We all grew up with certain expectations of us… like you are expected to get good grades, go to college, get a good job, etc. Some of these expectations were spoken, but many were unspoken and you just realized what they were from observation and seeing how your family operated. Some of those expectations you have now adopted as a part of what you want to see happen in your home when you decide to marry and have children. Which expectations can you think of that you want to be a part of your home? Most of them sound good to you because that’s what you grew up with and you came out alright. The expectations that you internalize and take on are the ones you value, some even then become a part of what you need from others to make you feel loved and appreciated when you are in a relationship. Now think about this, you have the expectation to be taken care of, you value being taken care of, you need to be taken care of? What does being taken care of look like? Have you ever thought about it? If you had to describe it to someone else, would you be able to do it? Many single and dating people (women in particular) have a list of what they want from a man in order to meet what she wants her husband to look like. That’s all well and good, but how much of that goes below the surface not only of who he may be but also below the surface of who you are?
Expectations are like a job description of what you believe your spouse should look like, what they are made up of and what they have to offer you. These expectations are based on values and needs, most of which came from your family and are a combination of what actions, words, tokens of love you got from your family or what you didn’t get from them. Expectations are the things that we want done that makes us feel like our needs are being met, that we are happy, that we are loved… so what are some of your expectations? Some examples are:
I want my spouse to have a good paying job with good benefits.
I want my spouse to be able to cook.
I want my spouse to have sex with me 4 times a week.
I want to have at least 2 children.
I want us to pray together daily, every morning and every night before bed.
I want my spouse to handle the finances.
I want my wife to do the laundry.
I want my husband to take out the trash, mow the lawn, and take care of all the needs of the cars.
If I get sick, I want my spouse to take care of me personally.
If we have a miscarriage, I want my spouse to understand if I don’t want to get pregnant again.
I want my spouse to work a steady job, no trying to start a business.
I want my spouse to be just as involved with the kids as I am.
I want my spouse to look a certain way throughout our marriage.
Some of these examples are the obvious surface examples that many people give when discussing expectations. However, you have to dig a little deeper when talking about what you would expect from a spouse, a life partner, who should know you better than anyone else (another expectation).
You have to discuss things like what would you want from your spouse if you had a child that was sick, if you couldn’t get pregnant. You have to think ahead of time about some of the things that you know would be the toughest for you to deal with. It’s like having a game plan before the play is made. Doing this helps avoid some of the deadliest emotions to a marriage; hurt, disappointment, anger, and resentment. These emotions come about when we have an expectation, a value, a need that has not been met. The first time it’s not met, you feel a little hurt depending on what it is. The next time you may even be disappointed, but the more some needs are not met or the compilation of unmet needs continues to occur people get angry and then begin to resent their spouse. Do you ever wonder why it seems that couples who just got married a year ago seem so angry at each other? They are not meeting each other’s expectations and deepest needs. The sad part about this is so many couples go through this because they haven’t even talked about what their expectations are. They are going by the unwritten rule, “they should know me better than anyone else”, but how are they to really know you if you don’t tell them. Marriage is not like when you grew up, you do have to verbalize what the expectations are, what you want, what you need to feel loved.
Discussing your expectations with the person you are dating seriously or thinking about marrying is a great way to see in advance if this person truly could stand with you during the many trials and triumphs that occur in marriage. The easiest way to broach the subject is to ask them, what would you do if…. we were married and I decided I no longer wanted to work after we had our first child, my mother got sick and I want her to live with us, we suddenly had financial issues and lost everything. Do this for the things that you know you value, but you have to first know what you value. Do you value family, commitment, fidelity, quality time, friendship, career, financial stability? What do these things look like? For example, if you value financial stability, you might value working a 9-5 for a Fortune 500 company and someone starting a business may feel a little too much like your dad’s get rich quick schemes when you were growing up. If you value fidelity, you might value long-term commitment and open communication and the first sign of less than open communication could remind you of when you were in your last relationship and they cheated. You want to know if the things you value, the person you are seriously dating does as well. This will also help you decide which of your expectations are a deal breaker, the things you say, I really don’t want to compromise on. It’s a lot easier to walk away from a relationship with someone before you get married.
As you can see we are very passionate about making relationships work and we really want to be able to give you the tools to make your relationships work. We always say we love to work with and speak to people before they decide they want to get married so that we can help you have a clear and truthful picture of what marriage is. This is part 2 of our 6 part series, Before You Say I Do. If you missed part 1, click here to read Before You Say I Do: The Truth About Marriage.