“Marriage is just not what I expected!” “I thought our marriage would be so much different than what it is.” “My husband is nothing like what I expected him to be.” “I expected our marriage to be full of love, fun, and romance, but it’s not at all.” During the many marriage counseling sessions that I have conducted over the years, I have heard these complains along with many others. So many times as we enter into our marriage, we have high expectations or maybe even fantastic expectations (unrealistic unless you are in a fantasy world.)
One of the many talking points in marriage counseling is expectations of a great marriage. I ask couples to take time to think about what characterizes a great marriage. Some of those answers include: friendship, partnership, good communication, good sexual relationship, trips, children and several more along the same line of thinking. I ask each couple to describe their list of expectations and then to compare with their spouse. Even in very tumultuous relationships, the expectations can be very similar. I would like to give you some thoughts of how to move your marriage from where it is today to where you expected it to be when you got married.
- Make a list of your expectations. Be as specific as you feel you need to be. If you expect your wife to cook every meal, write it down. If you expect your husband to help with the household chores, write that down. If you expect to have sex daily, write that down. Write the number of children you desire. Write where you expect to live. I think you understand at this point; Be Specific.
- Prioritize your list. After you compile your list of expectations, take the time to put them in order based on their importance to you. Use three groupings:
Must-Have: You will not compromise on these.
Would-Like-To-Have: These are important, but somewhat flexible.
Would-Be-Nice-To-Have-But-Not-Necessary: These are nice, but you can do without them.
- Share your list with your spouse and compare. Take the time to sit down together and exchange your lists. This time is not to create argument or even to pass blame for your marital problems. It is a time for you to spend together, attempting to build understanding with each other. Many marriages are characterized by frustration and disappointment. These emotions can come from expectations not being met. You want your marriage to be enriched from this exercise, not more conflict to arise.
- Communicate your thoughts and feelings about your spouse’s list. You might think that some of the expectations are unrealistic. You might have thought you were already meeting some. Be honest but loving as you work through this part of the exercise. Again, you do not want to pass blame. You want your mate to know that you love them and want them to be fulfilled in your marriage.
- Choose one expectation from each list to work on together. I would suggest that you choose one from the Must-Have category. This way you will show your mate how serious you are about meeting the expectations that you have. Talk about how you would like to see the expectation met. What changes need to be made in your marriage? What changes need to be made in each person?
- Set a time frame to reevaluate. Most of the time, you can’t just do something once and be done. How well are you doing over a month’s period of time? Are the changes evident? Is your mate happier? Is there less frustration in your marriage? Can you move to the next expectation on the list?
- Repeat #’s 5 & 6. Continue this process until you believe you are on the way to a very fulfilling relationship.
I pray that your marriage grows and is fully enriched with this exercise.
What have you done to help meet your spouse’s expectations? Share in the comment section below.
Bradley D. Watson, BCBT Directed Path Ministries
After spending more than 25 years on church staffs, God has allowed me to take the experiences and knowledge that I gained to develop a Biblical Counseling ministry. The basis of this ministry is to allow God’s Word to shine on the main issues in peoples’ lives in order to bring His resolutions to problems.