Marriage Monday: Change Your Expectations

Have you ever said in frustration about your spouse, “We are so incompatible!”? If you have (and most of us have), it is an indication of unrealistic expectations. The truth is, every married couple is wonderfully incompatible! Sure, some of us share more hobbies, interests, beliefs, and perspectives about life with our spouses than other couples do. However, every couple deals with differences in one way or another.

Unrealistic expectations cause incredible stress in a marriage. Adjusting expectations from unrealistic to realistic can produce a sense of contentment and peace in your marriage.

Here are some realistic expectations for marriage:

Expect differences. You are two different people. You have different likes and dislikes. You will see the world in different ways. You will problem solve differently.  This is reality. Differences will exist, and sometimes they will cause conflict.

Expect conflict. Conflict is normal. It does happen. It’s a natural part of blending two lives. The important thing to do is learn to handle conflict well. When  you handle it well, it can actually deepen your intimacy.

Expect your spouse to fail. He/she is human. Humans make mistakes. They aren’t perfect. When you expect your spouse to fail and make mistakes, you are better prepared to respond to their failures with grace and forgiveness.

Expect an ebb and flow of feelings in your marriage. No couple feels “in love” all the time. Feelings breathe, they are fluid, and they don’t always tell us the truth. If you feel that you don’t love your spouse anymore, recognize that true love is a choice, not a feeling. Increase your loving actions, and your feelings will reignite in time.

Expect to ask for help when your relationship is headed in the wrong direction. When our bodies are sick, we go to a doctor. When our marriages are sick, a Christian counselor can be a huge help in communication and digging down to issues at the core of our challenges. If you don’t know where to start, ask for recommendations from your pastor or friends who have found relationship counseling helpful. Don’t hesitate to change counselors if you feel that one or both of you are not connecting with the counselor you’re seeing.

Expect to share your expectations. Your spouse is not a mind reader. He/she doesn’t feel the same way you do. He/she doesn’t think the same way you do. He/she doesn’t make decisions or process hardship the same way you do. If you desire something from him or her, ask. With words. That conversation will either help you get your needs met or help you see that your expectations are out of line.

Unrealistic expectations are preconceived resentments.  They begin a downward spiral that is unhealthy for relationships. Unmet expectations turn into resentments, which turn into bitterness that turns into anger, and ultimately becomes conflict that could have actually been avoided if you had internally moved from unrealistic expectations to realistic ones.

What about you? Where have you realized that you have unrealistic expectations that need to change to realistic expectations? 


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7 thoughts on “Marriage Monday: Change Your Expectations

  1. Before my husband and I married, I was a divorced single mom who took care of everything on my own. I was looking forward to my husband moving in and settling into our little family. The first week the kids were with us, after the honeymoon, was one of the worst weeks of our marriage. I would get the kids up for school, feed them breakfast, get them ready and out the door, all while my husband slept. I would stomp around, making noise, expressing my anger without saying a word every morning. I just couldn’t figure out WHY he wasn’t helping me with the kids! I saw him as lazy, inconsiderate and unhelpful. My anger would carry over into the evening and I was picking at every little thing he did ‘wrong’.

    Finally one morning he woke up and asked me why I was being so loud. That was it! I had had enough! I gave him a piece of my mind. We realized then that our expectations of each other were too high. He was a bachelor, only needed to care for himself. He grew up in a family where the Mom did everything and the men worked outside the home. Once we realized these things we quickly came to an agreement. He now cooks breakfast every morning for our kids and it is such a huge help! It gives me time to finish getting ready for work. Our expectations are now more realistic!

  2. bravo!! wonderful, wonderful post, jill!

    i’ve shared with my readers that this has been one of my biggest struggles in my marriage, one that has sadly constructed walls in my heart. but my journey is living proof that God is far greater than our hearts. and reconstruction is His specialty.

    it’s oftentimes quite a process, though. one that hasn’t happened overnight, & is still ongoing. but i’m so grateful that i invited Him in to clean up my mess. because with each moment of surrender, there is a world of freedom & joy that He offers.

  3. This is very helpful in my new marriage of just over a month. We both were married once before. Our pastor told us that we have to learn certain skills eventually so we might as well do it together. I have ALOT of expectations I know. Its really hard to change your thinking and attitude but with the grace of God and reading articles like this I will get there