Are Your Expectations Too High for Your Marriage?

So much of the information we present here on this blog – and in our system, videos, newsletter, etc. – is focused on ways to improve your marriage and strengthen the relationship you have with your spouse. We talk about working on communication, having better sex, finding ways to avoid arguments about money or household responsibilities, and a host of other ways to resolve problems and stay away from trouble.

But for all of this focus on improvement, there’s something else that’s essential to a happy, successful marriage – and that’s an understanding that things will never be perfect.

You see, a major component of the problems we experience has to do with our own reactions. This isn’t to say that other people don’t make mistakes, or that our thoughts and feelings aren’t justified sometimes – but it’s important to understand that the way we handle a particular irritation plays a part in how it affects our lives.

If, for example, your spouse has a bad habit of being late to events or family functions, letting them know it irks you might help them try harder, but blowing up every time they are late only adds tension to the situation, gets you worked up, and won’t do anything to help your spouse improve their behavior.

Did you have high expectations when you got married?
Did you have high expectations when you got married?

Now, with that said – how major of an issue is lateness anyway? Are you upset because they are late, or because you have to wait for them? Are you upset because you tend to be punctual, and are putting an expectation on them to do the same?

And that’s the point here: expectations.

There’s a difference between what people actually do and what we expect them to do – and if we’re setting unrealistic expectations for the people around us (especially a spouse), we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and conflict.

Expectations themselves are okay, and we can’t help but have them for all of the people in our lives, but making an effort to keep these expectations rooted in reality will save a lot of heartache in the long run.

In fact, this idea of expectations can be applied to the overall concept of marriage – not just the behaviors that exist within it. We have to accept that you won’t always agree on everything, that you won’t always be on the same page in the bedroom, that you may run into challenging times financially, or most importantly, that you will both grow and change as individuals over the course of your marriage together.

Unfortunately, so many people have this expectation that marriage is all sunshine and rainbows – and in the moments when it isn’t, they feel like they’ve failed somehow.

When expectations are more realistic, though, couples can roll with the punches, deal with problems as they arise, and not beat themselves up when reality doesn’t live up to the expectations they’ve created for themselves.

You can certainly look for consistency from your spouse, and the two of you can talk about what behaviors may be causing trouble or changes you would like to see, but imposing your own ideals on the behavior of others – or even for life itself – is little more than an exercise in futility.

You can look to what you want out of your life and your marriage in the future, but it doesn’t wash away the way things are in the present. You can keep your hopes and dreams, but temper them with a sense of realism.

Far too many couples build up these ideas of what they think marriage is supposed to be like, or what an ideal spouse is supposed to act like, and this mostly hot air! It can come from our parents, from friends, from self help books, from Hollywood, or from any number of sources, but the idea that marriages have to be a specific way or that there are rigid components that make a good husband or wife is just ridiculous!

Just as an example of how absurd this kind of material can be, there’s a marriage “manual” from the 1950s that’s all about a rating system for husbands and wives, with a system of “demerits” for behaviors that supposedly make for bad marriage partners. Some of the more ridiculous demerits for wives include “walks around the house in stocking feet,” “eats onions, radishes, or garlic before a date or going to bed,” and “wears pajamas while cooking.”

Can you imagine actually getting upset about these things? Or worse, having your spouse get mad at you for something so miniscule as walking around in your socks?

This is a dramatic example, but just goes to show how unrealistic someone else’s ideas of a marriage can be when you apply it to your own. Your marriage belongs to you and your spouse, and finding common ground that makes you both happy is far more important than anyone’s idea of what marriage is supposed to be like.

Keep your expectations rooted in reality, and build the marriage that works for you – not in the image of someone else’s version of what marriage should be.

For more advice on how to strengthen your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System today!
Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart, co-Founders,

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Drew 9 years ago

I don't think I have high expectations. I just want my husband to help with our baby A LITTLE BIT. He doesn't even look he'll get up when he cries. I'm so sick of it.

Mike_Olsen_SMN 9 years ago

Hi Drew - Sadly, many men where not raised with child care being equal for both spouses. Explain that if you both work, the child rearing should be 50/50. If you are a stay at home mom, then when your husband comes home, the child rearing should be 50/50. If he thinks he deserves to relax 'after hours', you should too. Find specific things he can help with, especially if you are breastfeeding. He can change diapers, get clothes, entertain baby, wash baby. It will be great for their bonding too.

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