Having expectations of yourself and your spouse is a healthy part of any good marriage. Clearly defined and reasonable expectations allow for a better understanding of one another and they provide invaluable information about how to satisfy your spouse.
With that said, I caution you to take heed of the words, “reasonable expectations”. All too often, people enter into marriage thinking a ceremony and a piece of paper will either change everything, keep everything the same, or magically fix anything that is bent or broken. Marriage cannot and will not do these things.
Quite simply, marriage is just a promise. If you enter into marriage with unrealistic expectations or develop them as you go, you are setting yourself up for a lot of heartache. Marriage is hard work when expectations are attainable. When your expectations are based on the most recent movie you’ve watched, book you’ve read, or Facebook post you commented on, you and your partner are doomed.
#1 Your Partner Should Just Know…
Let’s be real…there are very few mind readers in the world so there is a pretty good chance that you are not married to one. If you expect your partner to know what you are thinking or what you want at all times just because (fill in the blank), you will be let down 90% of the time. Why 90%, because even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then. And it is during these lucky, nut finding instances that you will feel validated in your expectations. Making everything so much worse for both of you.
Give you and your partner a break. If you want something – ask and if you’re feeling something – say it. Your partner shouldn’t just know. He or she does not live in your head or your heart and that is a good thing. Can you imagine if your partner really knew every thought you had or vice versa? Not a pretty picture.
#2 Love Conquers All
It sounds good in a song or in the vows you shared on your wedding day, but real life is not that poetic. Love may be one of the reasons we stick with marriage through the good and the bad, but it is certainly not the fix all. If I had to choose an alternative cliche to embody a realistic marriage expectations it would be ‘hard work pays off’, or maybe ‘bring your A-game’. Marriage is hard work. The harder you work and the more effort you put into understanding and appreciating your spouse, the more you will conquer. All love and no effort will not sustain a relationship. Expect to do things not in your job description, to put in late nights, early mornings, and overtime. Working to make your marriage stronger conquers all (it doesn’t look as good on a pillow, but it’s way more accurate).
#3 You Shouldn’t Disagree or Argue
It is my sincere hope that this expectation is fading in popularity as couples are becoming more educated. Disagreeing is NORMAL! Disagreeing with someone you live with and interact with all the time, even more normal. You will, and should disagree with your spouse. You are two different people with differing views, and since neither of you can read the other’s mind, there are going to be times when you fall on different sides of an issue. When this happens, use it as an opportunity to gain further understanding of your partner. Disagreements and arguments allow opportunities for growth within a relationship. With that said, be sure to implement a few ‘fair fighting’ guidelines to keep communication open and friendly(ish). Disagreements that end in resolution allow a marriage to thrive.
Your marriage is probably not the greatest love story ever told, and that is ok. If you ask me, that would be too much pressure anyway. Marital expectations should be realistic, attainable, and openly expressed to one another. When reading this article, if you found yourself identifying the unrealistic expectations as YOUR expectations, please consider adjusting them… for the sake of your relationship. In a world where 50% of marriages end in divorce, give your marriage a fighting chance.
About the Author
Amber Groves is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and infertility specialist at The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. She helps couples, families and children to have the calm and peaceful lives they want in their relationships and family. In her spare time, she is the mother of one inquisitive toddler and a busy little baby.