5 Expectations Marriage Doesn't Meet

The fantasy of marriage looks a lot different from reality. Here's a wake-up call.

Marriage is like a tube of toothpaste: You get the best results when you start squeezing at the bottom. (Insert your own marital hanky-panky joke here.) The most successful marriages start with a solid foundation. That foundation is built on many things—mutual interests, shared beliefs, selflessness and, of course, love—but the biggest problem going into many marriages is that those basics are often held back by unrealistic expectations.

All of us know someone for whom marriage didn't work out. We've all heard the statistics. First marriages have a failure rate of more than 40 percent. Second marriages end in divorce 60 percent of the time. This is particularly true of the generation whose parents married (and subsequently divorced) in the 1970s.

We think we know what marriage is because we've seen it on TV. It's Monica and Chandler, all candles and sex and witty banter. It's the end-of-the-day slow dancing of Cliff and Claire Huxtable. It's the tuxedos and pigtailed flower girls and white chiffon spectacle of The Bachelorette on ABC. Then, when everything doesn't turn out exactly as we dreamed, we look for an out, blame it on irreconcilable differences and scrap the covenant.

The differences aren't the problem, though; our irreconcilable expectations are. Let's look, then, at some of those predetermined ideas and dump marriage out of its box. Here's something you should know before you say “I Do”: not what marriage is, but five things it isn't.

1. It isn't a cure for loneliness.

In a society where we're plugged in 24 hours a day, where "community" is more often used to describe your Facebook friends than an actual neighborhood, people long to connect intimately with someone.

We see couples everywhere—in restaurants, on TV, on the bus or train or sidewalks on the way to work—and feel like something is missing in our lives if we're alone. As humans, we have an innate need to belong, and we expect a spouse to provide that sense of acceptance and intimacy and comfort. We're Jerry Maguire looking for a soul mate, someone to whom we can say, "You complete me."

Best case scenario, that's what a good marriage will provide. But I know couples in loving relationships who remain lonely. Why? After all, they've found a perfect mate who has taken great strides toward fulfilling their need for intimacy. But that's a heavy load for one person to bear, despite the stories Cameron Crowe tells. Lonely single people become lonely married people. If your goal in marriage is to satisfy your need to belong, your next stop may be heartbreak.

2. It isn't an escape from boredom.

In 1991, U.S. News and World Report reported that half of U.S. workers said the reason they have a job—aside from needing to earn a living—was to keep from being bored. What does this have to do with marriage? Plenty. Some couples get married to shake off boredom. Life becomes dull, and it's easy to convince yourself that a serious relationship will make the day more bearable. It's something else to do, the next step after graduating college and getting a job and exploring the dating scene. When you get married, you expect built-in happiness. Automatic entertainment. Regular conversation. At least you'll have someone to watch TV with.

Unfortunately, this fails to account for the true cause of boredom, which isn't necessarily an external lack of stimulus, but rather an internal one. You're not bored because you've seen every episode of The Real World: New Orleans 30 times. You're bored because you can't come up with something better to do after watching it the first time. It's not my fault you're bored, nor is it MTV's fault. It's yours.

Getting married in order to generate a little excitement in your life is a terrible motivation. Why? Because once the merry-go-round stops—once the novelty wears out—you'll immediately start looking for the next ride.

3. It isn't a rowdy sex romp.

As the old experiment goes, put a penny in a jar for every time you have sex during the first year of marriage. Then, beginning at the start of your second year, take a penny out every time you do the horizontal two-step. Chances are, a couple of years later, you'll still be pulling pennies.

Does the sex stop after 12 months of good lovin'? No. Not by any means. But is every night a page out of the Karma Sutra? Nope. Despite what guys think, your wife won't always want to wear that see-through teddy. Elastic and lace just aren't that comfortable in some places. And ladies? Keeping the romance alive is hard work for us guys. Sometimes we just want to watch SportsCenter.

