sits through less than a few games every year.
Some of Eric’s expectations of a wife included:
- She will be studious
- She will keep the kitchen clean
- She will share in my life goals.
What Eric received was a woman who would rather watch a movie than read the book, a woman who struggles to keep dishes washed (because there are more exciting ways to spend my time), and a woman who is not always on board with each new idea.
Many of our expectations were dashed, but several were not. It would have been helpful, however, to know what they were before we got married! We could have saved a lot of heartache.
Expectations can Help Couples Connect!
Expectations can connect couples if they are expressed, realistic, and if both parties are willing to try to fulfill them. Realistic is the key word. ~smile~ My expectation for him to do the yard work was not a bad expectation. He fulfilled it, but not in the way I had always envisioned my husband fulfilling it. My dad always mowed the lawn. (That’s what men do, right?)
Eric’s expectation for me to keep the kitchen clean was not a bad expectation, but he married a type B (i.e., laid back) personality! So, while he still expects me to keep the kitchen clean, he no longer expects perfection.
Understanding each other’s personalities has helped Eric and me modify our expectations. Sure, I would love it if Eric approached life with more Southern hospitality, but he wasn’t raised in the South and his personality doesn’t naturally bend that way. ~smile~ For his part, he would love it if I were more assertive and willing to stand up and be heard; yet, he knows that also goes against my nature. So, instead of brooding about our differences, we have found more peace in understanding and accepting them! Neither of us does this perfectly, but we have improved over the years (and will continue to do so). ~smile~
Realistic Expectations Bring Peace
So, start thinking about your expectations for your future spouse. What matters to you? What do you envision when you think of your daily married life? Do you see a husband who will come home from work, sit down on the couch, and have a long conversation with you? Do you see a woman who will be smiling from behind the stove when you walk through the door each night?
After you think about your expectations and wishes, discuss them with your sweetheart. Some of your ideas will be perfectly fine with your sweetie, and some of them may make him or her laugh.
“You want me to do what? You must be crazy! Hahahahahahaha…..”
After the laughter subsides, enjoy a nice dialogue about why you have each particular expectation. Then listen to your sweetie’s reasons as to why each one is realistic or unrealistic for him or her. Hopefully you can find compromises! These conversations help couples understand each other at a deeper level.
Talk Your Expectations Over With Us!
Expectations is one of the focus areas Eric and I review in depth in our pre-engagement counseling program. We believe expectations can bring a lot of helpful clarity to relationships if they are expressed correctly and we teach our clients a system to do so. ~smile~ We enjoy hearing our couples’ expectations, guiding their discussions, and teaching them to articulate and modify their expectations in a healthy, workable way.
Married life (and even dating and engaged life) is more peaceful when expectations are realistic and out in the open. Knowing what Eric expects of me, and knowing that those expectations are something I can achieve, makes living with him less stressful. I would hate to wake up each morning and wonder if I was going to unknowingly upset him.
So, start thinking about it! Dig deep and list your expectations. Add a new expectation to the list whenever you think of one. Then, occasionally sit down and discuss them together. It is best if both parties participate. Otherwise, it will seem like one person has a thousand expectations while the other has none – and you can imagine the trouble that might cause! ~smile~
What are five expectations you have of your future spouse?