Too many people miss the silver lining because they’re expecting gold.
Have you faced your expectations for marriage with all honesty?
We often enter into marriage believing that happiness will abound. No one really expects marriage to be a full-time job.
Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott say in their best selling book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, “the belief in a happily-ever-after marriage is one of the most widely held and destructive marriage myths.”
This myth teaches us harmful expectations about marriage and our spouse. If we choose to free ourselves of these expectations early you can settle into the real world or marriage with all of its joys and sorrows fully one with each other.
Here are four harmful expectations you might have about marriage:
1. “We expect exactly the same things from marriage.”
Since childhood, you have probably been dreaming about what married life would be like. You each grew up in different homes where “married life” probably took on its own meaning. Consciously and unconsciously you and yours painted a picture of what marriage entailed and you have both assumed the other’s painting looks similar to yours.
The expectations you bring to the marriage with either make you or break you. Don’t walk into marriage with the belief that your partner will expect and want the same things as you do. Instead, discuss the ins and outs of your expectations. Who does which chores? What does your ideal day look like? What do you imagine the two of you doing during free time? Ask all the questions and discuss these things before your marriage union. When you’ve discussed these things, the two of you are more likely to agree on what your marriage will look like one that is unique to the two of you.
2. “Everything good in our relationship will improve.”
The truth is that not everything gets better. A lot of things improve but many things become more difficult.
Most marriages begin with a honeymoon- a time of deep and passionate romance. Romance at the beginning of a relationship will not last forever and we cannot expect it to. Each of us creates the idealized image of the person we marry and then later discover the real person (Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, pg. 27). Once you realize that marriage is not all sunshine, rainbows and find you’re actually married an imperfect person, you can learn to appreciate the moments of sunshine and rainbows that do come along. Les & Leslie Parrott call this “disenchantment,” and say once you get to this point you can then experience deeper intimacy with your spouse.
3. “Everything bad in life will disappear.”
Deep down we long for the fairy tale ending. Our Prince will find us and he will remove us from the ashes of our pain, disappointment, and heartbreak. Many people marry to avoid or escape unpleasantness. But as great as marriage can be, it is nothing compared to the real healing work of Jesus.
Marriage does not take away personal pain and loneliness, only Jesus is able to come in and take care of the inner workings of your heart and soul. However, God has created marriage as a means of helping him restore those broken parts of us as we allow our spouse to love us and accept us for who we truly are.
4. “My spouse will make me whole.”
This expectation makes us completely dependent on our spouse. As Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott write, “Dependent partners desire happiness, not personal growth. They are not interested in nourishing the relationship but in being nourished by their partner. They believe the lie that says they will effortlessly be made whole simply by being married” (Saving Your Marriage Before it Starts, Pg 31).
Godly marriage challenges us to new heights and calls us to be the best person possible, but neither our marriage nor our partner could ever possibly make us whole. Relying on your spouse to make you whole is putting unrealistic pressure on them. They will undoubtedly fail you many times over until you release them of that expectation.
The goal for marriage is not to be dependent on each other, nor independent of each other, but to become interdependent. Two whole people, confident in who God says they are, two people who could stand on their own but who choose to be together. This exhibits a meaningful couple identity.
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Most of us do enter into marriage with some these harmful expectations. The important thing to remember is that you the key to cutting through these expectations is patiently working through the challenges and learning and adapting together.
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I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. What is your favorite “happily ever after” story? What do you have consciously or unconsciously believed about those stories?
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