It takes a village. This saying can be applied to many aspects of our lives—including our marriage. We really love our partners. We’re conditioned to see partners as all-encompassing soul mates. These two facts may result in counterproductive expectations which, in turn, can ruin a really good relationship.
This is not to pour cold water on your happiness. Of course, any relationship should involve expectations. But, it takes a village. We cannot and should not expect one person to meet all our needs. Life is far more exciting and fulfilling when the expectations get spread around!
What We Can and Should Expect From a Spouse
Needless to say, this list can be miles long. But the point is that having expectations is normal and healthy. Expectations aren’t the issue. The problems start when we set idealistic or unrealistic expectations. This may occur due to cultural conditioning. It may also result from a desire to control. Whatever the cause, some marital expectations must be rejected.
5 Ways Your Marital Expectations Might be Ruining a Really Good Relationship
1. I found my soul mate. The hard part is over.
From childhood fairy tales to the romantic comedies we watch as adults, this is the general myth we’re being told. There’s one person out there for me. When I find that person, I reap the rewards. Love at first sight may or may not happen but that's not the hard part. That’s the easy part!
Better choice: We’re so incredibly lucky to have found each other. Now we must work as a team to build and deep and lasting marriage.
2. My spouse will make me happy.
“Happily ever after,” right? We essentially delegate our personal joy and fulfillment to another person. Then, when we’re not happy all day long, we want to blame our spouse. You may finish each other’s sentences and laugh at all the same jokes. Relish that connection, but don't make it solely responsible for your happiness in life.
Better choice: Our connection will enhance my sense of happiness and comfort me when things are not going my way.
3. We will never argue.
Only unhappy couples argue. Arguments lead directly to divorce. Therefore, thou shalt not argue. This is not a black and white issue. Each couple feels differently. Each couple probably defines “argue” differently.
Better choice: Disagreements are inevitable. Conflict is a necessary part of life. We can learn to communicate in order to resolve our differences.
4. My partner will always have my back.
In theory, this is a reasonable expectation. However, over time, “have my back” tends to morph into different meanings. If one of you gambles away the family savings or commits infidelity, the other must call out such behavior. You cannot expect your partner to enable unhealthy behaviors.
Better choice: We are a team but we are also individuals with a responsibility to that team.
5. We’re compatible and that will not change.
The most important lesson no one teaches us is that compatibility is fluid. It requires constant attention and diligent work. It is simply a cliche that all you need is love. If only. Love is wonderful and can be enduring. But we need so much more. Saying this, however, does not trivialize the power or love. It shows this power immense respect.
Better choice: We will not take our love for granted.
Changing Your Expectations
What are our models for a healthy relationship? We may learn from pop culture sources or perhaps from the couples we see around us (including family members). Needless to say, this is hardly the most helpful path. Naturally, we pick up bad habits—including counterproductive expectations.
Working with a couples counselor can help you create a more realistic perspective on the dynamics of marriage. Ideally, we begin such work before the wedding but it’s never too late to evolve and grow.