We all know the scene. After ending a once-in-a-lifetime relationship, Noah writes Allie 365 letters expressing his love for her that she never reads. Once he finds out she is engaged to marry another man, he buys her dream house, renovates it to her exact specifications and wins her heart again after a romantic canoe ride and night spent together. And then they ride off into the sunset, happily ever after.
It’s no wonder we have unrealistic expectations for marriage. The truth is it’s never as simple as Hollywood would like to present. And if we’re not careful, those expectations can ruin our marriage.
Society and our favorite films tell us that our spouse will satisfy our every need. Husbands will know when we are having a bad day and show up with a stunning bouquet of flowers. Wives will fulfill every need and know when their spouse has had a bad day at work. Date nights will be executed seamlessly, the house will be perfectly clean, the children will be fed, bathed and tucked in just in time for mom and dad to watch their favorite show together peaceably.
The unrealistic expectations we place on our spouse can lead to the breakdown of our marriage before we even see it coming. The constant pressure we place on our spouse will result in disappointment and discontent.
There’s nothing wrong with having hopes, dreams and wishes for the future of our marriage. It’s good to want the best in life with our spouse. But we must remember that we are married to another human. A sinful human at that. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us, “Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.” As humans, we are inherently sinful.
When we get married, it’s two sinners joining as one. That’s where it is so vital to realize that our spouse can’t and won’t fulfill our every need. But if we closely watch and check in with our expectations, we can create a marriage centered in servanthood and unconditional love. Here are a few practical tips that will help you in trying so:
Build on healthy communication.
When I got married, I entered our marriage with the notion that my spouse would automatically know what I’m thinking and needed at every moment of the day. Wouldn’t he just know that I was hungry and needed breakfast? I dreamed of being served in bed before I even wake up. Wouldn’t he know that there was a fall festival happening this weekend that I really wanted to go to? No. Let me burst your bubble for a second. Humans aren’t mind readers. But if I communicate to my needs or hopes to my spouse, he comes through. I used to think our marriage was a failure because I had to communicate the things I desired. Now, I realize that our marriage is a failure if I don’t communicate.
Show grace even when you don’t feel like it.
Picture a time when your spouse failed at something, but asked you for help. If you’re anything like me, you wanted them to fix their failures on their own. Because they should be strong enough to do it on their own. Or because you just didn’t feel like helping after a long day at work. But that is not the way God designed us. He created us to submit to one another and serve one another faithfully. Whether it’s in our community of believers or with our spouse, we’re responsible to act.
And if I may add, in the Hebrew translation of the Bible, God uses the word “Ezer” to describe Adam’s wife. It’s easy to look at the way woman is described in Genesis to simply be a “helper” for man. But the full meaning is much more beautiful than that. The root of “Ezer” is two-fold: 1. to rescue, to save 2. to be strong. So instead of just being a man’s helper, we’re called to be strong in their weakness. To fill the gaps of our spouse with strength. So if your spouse is forgetful, instead of having an unrealistic expectation that they’ll start remembering things, be their reminder.
Don’t be shameful that your spouse has a weakness. Instead, be their strength and fill their gaps.
Remember the author of our love.
Last and most important, we must remember that our spouse cannot satisfy our every need. Who came up with the idea that we have a spouse-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled by true love? It’s silly. Only the Lord can fulfill us. Psalm 37:4 teaches, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of you heart.”
Once we realize that God is the only one who can fulfill our needs, the pressure alleviates from our spouse. If we put our full trust in God to develop our spouse into the person we need them to be, our marriages will thrive.
God created marriage to unite two individuals. Utilizing communication, adapting grace and centering our lives around Christ, keeps marriages alive and expectations realistic. Marriage should demonstrate the sacrifice Christ made for His bride, the Church. With His sacrifice at the heart of our marriages, we can freely say “I do” at the altar and recommit to one another in our daily pursuits.