Jill: When we were first married, I started making plans for Mark’s birthday for the first time as a married couple. I made plans the only way I knew how: with a homemade cake and having family over for dinner.

Mark: This was a sweet gesture, however, my family always celebrated with a store-bought cake and going out to dinner. It wasn’t that Jill’s way was wrong; I just had an expectation of what birthdays looked like that she was unaware of.

Jill: Has something like this ever happened to you? Our differences can feel magnified when they clash with our spouse’s ideas and expectations. If left unchecked, this can lead to disappointment and discouragement in our relationship.

Mark: We can even idealize the dream we’ve created in our minds to the point that we start to fall more in love with the dream than our current reality.

Jill: Rather than harbor these feelings, which can drive a wedge between you and your spouse, we need to come face-to-face with these expectations and address them in a healthy way.

Mark: Let’s take a deeper look at the different types of expectations so we can learn how to address them better in our marriage.

#1: Unknown Expectations

Jill: Unknown expectations often come from our family of origin. We each have traditions, routines, and habits that are “normal” for us. These are things we often don’t even think twice about, much like the homemade birthday cake I made for Mark.

Mark: These unknown expectations can lead us to think our spouse will do things the exact same way we would. But when our spouse does them differently, it crashes into expectations we didn’t even know were there!

Jill: Once we become aware of these unknown expectations, we can choose to respond in a few different ways. We can either allow ourselves to fixate on how “wrong” they are or we can recognize that there is more than “our way” of doing things.

Mark: We like to call this our God-tool of acceptance. When we use this God-tool, our reaction becomes “Your way is just as valuable as my way and it’s okay for us to be different.” The best way to handle unknown expectations is to examine the assumptions you’ve made, whether that’s about how your spouse should think, do, or respond.

#2: Unspoken Expectations

Jill: Have you ever thought about your marriage and wondered why it isn’t what you thought it would be? Maybe you would like to have more date nights or that your spouse would coordinate how they spend their time with you more. Whatever that thing is causing disappointment in your marriage, our question for you is this: Have you told your spouse you long for that? (And complaining, criticizing, and commenting are not communication.) 

Mark: If you haven’t, then you have an unspoken expectation. If you still aren’t sure, we have two questions to help you identify unspoken expectations: What do I long for from my spouse? What do I expect, but feel I shouldn’t have to tell my spouse? The best way to combat unspoken expectations is with honest conversation outside of conflict.

Jill: While communicating your expectations doesn’t guarantee that your desires will be fulfilled, it is the first step to stop bitterness and perceived offense before it puts even more of a wedge in your relationship.

#3: Unrealistic Expectations

Mark: Unrealistic expectations show up when we idealistically believe that our spouse will see things the way we see things. This expectation can also lie in our preconceived notions about what marriage will be like, how our spouse will relate to us, how often we have sex, and the list goes on!

Jill: We also like to call this the Perfection Infection. This could be when we idealized other marriage relationships, allowed media to feed us lies of impossible standards, or concocted our own unreasonable ideals.

Mark: What are we to do with these crazy, unrealistic expectations that are robbing us of joy and causing distance in our relationship? We can start by identifying what expectations we have and further examine them to understand why they’re unrealistic.

Jill: Once we identify those unrealistic expectations, we need to replace them with reality. It can be helpful to tell your spouse that you want to sort out if these are unrealistic expectations or real desires that could possibly be a part of the fabric of your relationship if you simply communicated them.

#4: Unmet Expectations

Mark: When what we expect doesn’t match up to what we have, we aren’t always sure what to do with it. This can lead us to respond one of two ways: 1) We respond with anger demanding that our relationship become what we want or (2) We squelch our disappointment, pushing it deep inside, telling ourselves “It doesn’t matter,” when really it does.

Jill: Expectations can be a good thing if we learn how to identify them, communicate about them, and use them to strengthen and improve our relationship. However, if we let an unmet expectation continue to go unmet and uncommunicated, it will only grow to disconnect you and your spouse.

Mark: It’s important to take a look at how we can stop the slow fade of unhealthy expectations and how to use them to benefit our perfectly imperfect marriage.

Jill: When our hearts are fully relinquished to God, we can handle our differences very differently. We stop fighting them and instead try to find the good and the opportunity in our differences.

Mark: This is how we begin to love the real, rather than the dream. Rather than throwing our disappointment and discouragement into our marriages, we can do the internal work to manage our expectations and pursue honest communication.

Jill: We encourage you to ask God to reveal your expectations to you. Ask for His help to identify your unspoken hopes and to have the courage to talk about them with your spouse. While this is not easy, it will strengthen your marriage and help build an even stronger connection than you had before.

Want to experience the freedom of being real together? Grab your copy of No More Perfect Marriages.


No More Perfect Marriages Book by Jill Savage

Want regular encouragement?

Subscribe to get Jill's latest content by email.

(You can view our privacy policy here.)

Powered by ConvertKit