Monday, October 8, 2007

Marriage Monday: Expectations

"Love is what enables us to bridge the gap of disappointment when others don't live up to the expectations we have of them."
Abigail Van Buren

I went to a friends house last week and noticed that she did something wrong. Her toilet paper roll was facing the wrong direction. You're supposed to put the toilet paper on the roll so the paper comes from the top, not the bottom. Aren't you?! Okay, so I realize that just because she did it different it is not necessarily wrong, but it is not how I do it. It is funny that we expect that people are going to do things the same way that we do them...and if they don't...we wonder what is wrong with them! Our expectation that others think the way we do and do things the same way as us are often unrealistic.
The most significant arena where our expectations bump up against reality is in marriage. Unrealistic expectations can destroy relationships. When we have the attitude that the other person is "wrong" or "stupid" for doing things differently we imply that they are not good enough, or smart enough to know better.
Unfortunately we all walk into marriage with a set of expectations about how to operate in the world, and in marriage. Most of our expectations come from our families of origin, or "the way we've always done it." Many times we don't realize when we get married that we have expectations...until we face the disappointment of our expectations not being met. Our expectations may be big or small, but how we handle our disappointments and differences can make a world of difference in the state of our marriage.

Here are a few areas in which couples struggle with differences and expectations...this list is not exhaustive...I'm sure you can think of more from your own marriage!

Spending vs. Saving * Holidays * Family Time * Vacations * Fitness * Free Time * Communication Styles * Food Preferences * Hobbies * Shopping * Clothes * Sleep Habits * Children (how many, discipline, etc.) * Decorating * Roles * Cold/Warm Bedroom * Crunchy peanut butter/Creamy peanut butter * Windows open/Air conditioning

Although some of these differences seem silly, they can cause problems when one spouse maintains an attitude of superiority that says "My way is the right way!" So how do we deal with our differences and the inevitable disappointments from unmet expectations?
1. Talk about your expectations. Preferably before the wedding!
2. Compromise. If you can't agree on the perfect vacation take turns planning your yearly getaway.
3. Let go of unrealistic expectations. Whether we have idealized a past relationship or just read too many romance novels, we need to let go of the myth of the perfect spouse.
4. Recognize the difference between hoping for something and demanding something. Conflict arises when we feel that our spouse "owes" us. Our spouses are usually more willing to meet our needs when they feel like they are not being forced to!
5. Exercise patience with your partner’s faults and annoying habits. I often tell my husband that we deserve each other. When he complains about my faults I respond, "If I didn't have these faults, I would be married to a much nicer guy than you!!" He knows that I am kidding, and that it is the truth...for both of us!
6. Don't compare your spouse to other people's spouses -- or your marriage to other marriages. I often have people tell me in counseling sessions that they are "jealous" of the couples they see sitting in church or walking through the grocery store together. You don't know what goes on behind closed doors in those marriages. It is not a fair comparison to compare your inside with their outside!
7. Let Philippians 2:3-4 govern your attitude about your marriage and expectations:

Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.


Laura said...

Thanks for the nice reminders. I especially like #6.

Karabana said...

I'm looking for some marriage expectations quotes & came across your blog. I like this post, thanks so much!