When Your Expectations in Marriage are not Met

“The servant asked him, ‘What if the woman is unwilling to come back with me to this land? Shall I then take your son back to the country you came from?'” – Genesis 24:5

marriage-silhouetteOne of the first great shocks to young marrieds is that all of their expectations in marriage are not going to be realized.  Before you are married, you fully expect your husband to ride the white horse, to leap over buildings in a single bound, and to walk on water–at least, most of the time. And guys expect their brides to cook like mother, look like a celebrity, and to purr like a kitten when he’s around.

Reality quickly sets in, and when you stop looking at your mate through rose-colored glasses your dreams begin to crumble.  Your world quickly becomes black and white.  “I should never have married him,” I’ve heard young wives say.  The flip side of that is the men who say, “I guess I didn’t really know her.  She was always so agreeable before we married.  She’d say, ‘Anything you want, honey!’  Now that we’re married, I’ve found out that she wanted a lot of things which she wouldn’t tell me about.  Now she’s got an opinion about everything.”

So where do you go from this standoff?  A lot of marriages take a downward spin from this point.  Repressing your expectations leads to a lot of anger–the kind that first simmers, then eventually explodes.

divorce“We were emotionally divorced but living in the same house,” was the way Debbie Johnson put it.  She explained, “I got to the point in the marriage where I was miserable for so long that I just wanted to make him miserable.  We had no feeling for each other.  We didn’t have hope.”  (Kathleen Kelleher, “Divorce Busters Can Help Rescue Struggling Relationships” Los Angeles Times, June 25, 2001, E-2).

What’s the answer?  Give up your expectations?  Voice your disappointment?  Call it quits?  When you don’t come to grips with the issue, your passion cools and your anger builds.  A nursing journal asks the question, “Why do you hold onto an unrealistic expectation?” then answers it, saying, “It’s because you believe you have a ‘right’ to expect it.” (Brenda Lyon, “Conquering Chronic Anger,” Nursing Leadership, 2ND Quarter, 2000, p. 30).   While I agree with what the author wrote, I also see the flaw in relation to unmet expectations in marriage.  When you hold onto your “rights” you quickly see the “wrongs” in how you are treated, and at some point you have to relinquish those rights, those angry feelings that you are not getting your due.

wife-chores-pedestalMy wife, who has worked with women for decades, believes that most women expect their husbands to meet needs in their lives which only a relationship with Jesus Christ can meet.  In biblical days women met together to do their washing and their shopping, and shared in the preparation of food for a family.  Today, however, we are isolated.  Few younger women have relationships with older women who mentor, who encourage, who can serve as sounding boards.

Are there guidelines which can help?  Ponder the following:

Guideline #1:  When your expectations are not met in marriage, strive to communicate your feelings without anger or hostility.  Saying, “When you do this, here’s how I feel…” is less threatening than saying, “YOU…”with inflamed rhetoric.

Guideline #2: Strive to be the person God would have you to be, insuring that you are not pulling away from you mate with an “eye for an eye” attitude of retaliation.

Guideline #3: Let go of your expectation when it is clear that it isn’t going to be met, rather than grow angry loving-coupleand bitter.  Debbie Johnson (the woman I quoted a few minutes ago) and her husband Mark didn’t give up on their marriage. They got involved in a program called, “Reconciling God’s Way,” and their marriage was saved.  Yours can be, as well.

A final thought: When you strive to make your marriage work, you can be assured of God’s help, for it is always His purpose to bring healing and help to our lives.  That’s what redemption is about.

Resource reading: Genesis 24

This devotional © by Harold J. Sala.  All rights reserved.  Used by permission from Guidelines International Ministries. Not for sale or profit.


Dr. Harold J. Sala

Speaker, author and Bible teacher, Dr. Harold Sala founded Guidelines in 1963.Pioneering the five-minute commentary in Christian radio, Dr. Sala’s daily “Guidelines-A Five Minute Commentary on Living” is heard the world over in a variety of languages. Sala, who holds a Ph.D. in biblical text, has authored over 55 books published in 19 languages.He speaks and teaches frequently at conferences, seminars, and churches worldwide. Residing in Mission Viejo, California, Harold and his wife, Darlene, have three adult children (daughter Bonnie is now Guidelines president) and eight well-loved grandchildren.
Dr. Harold J. Sala

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