Still, with communication and sensitivity, sex can (and should) remain a vital part of marriage. It's the ultimate bonding activity for a couple to share. But remember, it's not the only activity. Don't expect marriage to be a 50-year honeymoon of libido and lipstick.

4. It isn't a means to a makeover.

How many times have you heard this? "He's not really interested in the stuff I like to do, but that'll change once we get married." Very few marriages that launch from that pad end up happily ever after.

If there's anything you should know about marriage, it's this: Saying "I do" may change your legal relationship, but it doesn't change your character. Don't enter a marriage expecting to remake your husband or wife into someone else. You can't. People have baggage, stuff they've wheeled around behind them since childhood. It's been with us so long, very few have the willpower to drop it before entering the wedding chapel. The flaws go with you.

Don't marry someone for who they might become. Marry them for who they are right now.

5. It isn't an easy transition.

There's a reason romantic movies end, rather than begin, with a wedding. It's because that's when the hard stuff starts. For anyone who's lived on their own for any length of time, the space between singleness and marriage is a wide one. It's a difficult transition for many.

"I wasn't ready for all the changes," a friend of mine once told me about his first few months of marriage. "I could deal with moving into her place and giving up my furniture—it was pretty much crap anyway. But what surprised me was having to deal with her emotions. When you're dating, you always see her best face. Once you get married, you see everything."

Women don't have it any easier. Many secretly wince at the notion of placing their fate alongside that of another, worrying that the role of wife might eat into their sense of individuality.

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There's no way around making these adjustments. In order for the marriage to last more than a week or two, you'll have to find a way to cope. Don't be taken by surprise; expect a few hiccups going in.

Let me get a head start by ending with this disclaimer. We've been discussing what marriage is not, but here's what marriage is: Marriage is wonderful. There is no better way to make it through life than with a partner who loves you despite your morning breath, despite your stinky Converse All-Stars and despite your failure to clean coffee stains. Marriage is deeply satisfying, incredibly fulfilling and loads of fun. It makes the harsh edges of life a little softer. It brings joy and hope and laughter. But it's not easy, and it's not something to rush into without thinking.

So: Know the benefits. Know the challenges. Know your potential mate. Get your expectations right. Then, jump in with both feet. You're gonna like it.

Jason Boyett is a blogger and author, most recently of O Me of Little Faith (Zondervan). This article was adapted from The Pocket Guide to Adulthood (Relevant Books).

Top Comments

Zion Shabazz Eric Larkin

2

Zion Shabazz Eric Larkin commented…

My marriage has been all 5 of the things above...am I doing something wrong?

Michael Lettner

43

Michael Lettner commented…

This is a great article for we all bring expectations into marriage and most are wrong. It doesn't help with looking how Hollywood portrays "falling in love" and even many Christians saying that things will change once you get married. It is incredible being married, but it is also a lot harder than you think it is. It will make you realize how selfish you are (kids do that even more). Remember that love isn't a feeling or an emotion, but a choice and an action. Choose to fight for your marriage.

38 Comments

Logan Sharp

4

Logan Sharp commented…

So, so, so true! Luckily, my youth pastor, who did my premarital counseling, dispelled all these myths and it freed up the start of my marriage to a better understanding of what my wife and I were getting ourselves into!

Marriage definitely is a lot of work. There is also some downtime too. This is when my wife and I connect by talking about what we're dealing with or just goof off by making fun of corny movies (I'm looking at you Twilight). I feel that dealing with boredom is what you make of it; you can either do something fun and creative together or you can sit there and be a bump on a log, as my mom would always say.

And while it's no easy transition, it certainly is a fun one. At least, I thought so. Sure, there's a few snags here and there but it's overall transition is a fun one. I've been married 9 months now and it has been an absolute blast, even the few arguments.

