Illegitimate expectations in marriage?
Strong language, right?
Well, the reality is that we are living in the age of the self-expressive marriage. Never in history have the expectations for marriage been as high as they are today.
We want to achieve personal growth, self-actualization, meaning, and essentially our best lives in marriage. I am all for it, my friend! I’ve dedicated my life’s work to supporting marriages as a therapist and teacher.
However, if your marriage is the only place you are leaning on to achieve these life goals, it could put a lot of pressure on your marriage.
I was having a conversation the other day with one of my BFFs, and this topic came up. We were talking about a story of a woman who said her husband is NOT her best friend, and she doesn’t expect him to be.
We were like – wow – that’s so counter-culture. Some would even say that’s almost discouraging.
We then asked each other, “Are some expectations in marriage illegitimate?”
Has our culture conditioned us to want our spouses to be all things to us at all times?
Esther Perel, a notable psychotherapist, made a very powerful point when she said that we are looking to our spouses to fulfill a role that we used to seek out a whole village to fulfill in times past.
Pastor Timothy Keller also noted how in our current age of romanticism, people are looking to their spouses instead of God to help them fulfill their need for meaning and significance.
These, my friends, could potentially be illegitimate expectations.
Research (McGraw-Hill, 2018) has found that even when you are experiencing a good relationship, but it’s not meeting your expectations, there will be dissatisfaction and disappointment.
Are we inadvertently setting ourselves up for disappointment with unrealistic expectations? Possibly.
High expectations are good, but unrealistic expectations could possibly give us a negative perspective on a good relationship.
I just want to remind you that there are places in your heart and your life that only God can fulfill.
Seeking out support from family members and friends can give you a more diversified pool for meeting your relational needs.
Also, remember the fulfillment that comes from pursuing your purpose in life.
The following questions could possibly help you bring more balance to your expectations and your relationship:
- Am I being too critical of my spouse?
- Are my expectations appropriate for the current season of my relationship?
- Am I asking my spouse to fulfill needs in me that should be reserved for God?
- Am I expecting perfection from my spouse?
- How can I give my spouse more grace?
- Am I pursuing and getting fulfillment out of my purpose in life?
- How can I focus on the contributions my spouse makes to the marriage that I am grateful for?
- Do I accept the truth that I am completely and unconditionally loved by God?
Aim high, my friends, but try not to weigh your wings down with unrealistic expectations. Give yourself and your spouse some grace, it will be like wind beneath your wings.