By Keren Kanyago, Crosswalk.com
I had a set of idyllic dreams of what our marriage would look like before I got hitched. For instance, I envisioned that my husband and I would always wind down our days together. Perhaps we would savor the sunset, have dinner together and then cozy up on the couch. However, my husband often works late, and by the time he gets home, the sunset is long gone, and the day has been swallowed up by night. He is also often exhausted and hungry. All he needs at that moment is a hot bath and a meal.
Over time, I have learned to take this and several other unmet expectations in my stride. But this wasn't always the case. Earlier on in my marriage, I would blow a gasket whenever I felt my spouse was falling short of my expectations. I would huff and puff, demanding that he acts or behaves in a certain way. Sometimes he would indulge me, giving in to pressure, but other times he would not. Eventually, we would both get entangled in a web of resentment.
Because we all get married to fellow human beings with their fair share of flaws and weaknesses, it goes without saying that we have to contend with unmet expectations. Our spouses are far from perfect. They may try their best, but they are still incapable of meeting all our needs and attending to all our whims. It may feel like you are getting the short end of the stick as you come face to face with this reality.
Unmet expectations can spark resentment and frustration. This article will help you put things in perspective as you deal with unmet expectations in your marriage.
1. Be Realistic
Let's be honest; sometimes, we expect too much from our spouses. For instance, a husband may expect his wife to always be in the mood for intimacy, maintain her body size even after becoming a mother, and keep a clean home at all times. A wife, on the other hand, may expect that her knight in shining armor will always be at hand to listen to her rumblings, organize weekly date nights without fail, and spend all his free time with her.
And while both of you need to do all it takes to love each other and meet each other's needs, don't forget that you are limited. You are bound to fall short of each other's expectations. Additionally, men and women often have very different needs. What you may consider a priority in your marriage may seem like a non-issue to your spouse. They have to learn your needs and master your love language over time. As they do that, they may stumble and falter. You need to be patient with them and give them the benefit of the doubt.
2. Separate the Wheat From the Chaff
It's important to exercise sobriety where unmet expectations are concerned. Not all unmet expectations should be shrugged off. Some are indeed "deal breakers" and should not be swept under the rug. For example, we expect our spouses to be faithful to us. When that expectation is not met, and one spouse is involved in adultery, the offended spouse should not chalk it up to "unmet expectations."
Adultery is a harmful vice in a marriage that often requires therapy for the couple to find healing. But some other unfulfilled expectations are not deal breakers. For instance, if your spouse irritates you because they don't pick up after themselves, that is something you can easily shrug off because it does not significantly threaten the health of your marriage.
As such, couples should separate the chaff from the wheat while dealing with unmet expectations. If the issue at hand majorly concerns personality differences and does not threaten the heart of the marriage, then the offended spouse can choose to overlook it.
3. Accept Your Spouse's Weaknesses
"With all lowliness and gentleness, with long-suffering, bearing with one another in love." (Ephesians 4:2)
Part of the reason your spouse will not meet all your expectations is that, just like you, they have various weaknesses. Scripture tells us that we all stumble in many ways (James 3:2). None of us are perfect. Perhaps your spouse's weakness is forgetting important dates or procrastinating. However, that doesn't mean that they are an awful person or that they don't mean well. It just shows that they are human.
It helps to study your partner and note their weaknesses so that you are not too gutted when they fall short. As their companion, you could also help them work on their weaknesses instead of judging them and taking offense. Remember that forgiveness is a daily component of a healthy marriage—rise above obsessing over your spouse's weaknesses and learn to bear with them in love.
4. Uphold Clear Communication
I know the importance of clear communication firsthand because it has revolutionized my marriage. Earlier on, I used to hold on to grudges, expecting my husband to read my mind and figure out what was making me grumpy. Your guess is as good as mine - never once did he have an idea of the issue at hand. I quickly realized this tactic didn't work and tossed it out the window. I learned to instead clearly communicate my grievances.
Clear communication will help you cope with unmet expectations. Perhaps your spouse has a good reason why they acted the way they did, but you will never know until you get talking. Clear communication helps weed out misunderstanding, increases marital satisfaction, and spells out expectations. It also fosters respect and trust, which leads to greater emotional intimacy. Every time you choose to communicate with your spouse instead of sweeping issues under the rug, you give your marriage a new lease on life.
5. Connect with Other Couples
"A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire, he rages against all wise judgment." (Proverbs 18:1).
"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:24-25).
Connecting regularly with other couples helps you appreciate your spouse. As you interact with other couples, you are likely to notice that they, too, have their disputes and weaknesses. This helps you put your relationship into perspective and makes you feel better about your marriage. It helps you realize that you are not the only one facing some bumps in the road in your pursuit of a great marriage. Many other couples are walking the same path.
Besides that, connecting with other couples gives you new ideas and perspectives, rekindles your passion, injects fun into your marriage, keeps you accountable, and fosters a stronger marriage. Remember that as iron sharpens iron, so does a man sharpen the countenance of his friend (Proverbs 27:17).
6. Do Not Compare Your Spouse
Yes, you are feeling awfully discontent in your marriage as you deal with a flurry of unmet expectations. But. Do not go down the rabbit hole of comparing your spouse to others because it may be the last straw that breaks the camel's back. Comparing your spouse will usher you into a path of no return as you elevate other people above your spouse. Even the good attributes that your spouse possesses will soon fizzle out in your eyes.
Instead, choose to bear with their weaknesses, communicate clearly and empathize with them. This will go a long way in helping you handle unmet expectations.
Related Resource: Listen to The Real Relationship Talk Podcast!
Dana Che is the founder of Thrive Relationships, where she serves as a marriage and relationship coach and host of the Real Relationship Talk podcast. Dana's mission is singular: to help people thrive in their relationships with the Lord and with each other. Listen to her episode on Overcoming Unrealistic Expectations in Marriage by clicking the play button below:
Keren Kanyago is a freelance writer and blogger at Parenting Spring. As a wife and mom, she uses her blog to weigh in on pertinent issues around parenting, marriage, and the Christian Faith. She holds a degree in mass communication with a specialty in print media. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram and/or shoot her an email at [email protected].