This is Day 3 of a 10 day series. You can find the entire series here.
I didn’t realize coming into marriage how much idealism and unrealistic expectation drove my everyday thinking and perspective.
I’ve always struggled wanting our relationship, our perspectives, our interests to be different than what they were. We didn’t really notice our differences while dating, but when we got married, those differences were suddenly magnified. Even in the early years I struggled with our differences. After 25+ years of marriage, I was growing weary of those challenges and felt I didn’t have the energy or desire to manage them anymore.
I didn’t struggle with unrealistic expectations of our relationship as much. I knew marriage was hard work. I knew navigating differences was part of the territory. However I completely underestimated how much Mark’s idealism was causing a slow fade in his heart. When he would express his frustration about our differences, I dismissed his concerns and didn’t give them the time and energy they deserved. I often reminded him that was normal for any couple. Knowing that was enough for me to remain motivated to stay in the game, but it wasn’t for Mark.
I’m a feeler. I process life through my emotions. I’m an external processor, which means I need to talk things out. I’m also a medium capacity person. I wear out faster than Jill. And then there’s the idealist in me. I dream…a lot.
I’m a thinker. I process life logically. I’m an internal processor which means I think about things…a lot. I’m a high capacity, fiercely loyal person. I stay in the game no matter what. And I’m a realist. I’m quick to figure out the illogical side of dreams.
When my unrealistic expectations weren’t met, my fade led into disappointment and discouragement. I sat there for many years. Unattended over the years, those feelings faded into disillusionment and finally detachment which is what allowed me to eventually leave my family.
On the outside, I made peace with the disappointment, but I never did on the inside. In fact, it wasn’t until my “affair relationship” actually began to have the same conflict my marriage relationship had that I had to come face to face with my idealism. My expectations really were off the charts.
I dealt with my own unrealistic expectations, but mine weren’t about our relationship. Mine were of my husband in general. I expected him to think more like me. I expected him to see things logically like I did. If I’m fully honest, I thought my way was the right way and his way was the wrong way. So I expected him to at some point see the error of his ways.
I felt that judgment from Jill. Too often it felt like I couldn’t do anything right. I really didn’t feel that until the kids came along. In fact, that’s a pattern Jill and I see in many marriages. The man who could do no wrong before kids can do no right after kids.
These days I’m keeping my mouth shut a lot more than I ever have. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not shoving things under the carpet that need to be addressed. I’m simply addressing less; keeping my thoughts and comments to myself. Letting Mark be Mark and Jill be Jill. I’m applying Proverbs 21:23, “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble,” and Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear.”
These days I’m keeping my idealism better balanced. I know I’m a dreamer and always will be, but I work to keep those dreams evened out with realism. My experience taught me that the grass isn’t really greener on the other side of the fence…there are just different weeds over there! My focus is to stay steady with my God and to not waver in any manner.
I’m listening more intently and not taking things at face value. I’m listening for Mark’s emotions behind his words. I’m asking more questions or encouraging more conversation by using phrases like “Tell me more….” Or “How can I help?”
In the past I threw my disappointment and discouragement out there in frustration. I didn’t know how to engage them any differently, but now I’m doing the internal work to manage my thought life and the external work to pursue honest communication.
What about you? Where do you have unrealistic expectations in your marriage? Do you need to adjust your expectations to better match reality? Do you need to ask for some honest conversation with your spouse? Are unrealistic expectations the start of a slow fade in your marriage?
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I really like how you both state your personality types and help identify where that brush occurs between the two. I think early in relationships, each side has a little guard up so those brushes are prevented. As we get more comfortable and take the guards down, then those differences start to jab each other. Takes reflection to understand where and why those jabs are occurring and how to work with them.
This is 100% my husband and I. He is the logic one, I am the emotional one. It makes us hard to understand each other during issues or confrontation. He pushes off my issues not understanding which in turn upsets me more. Mark, what are some ways you made your thinking more logical when it came to expectations? Also, how do you work to not become hurt by comments or issues that were not meant in a hurtful way. For instance, my husband will make a comment not intended to upset me, but since my emotions drive me I find things upsetting me when I know they shouldnt.
I was wondering how you identified this much about yourselves/your issues? It seems like a huge step for marriages would be to identify these different lenses. Wondering if some type of quiz for couples for the book would help couples to discuss how they process/see life. Just a thought…
Great idea, Jennifer. We do hope to put that in the No More Perfect Marriages book. Much of how we’ve identified this much about ourselves has come from our marriage counseling as well as some reading we did. One book that was very helpful to us was “How We Love” by Kay and Milan Yerkovich. We highly recommend it!