Expectations – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Couple expecting a great future © Erwin Purnomo Sidi | Dreamstime.com

Recently I’ve seen a number of bloggers warning that expectations can be harmful to marriage. I both agree and disagree with this: it depends on the expectations.

Unrealistic expectations can certainly hurt a marriage. If we bring into marriage expectations from poor or bad examples from our childhood, we will have problem in marriage. If a woman bring in “fairy tale” expectations from movies or romance novels, her groom will seem a failure to her. If a man brings in sexual expectations from porn, his bride will seem a failure to him. If either expects marriage to make them suddenly happy, or to make some problem go away, disappointment is sure to occur.

On the other hand, I think it’s a good thing for a man or woman to enter marriage with the expectation that their spouse will be a decent person, will practice integrity, will honour privacy, and will sometimes sacrifice for them. A woman should expect that her groom will not abuse her, and a man should expect that his bride will be there for him sexually. These expectations form the boundaries for the marriage, the things that are and are not be acceptable. These expectations separate those things that we will learn to live with from those we expect our spouse to overcome.

If you came into marriage with expectations that have not been met, consider why they have not been met. If the expectations were unfair or unreasonable, you need to get rid of them. If they are things that are not very important to you, letting them go may be the best option. If the expectations are reasonable and important, ask yourself if you have been clear with your bride; does she really know what you expect, and does she know you think she had not met some of your expectations?

If you have been clear, and your expectations are reasonable and valid, how important are those things to you? Can you let them go? This is about you; be honest with yourself. Should you let them go? It would be wrong to let go of some expectations (such as not being abused, not being cheated on, having sex, caring for the children …).

If you cannot, or should not, let an expectation go, it is going to become a major issue in your marriage. It’s going to be a major issue whether you try to get your bride to deal with it or not. If you choose to “suffer in silence”, it will become like a cancer in your marriage, slowly and silently growing until the whole marriage is in danger of being destroyed. Pressing her to deal with the issue does not guarantee success, but ignoring it guarantee ongoing pain and the slow death of at least part of your relationship.

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5 Comments on “Expectations – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

  1. What are your expectations? I think the quote below from Dennis Prager says it well:

    “Gratitude is the key to happiness and anything that undermines gratitude must undermine happiness. And nothing undermines gratitude as much as expectations. The more expectations you have, the less gratitude you will have.” ~ Dennis Prager

  2. So appreciate the candidness and realness of these conclusions. Our honesty and freedom to expose our thoughts and desires HAVE TO BE within the sanctity of marriage. It is all right to be human and have needs. And they should be expressed, so that the other spouse is equally as comfortable.


  3. Paul, This is a great post! We are currently reading an excellent book titled, “What Did You Expect?” by Paul Tripp. It has become one of those books we believe every married couple should read. He explains each expectation couples could possibly bring into the marriage and shows where it is right and where it is wrong. We have been quoting from it on Twitter @theromanticvine for a few weeks now.
    .-= Tom and Debi – The Romantic Vineyard´s last blog ..A Fragrant Aroma – Spontaneous Wins =-.

  4. My husband and I have talked about this topic a few times. First, I too am going to be adding that Tripp book to my wish list! It sounds fantastic. Second, I really appreciated what you had to say. Expectations are tricky. Most of the expectations we come into marriage with are unrealistic or based on fantasy pre-conceived ideas of what we thought marriage should look like. Obviously, safety and fidelity is critical so I know when my husband and I talk about expectations we aren’t talking about things on that extreme. We do encourage people to re-evaluate their expectations though. We aren’t suggesting that they put up with getting beaten up or cheated on. It is good to have quality, healthy, rational expectations. However, having a mutual understanding in marriage that my spouse is HUMAN and will fail and fall sometimes puts some of the expectations that we put on our spouses into a different light.

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