Welcome back to #MarriageMonday! Today we are digging into unrealistic expectations. They touch every marriage. How are they affecting yours?
Jill: Are unrealistic expectations robbing you of joy in your marriage? Do you feel like marriage just isn’t what you imagined it would be, and you’re unsure what exactly to feel about it?
Mark: Unrealistic expectations are where the Perfection Infection shows up in our marriage. The Perfection Infection is when we have unrealistic expectations of ourselves and of others, and when we unfairly compare ourselves and others.
Jill: Most of our expectations and comparisons actually show up because we’ve idolized other marriage relationships (e.g., my parents never had conflict, we won’t either), we’ve allowed the media to feed us lies of impossible standards (e.g., relationships should be as easy as they seem on my favorite TV show), or we’ve concocted our own unreasonable ideals (we’re so in love we’ll never have issues).
Mark: What are some unrealistic expectations you’ve held? Moving into marriage, I had the following expectations:
- Sex would always be great.
- We would have similar interests.
- Sex would be anytime anywhere.
- We would be soulmates.
- We would always be in love and express love.
- Sex would be fabulous.
- We would never fight or argue.
- We would be best friends.
- Sex would happen often.
- We would live in a love story.
Notice a theme?
Like many guys, I was introduced to pornography somewhere around junior high. The pictures were tantalizing for the eyes but the articles were enticing for the heart, and captivating for my mind. They painted a picture that women want sex anytime anyplace. They also communicated that women were incredibly adventuresome sexually. By the time I married ten years later, I’d consumed enough false messages about sex that my expectations were off the charts. There was no winning on Jill’s part. Sex was never frequent enough, good enough, or adventuresome enough for me because of my unrealistic expectations.
Jill: Mark wasn’t alone in unrealistic expectations! Moving into marriage, I had these expectations:
- My husband would naturally jump into a leadership role.
- We would laugh and have fun together.
- We would talk and make decisions together.
- My husband would be romantic, often surprising me with his thoughtfulness.
- We would build a family together and parent well together.
- We would be best friends.
- We would grow together in our faith.
- We would never fight or argue (because I never saw my parents disagree).
- We would think alike.
- We would have an incredible love story.
Like many girls, I had consumed my fair share of romance novels, chick flicks, and magazine articles that filled my head with all kinds of messages about marriage, romance, and being in love. (Notice that sex wasn’t even on the list.) Oh, I assumed sex would just happen and not be an issue, but it didn’t make my top ten list of expectations. Looking at both of our lists of expectations, is it any wonder our expectations bumped straight into the wall of reality?
Mark: Expectations can be dangerous, especially if they are unknown, unspoken, or unrealistic. However, expectations can also be a good thing if we learn how to identify them, communicate about them, and use them to strengthen and improve our relationship.
Jill: In fact, it can even be helpful to replace some of those unrealistic expectations with realistic expectations! Some expectations can be helpful for marriage. These are things that will happen in every marriage. Once you say, “I do,” it’s healthy to:
Expect Conflict: You are two different human beings with differing personalities, temperaments, opinions, and preferences. Conflict will happen.
Expect Disappointments: Your spouse will make mistakes. He or she will let you down. They are not perfect and disappointment will happen.
Expect to Be Annoyed: When you live in close proximity to someone else as you do in marriage, there will be things that annoy you. In fact, the very things that drew you to each other in the first place will often be the things that will annoy you later on because they are the things that are different from you.
Expect to Need Continuing Education: Marriage requires a lifetime of learning. In order to have a deepening intimacy that lasts a lifetime, you’ll need to keep learning about yourself, your spouse, God, and marriage.(Becoming a No More Perfect Marriages Date Night member can help you keep learning! Get yourself on the wait list here for when we open membership in the future!)
Expect to Overcommunicate: Your spouse can’t read your mind. They have their own things to juggle in life. You’ll need to work hard to make sure you listen well and communicate clearly.
Expect to Lose That Loving Feeling: Feelings will wane, and that’s a normal part of a lifelong relationship. Feelings of love and attraction will come and go. There will be seasons where you’ll have to choose to love because the feeling just won’t be there.
Expect to Keep Investing: Your marriage relationship will need to be invested in on a regular basis. You’ll have to continue to date, to flirt, to communicate, to learn, to play together, to spend time, to listen well, and to have fun together.
Expect to Ask for Help: It’s very possible that there may be times where you need to seek accountability or perspective or help from a mentor, a marriage coach, another couple, or a professional counselor to get through a tough season. Asking for help is a sign of strength. (Clue: if you are often considering leaving or are disconnecting emotionally from your spouse or go days after conflict without interacting, these symptoms are signs that you are struggling with creating change on your own and need to pursue wise counsel.)
Mark: If you struggle with unrealistic expectations, you’re not alone. But we can’t live in the frustration when those expectations aren’t met. Staying there is what leads to disillusionment in marriage and is how our hearts can slowly grow apart.
Jill: Want to learn more? We talk even more about expectations in our book No More Perfect Marriages.
For today here’s a question to consider: What are some unrealistic expectations you hold that may be robbing you of joy in your marriage?
Want regular encouragement?
Subscribe to get Jill's latest content by email.