Did you get married expecting it to look a certain way and then get let down when it didn’t?
That is so discouraging and can even put your marriage at risk.
These are the top 3 expectations that I had in my marriage and that STILL come up for me sometimes and for many of our students too.
So see if you too identify with having these unrealistic expectations.
One of the most insidious ones for me is #1:
1. Doing lots of chores and housework is the way to be a good wife
Early on, I thought that my efforts to keep a nice home and cook meals and do his laundry and run errands and make his doctors’ appointments made me SUCH a good wife.
I was just going to earn so much of his love and appreciation by working hard at home and at work, and putting hot meals on the table at dinner time.
Like he really scored a great wife because I would rattle those pots and pans every night.
It wasn’t long before I resembled a refrigerator magnet a friend got for me that had a 1950s housewife on it holding a casserole. It said, “The secret ingredient is resentment.”
That’s exactly what was going into all the meals I was making.
And for some reason, this did not get me a grateful kiss and a hug or a pat on the butt, but instead a very distant husband.
He didn’t seem to appreciate everything I was doing for him at all. I sure didn’t feel loved or desired, and I couldn’t work any harder! I was already so tired.
Then I found out about respect and what it really means to a man, which was not what I thought at all, and I started being respectful to him.
I also found out about expressing my desires and honoring my limits. I stopped doing most of the chores. He does 90% of everything now, and I’m just grateful and happy and out playing volleyball or arranging the tea in my tea caddy or playing Wordle on my phone.
Now he’s crazy about me and so appreciative of what little I do around here, which seems like hardly anything.
I’m a high-maintenance wife who hasn’t done the dishes or used a vacuum in years, and my husband is SO in love with me.
So the idea that I would get love as a result of how much I did was completely unrealistic.
He just loves me anyway I think because I’m so loveable and cute and I let him do things for me and give me presents.
That was NOT what I expected.
2. Valentine’s Day will be so romantic
Sure it’s only one day of the year, but when it comes to heavy expectations, Valentine’s Day is a standout.
These days I mostly feel like every day is Valentine’s Day around here. And John is great about always getting me flowers, chocolates and a card on February 14th. This year I also said “I’ll make us dinner and we can eat together at home.” Which is what we do most nights anyway.
But this was going to be a “Valentine’s Day dinner,” whatever that means.
But John’s brother was at our house that afternoon and if it hadn’t been Valentine’s Day I would have probably said, “Let’s have your brother stay for dinner.” But I felt some pressure we had to have this romantic dinner as a couple.
Especially since I’m Laura Doyle, relationship expert.
Then John took his brother home, which took longer than I expected, and instead of doing my thing I was waiting for him to come home so we could fulfill my expectation that we would have a romantic dinner as a couple!
So by the time he got home, I was hangry and crabby and I let him know I was WAITING FOR HIM THAT WHOLE TIME!
John apologized and said, “Well, I’m here now, “ and I thought we were going to have a nice Valentine’s dinner together.” And I was like No. NO we’re not. Now it’s too late. Because you took too long.
So we had a tense meal instead. It took the entire meal for me to cool down.
I reminded myself of my mother on her worst day, even though I’ve been practicing the Intimacy Skills for decades so I didn’t think crazy stupid Valentine’s Day could trip me up like that! But it turns out, I’m still a mere mortal woman.
He should know what I want even though I have no idea
I don’t know where I got this idea that if I was unhappy it was my husband’s job to fix that, but that’s what I thought early on. And I’m not the only one.
A student named Katherine told me that her birthday was coming up and that her husband always let her down on birthdays. Every year they didn’t do anything fun and her husband seemed to struggle to even acknowledge the day.
But when I asked her what she wanted her birthday to look like, she struggled herself. She said, “You know, we’d do something, we’d go somewhere special!” When I asked her “Like what and where?” she didn’t know.
So I invited her to dream about it and she decided she wanted to go to a nearby coastal city for the day for a hike and have lunch at a seafood restaurant that had great reviews.
She felt happy just thinking about what a fun day that would be. Then she expressed that desire to her husband.
And this is key: She did it without expectations.
Just knowing what would make her happy had gone a long way to erasing that feeling of resentment and disappointment she’d been having.
To her surprise, he found the perfect hike in that city, made reservations at the seafood place, and got the car filled up to take her there. He also got her some essential oils that she mentioned she would love AND a beautiful necklace that he thought of all by himself.
Instead of expecting him to know how to make her happy then being resentful when he failed, she dug deep to figure out what would delight her.
Once he knew what to do, he was glad to be her hero.
What expectations are realistic in marriage? It’s your birthright as a woman to be cherished, taken care of and adored! And around here we’re not giving up until you get all of that.
Even if you’re not expecting it.
I’d love to hear how your expectations in your marriage have served you.