Perhaps the biggest piece of baggage a person brings into marriage is their bundle of expectations.
Each person has an idea of what their home life, their parenting, their sex life, and their responsibilities should be like. Problems develop when couples assume the other person shares their expectations:
A husband may expect his wife to balance a home and career like his mother did.
A wife may expect her husband to fix things around the house.
When expectations are unclear, unhealthy, unspoken, or unmet, both spouses can feel neglected, frustrated, or just plain angry.
And often, couples don’t even realise they have expectations until they aren’t met.
So how do we solve this problem?
Figuring out where your expectations were formed is an important step in the process of defining expectations in your marriage.
Each of you should make a list of roles and responsibilities you saw your parents doing as you grew up. These will be different and that’s OK.
Show your lists to each other and talk about why your parents did things the way they did. Just because your parents did things a certain way, doesn’t mean you have to. Your father may never have helped with dishes because he worked odd hours. Your mother may have managed the finances because she was better at it than your dad and they were both happy for her to do it.
(Back to our parents – my dad ironed shirts during the time my mom was having chemotherapy and maybe that stuck in my mind as something a man should sometimes be willing to do… Richard’s dad never ironed a shirt because his family had domestic help and the farm consumed all his dad’s time and attention.)
Each couples’ needs and circumstances are different. Your relationship and expectations will not be like any other. Figure out your own expectations as a couple and tweak them until you are both content. Remember, you are team mates, not enemies.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV).
Expect to revisit your expectations over the years because circumstances and people’s needs change. If something is not working for one of you then it’s not working for both of you.
Because marriage brings two individuals, from two different homes, with two different family backgrounds, together, there will be a certain amount of conflict because of unspoken expectations.
Identifying your expectations, communicating about them, and finding a common resolution will grow your marriage. And instead of competing against each other you can become team mates.
How have unspoken expectations impacted your marriage? Which of these do you need to talk about?