Get Rid of Unrealistic Expectations that Often Cause Confrontations!

I rustled the trash and slammed the bag against the floor. Once again I have to take out the trash because HE didn’t. Oh he makes me so mad. Just sitting there watching TV while I do all the work. I thought to myself, while snapping a new bag to line the trash container.

I walked through the living room to exit the front door; the garage was a shorter distance, but I wanted to make sure he knew I was doing his job, once again!

Instead of retaliation, Greg smiled, making me even madder. A couple of years and many fights later, we realized an important truth: You bring who you are into your marriage.

We typically look at our family and decide we want to be just like them, or vow we’ll never do things the way they did. These expectations spoken or unspoken are part of us. The more we understand our expectations the more likely we’ll resolve our conflicts.

The majority or our confrontations result from unmet expectations. We think our spouse should act a certain way, think a certain way, and live a certain way. And though there are certain expectations that every spouse should honor in marriage, like: fidelity, kindness, honesty, and commitment; the majority of our expectations should be negotiable.

Think about the expectations you had about marriage prior to marrying, the roles you expected one another to play, and the expectations you have about your spouse? Who should discipline the kids, and how? Where should you eat your family meals, in front of the TV or at the kitchen table? From the biggest of decisions to the smallest, our expectations formed from life’s experience.

For most of us, our expectations remain unmentioned because we aren’t aware what we’ve adopted as normal. Recognizing your expectations is half the battle to avoiding confrontations. So here are some ways to recognize underlying expectations:

1. Recognize your emotions. When you begin to feel your “blood boil” or perhaps feel especially passionate about a particular subject…take note—underneath lays an expectation for sure! Ask yourself, “Why am I so frustrated about this; where does my expectation stem from?”

2. Communicate with your spouse. Ask them questions about their family. Find out what they expect. Talk specifically with them about gender specific roles within your marriage, money, the rearing of children; what is an appropriate amount of time away from one another—how much time do they like to have to themselves? The earlier you do this in your relationship the better, but it is never too late.

3.Examine your upbringing. Ask yourself the same questions you did your spouse. You might be surprised (as you reflect on your upbringing) how many of your marital arguments stem from expectations formed from your childhood.

Discovering your expectations is only half the battle, now you need to determine whether your expectations are realistic or not. Here are three ways to recognize realistic expectations:

1. Spiritually—Compare it to the principles found in God’s Word—if it contradicts the Word of God then get rid of it. If the Word of God supports the expectation then keep it; it is realistic. 1 Corinthians 10:31 which says, “whether in word or deed do it all to the glory of God.”

2. Practically—is the expectation feasible? If it doesn’t defy ethics and can be met fairly easily then more than likely it is realistic. Don’t have the attitude that, “I will take care of their need when they take care of mine.”

3. Socially—examine other Christian couples. Does your expectation line up with the principles preached within your congregation? Does it compare with other Christian couples’ lifestyles? Be careful; this comparison is the most subjective, but if the majority of Christian couples practice the expectation then it is probably realistic.

Finally, if you want to have a marriage of a life time, rather than justifying why one another are wrong…submit your expectations and every preconceived idea to God. Ask for His help to make any changes you need to, and serve one another extending grace, mercy, and love.

(For a more extensive look at Expectations that Cause Confrontations, pick up a copy and read: What I Wish My Mother Had Told Me About Marriage: Unlocking 10 Secrets to a Thriving Marriage together.