Let’s say you’re single and you’re hoping for a spouse. You’ve tried online dating, you’ve dated, and you’ve had expectations about what the person across from you will bring to the table. Not only did you have expectations prior to dating and while dating, you have expectations now about marriage. We all do. We have expectations about several different things so over the next few weeks I’m going to cover nine topics that incite huge expectations that people come into marriage with or without knowing they do.
These topics are Communication, Conflict Resolution, Partner Habits & Style, Financial Management, Leisure Activities, Sexual Expectations, Family & Friends, Relationship Roles, and Spiritual/Non-Spiritual Beliefs. These nine topics come from a Premarital & Marriage Assessment Tool that I like to use with couples. This tool is from the organization Prepare/Enrich. I love to use this assessment because I believe it does a great job of letting couples see where they are strong and also where they need to improve in their relationship.
So let me start this series by sharing with you one of the expectations I had going into marriage. I grew up in a home where I was fortunate enough to see a healthy marriage. As a young man, my dad said, “Always treat a woman like a Queen and never, ever hit a woman.” Many days I watched dad love my mom faithfully through his words and actions until the day he died. I also grew up in the 80’s era when romance movies and songs were in vogue. These two combinations shaped me to become a hopeful romantic even though my fear of rejection kept me from asking girls out on dates. In spite of my fears and low self-esteem, I always knew if I found that special girl, my life would be dedicated to giving her my undivided love and attention. Well, I met my queen and our marriage has been more amazing than I could have ever dreamed.
Now like most men, I had a lot of repressed hormones and was taught in church that sex should be saved until marriage and then when you get married you can have all the sex you want. This wasn’t just taught to me, it was taught to guys and girls. What wasn’t taught was that men and women have different sex drives and that is something you and your spouse have to work out together. So for me I had the expectation that every day would be like the movies. You know, two people fall in love and have sex in every scene but that’s not real life. Hollywood, the internet, religion, and even other people’s relationships can set a couple up for false expectations. This isn’t just true with sex but with any of the topics I listed above.
What I’m trying to say is that there’s a time when romance turns into reality. We were in school so there were nights we were just too tired. When we had babies there were many nights we were worn out from giving all of our energy to our children. When our kids were growing up, we were both working, supporting our kids, and dealing with life. As we’ve gotten older, our bodies have changed and sex drives change as well. Throughout our marriage there were days my expectations fell short, but more often than not there were days that surpassed my expectations.
Here’s the thing though, it’s hard to overcome ingrained expectations. Not only that, false expectations can lead to anger and unresolved anger can lead to depression. So how this leads to the question of how do you solve the challenges of expectations? I’m sure there are many ways, but most of all we need to learn to have a healthy view of where reality and expectations meet. This is not only a safe place, it’s a healthy place in any relationship. So this leads to my first topic on this series next week, Communication.