Why your expectations are ruining your marriage

Mar 24, 2021 1:11 pm



[ Read Time: 3 min, 20 secs ]

Expectations are great when we set them.

They're not so great when our spouse doesn't meet them.

Hence, the problem with typical expectations:

They are standards you create -- often without the knowledge or input of your spouse. You then then enforce the standards -- often to the dismay of your spouse.

Give me a moment to break that down, diagnose the problem, then prescribe a remedy.

[Expectations] are standards you create. You are good, REALLY good, at coming up with rules and plans for your mate.

Often without the knowledge or input of your spouse. Think about an expectation you have for your mate. Does he/she know about it? Did you give your mate an opportunity to provide input or pushback? Was your mate given the chance to shape the expectation?

You then enforce the standards. Admit it, you're probably just as good as enforcing expectations as you are creating them. After all, what's the use of a good rule if you can't hold your mate accountable, right?

Often to the dismay of your spouse. If your spouse is like mine, he/she just looooves the latest rule you've concocted and expect him/her to follow. Right? Oh. Not really? Wait ...your spouse actually gets upset when he/she is confronted with a rule that was unknown or never agreed upon? Wow! Cetelia is the same way. Our spouses must be twins! 😐

Diagnosis: See what's going on here? The typical expectation is about us getting our needs met while simply using our mate as a means to an end. At best, our expectations are a way for us to address our fears, frustrations, and longings. At worst, they're a way for us to control our environment, our resources, and mate.

Important: Most of the items we call expectations are really nothing more than wishes, desires, or hopes.

In and of itself, that's okay. It's fine to wish, have a desire, or hope.

The problem shows up when our wish/desire/hope becomes an ironclad rule that our mate must follow without agreement or exception.

Incredibly important: A wish/desire/hope only becomes an expectation when our mate has committed to it. Period.

Until then, it's only something we hope our mate will follow-through on.

Prescription: Think about your current catalog of expectations. Pick one, and run it through these questions:

  1. What fear(s), frustration(s), or longing(s) is the "expectation" meant to address?
  2. Are you attempting to control your environment, resources, or mate?
  3. Did your mate know about the "expectation" before it was enforced?
  4. If yes, was the expectation created as a team or alone in your mind?
  5. Did your mate commit to follow-through?
  6. What's the consequence if the "expectation" isn't met?
  7. Does your mate know about the consequence? Did he/she agree it?
  8. Based on how you answered 1-7, is your "expectation" a real expectation or just a wish/desire/hope?

I encourage you to spend some time wrestling with your expectations one-by-one to see if they're legitimate expectations.

Run them through the eight questions above to test their worth.

Do it by yourself. And, if you're brave & humble enough, do it with your spouse.

(Note: I'm not saying what you want or need is not legitimate. I'm simply challenging you to test if what you're after is at the "expectation" level or just something you hope comes to pass).

Once you get clear on separating expectations from wishes/desires/hopes, you and your mate can begin establishing shared expectations that address needs, invite accountability, and create intimacy.


ps - I hope (not expect) you'll do the exercise. See expectations work? 😇