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The expectations we carry into marriage influence us in many ways. If those ideas and assumptions are met, the relationship is happy and peaceful. If expectations are not met, disappointment with the other spouse and disillusionment in the marriage sets in.
Early in our marriage, I wondered why my husband wasn’t doing things I thought he should do, like take out the trash, clear the table after dinner, or even pray with me.
Didn’t Rick know that I wanted him to do those tasks? My frustration increased, as my expectations were not met on little things of our household as well as the major aspects of our relationship. We both desired a marriage with shared responsibilities and that he would be the spiritual leader.
The expectations stayed vague until one wasn’t met, and then a conflict occurred. Negative thoughts about him crossed my mind, blaming him for not living up to my expectations.
I realized I had a problem with my expectations of him, especially in the area of our spirituality. We were both Christians serving in ministry, but were not connecting or growing together in our faith. Eventually we realized that having a Christian marriage is more than two Christians being married to each other. Although we had the same expectations, we didn’t clarify how we thought it would be played out in our home. Unknowingly I had set Rick up to fail by not communicating on the specifics of how to accomplish it together.
Once we talked about our expectations of spirituality in our home, we each shared some ideas on how to develop a Christian marriage. We tried different ways of prayer and devotions together; some things worked, others didn’t. The consistent thing is that we kept trying—we didn’t give up on our mutual desire and expectation for spiritual closeness.
Several steps can lead to better communication about our expectations.
- Together, select one topic and identify your specific expectations. Some possible topics are finances, children, extended family, spirituality, and day-to-day tasks. Discuss how the expectation will look for your marriage.
- On your own, ask yourself, is my expectation of my spouse realistic? I may want something to happen, but if it is not in alignment with his personality, talents, or available time, the expectation becomes unrealistic.
- Allow for grace in your relationship. Be willing to adjust your expectations and forgive, again and again.
It becomes easy to look at our frustration and sadness from unmet expectations instead of remembering the strengths of our spouse. Scripture offers encouragement to adjust our expectations:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8
The Lord used this verse to help me focus on what is going well in our marriage.
By remembering the times when Rick demonstrated the qualities of being true, noble, etc., my thinking has turned toward his strengths and away from unmet expectations.
Honest, realistic expectations create a healthy marriage.
Nancy has been married to Rick for 40 years. They are blessed with 2 grown children and an increasing number of grandchildren (currently almost 5). They have served in a local church pastorate since they were engaged, and have been involved in marriage ministry for more than 20 years. Nancy and Rick enjoy encouraging couples to draw closer to each other and to God through their Marriage Magnifier seminar. Nancy is a speaker and author of a devotional book, The Grace Impact. She hosts a weekly internet radio program/ podcast, “Living Life Unedited” on the cwaradio network. Learn more about her ministry and sign up for her GraceNotes newsletter at http://www.nancykaygrace.com. Also find her at Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Linked in, Google+