Grace Havin

4

Grace Havin replied to Logan Sharp's comment

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La

1

La commented…

When I was still single, people would say all of the above and more, about what marriage would not offer, how it would be very difficult, etc. A brief marriage to the wrong person was not a healthy way to live. I realized I was young and made a wrong choice but I moved on and refused to become embittered. I realized I should choose more carefully the next time, as I wasn't wanting to do it a third. It took almost 15 years to find someone who I knew would be able to share in a healthy marriage with me, as I am, without changing anything. I don't ask him to change himself either, other than suggesting we go for walks together more and reminding him when a haircut is due. A good marriage DOES decrease loneliness. Friends are good to have, but having 100 friends will not substitute for being married if someone honestly desires to be married. I've seen married people who are lonely together. They do not connect, they're hostile to each other, they probably didnt take 15 years to find someone, because people didn't take their time years ago. I AM happier with stability than I was with dating relationships. I didn't enjoy dating. The wait and see where this might go period was always too drawn out. Part of that was me. I eventually learned to be clear about what I was looking for and when the guys would play along then start getting wishy washy I'd end it promptly. It was actually a pretty painless transition, getting married. We didn't even live together before the wedding. I must be the only one on 2015!. After the first dud, a "fair discussion" type, not a hotheaded mean arguer was a definite requirement. When I lived alone, I'd need to leave my apartment to alleviate boredom. It IS easier to just hang around the house with someone else there. We are probably boring by some peoples standard, but I don't feel bored at home anymore.

Haley Jacob

1

Haley Jacob commented…

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Don Stella

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My life has changed for good with the help of the most powerful spell caster called Dr Yaya. My name is Don Stella and my testimony today is in regards to Dr Yaya who returned my lost husband home. My name is Don Stella from USA. My husband whom i have been married to for 30 years left me for another woman and i tried every means to bring him back but to no avail everything that i did was in vain. On a certain good day i was browsing through the internet when i came across Dr Yaya and saw testimonies on how he has helped so many people with different problems. I saw how he helped a woman called Antonia James to bring back her lover and how he cured HIV virus and cancer diseases for people. I never use to believe in spells but i had no choice order than to give him a try and so i contacted him on his email: yayaperfecthome@yahoo.com when i contacted him, i explained to him and he told me that everything will be okay and he assured me never to worry. I didn't believe at first. Dr Yaya told me that he has consulted his gods and told me the items required to get back my man but i couldn't get the items to buy and so i sent him the money and he did his work and in 2 days time my husband came speedily to me begging me to forgive him and i actually forgave him and today we are even more happier than we use to be. Contact Dr Yaya today on his email: yayaperfecthome@yahoo.com and get your solution. Thank you Dr yaya and i will keep on telling people about your good deeds. You can also contact him through his website http://yayaperfecthome.wixsite.com/dr-yaya. thank you Dr yaya for indeed you are truly a powerful.

Don Stella

2

Don Stella commented…

My life has changed for good with the help of the most powerful spell caster called Dr Yaya. My name is Don Stella and my testimony today is in regards to Dr Yaya who returned my lost husband home. My name is Don Stella from USA. My husband whom i have been married to for 30 years left me for another woman and i tried every means to bring him back but to no avail everything that i did was in vain. On a certain good day i was browsing through the internet when i came across Dr Yaya and saw testimonies on how he has helped so many people with different problems. I saw how he helped a woman called Antonia James to bring back her lover and how he cured HIV virus and cancer diseases for people. I never use to believe in spells but i had no choice order than to give him a try and so i contacted him on his email: yayaperfecthome@yahoo.com when i contacted him, i explained to him and he told me that everything will be okay and he assured me never to worry. I didn't believe at first. Dr Yaya told me that he has consulted his gods and told me the items required to get back my man but i couldn't get the items to buy and so i sent him the money and he did his work and in 2 days time my husband came speedily to me begging me to forgive him and i actually forgave him and today we are even more happier than we use to be. Contact Dr Yaya today on his email: yayaperfecthome@yahoo.com and get your solution. Thank you Dr yaya and i will keep on telling people about your good deeds. You can also contact him through his website http://yayaperfecthome.wixsite.com/dr-yaya. thank you Dr yaya for indeed you are truly a powerful....

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