For as long as I can remember, I had exact expectations for how my future was going to be. I was going to meet a wonderful man in college, we would get married and he would graduate and find a nice paying 9-5 job right out of school. Within a couple years, we would buy a house, settle down and start our family. It was the quintessential dream and as I started college, I thought I had everything planned out. I expected everything to work out the way I wanted it to.
I met my husband later in my college education than I had planned, but that was okay. I also didn’t expect to have to wait to marry him for two years while he served a mission for our church. But, I learned to deal with that, too. When we finally tied the knot, I thought that everything was finally falling into place and that all my expectations for our future would be met.
It was alarming to me, that after the first few weeks of basking in the bliss of our new life together, that we were having more disagreements and tension in our home than I thought would be possible. I knew I had found someone who was meant for me, who loved me despite my past and physical flaws, but I had not expected to be arguing about who was responsible for taking the trash out. My husband loved me so much, why wasn’t he rushing to take the trash out for me every night? Why wasn’t he doing the dishes the second dinner was done? Why was I expected to do all of the laundry and cook all of the food? Why was he all of a sudden interested in a career that would alter everything down the road for our future?
I didn’t realize it at the time, but I had set high expectations for my spouse during those first few months of marriage. On top of my own expectations, I felt pressure from cultural and religious expectations to have a certain kind of marriage and was ashamed and afraid to admit that we weren’t meeting them. And, because I had expectations for how our marriage should be, I didn’t know how to communicate those expectations with my sweet husband.
We struggled and learned together through that first year of marriage. And, I learned that my expectations for our marriage were set way too high. I’m not saying that I don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and love. I most certainly am treated with respect and adoration. Rather, I realized that my expectations for my marriage were highly unrealistic: I didn’t give my husband the space to be a human being with his own wants, needs, and desires!
When have high expectations for your spouse (especially if they aren’t aware of them) you are setting your spouse up for failure and for tension to be added to your relationship. My husband had no idea that I expected him to take the trash out without asking. I know that may seem like such a little thing, but I would get SO angry at him when the trash was full and stinky and he hadn’t taken it out. It took us a few years to actually realize why there was so much tension at times in our marriage and it was because we each had unrealistic expectations for each other.
Now, we have an Expectation Inventory Conversation every few months. We both strive to go into this conversation as calm and neutral as possible because bringing in emotions can cause tension and breakdowns in communication. We talk about any expectations we have that are not being met and explain why we think they are justified. If someone has a different expectation, they get the time to express it and then we work hard to come up with a fair compromise for that expectation.
Since actively working on lowering my expectations in my marriage and communicating them with my husband, our marriage has grown stronger. I am no longer setting my husband up for failure and we are both aware of what we can do to meet the realistic expectations we have for each other.
Life is all about expectations. That’s the truth of the matter. But there is no need to let those expectations set us up for disappointment, especially in marriage. Have an honest chat with yourself and with your spouse; express any and all expectations you may have (even if they seem obvious) and be willing to compromise. I know that by lowering my expectations in my marriage has only made me happier with my spouse!