Lowering Your Great Expectations for Your Spouse Increases Your Chances of a Successful, Happy Marriage
Why is marriage such hard work? Why didn’t anyone tell me that Happily Ever After takes a lot of Blood, Sweat, and Tears? A lot of tears. Any relationship can be good, but a good relationship requires us to work hard.
Sometimes we create our own heartbreaks through expectation.
Why did nobody tell me about the hard work before I got married? If they did, it went in one ear and out the other, because I sure don’t ever remember anyone sitting me down and asking me hard questions. Even our premarital counseling was done through a workbook 2,000 miles away from my pastor. Why did I believe that after the wedding, everything would be hunky-dory and I would never have to work at my relationship with my husband again? I guess I never really thought about what happens after the wedding. I just assumed that my husband would be everything I would ever need, I would never be lonely, and riding into the sunset would last forever. Boy, did I have an ugly wakeup call to real life.
If you had a rude awakening in your marriage, too, don’t despair. Don’t blame your husband. Don’t blame God. Hard work is what a good relationship is. Any relationship. If you want a satisfying marriage, you will need to do some hard things—like putting your husband first. Like giving him his needs when you don’t feel like it. Like taking care of unpleasant tasks because he can’t or doesn’t have time. But it will be worth it.
Here are three things you can start doing today to build a better marriage.
1. Make God your God
This is so simple and should go without saying, but we still need to be reminded of it. I would have been extremely offended if anyone claimed that I was making my husband my idol. But I was. I expected him to meet all my needs, physical, emotional, spiritual. I expected him to always be there to listen to my every word; to support every idea I had; to love me unconditionally, even when I was at my worst; to always say he was sorry first and in repentance change his ways for good.
Only God can do all that (except for repent from wrong, because He’s never wrong). Only God can listen to every cry of my heart. Only God can understand every word I’m trying to say. Only God can give His entire being to me. But I was missing the point. My happiness was not dependent on someone giving their entire being to me. I have found my greatest happiness when I give my entire being to God. Then my husband gets most of the good stuff, too.
That leads me to my next point.
2. Make Yourself #3.
If God is #1, your spouse is #2. That means you’re #3.
Marriage is not 50/50. It’s 100/100. Even if your husband isn’t giving his 100%, it doesn’t mean you get to stop giving your 100%. There are going to be times when he is tired or discouraged, and he doesn’t have 100% left to give. But guess what? There are going to be times when you’re tired, or PMS-ing, or sick, or depressed, and you can’t give 100%. You don’t keep score. It’s an attitude of, “You get the best, because you deserve it.”
Even if they don’t deserve it in that moment, you give them grace. Jesus’ blood covered all our sins, and He forgave us of all our iniquities. Surely, out of gratitude for what He did for us, we can show a little grace to those who are hurting us. Even our spouse. In fact, it took me so long to learn this, but I should be treating my family with the most courtesy, the most grace, the most forgiveness. Why do I give strangers or acquaintances the benefit of the doubt but not my husband? I know he has a good heart, is basically a good man, and loves me. Why can’t I cut him some slack like I wish he would cut me some? I can. And I choose to. It all comes down to choice.
3. Lower Your Expectations for Your Spouse
He’s human, too. I know it seems like you’re giving him an out, a get-out-of-jail-free card, but you’re really not. You’re just freeing him up to be the best husband he can be.
When my husband takes me in his arms and lets me just cry and complain after a bad day, it makes me love him even more. It makes me want to get over it and show him that I’m better than that. And I do. I get better at dealing with situations that don’t go my way. Because I want him to be proud of me. And he is. And it makes me want to do even better. And I do. And that inspires him to want to be an even better husband. And he is.
Do you see how it continues in an upward cycle? We both get better at meeting each other’s needs, when we’re not pressured and manipulated into it by a needy spouse. When I rest in Jesus, my husband is free to just do his best. When he rests in Jesus, I am free to just do my best. And guess what? Our best keeps getting better and better. We’re not perfect; we still argue and fall apart. But it’s improving.
● Make God your God
● Make Yourself #3.
● Lower Your Expectations for Your Spouse
Conclusion: So, now we need to put it into practice. Join me today in consciously reordering our mental priorities. We will expect only God to be our God and supply all our needs; we will intentionally place our spouse’s needs above our own; we will expect less of our spouses and more from God.
This should give us Hope that there is something we can do in our marriage to make it better. This should turn our expectations from, “What can I get out of this marriage?” to “What can I bring into this marriage?”
Then we can begin to show small acts of kindness which build up to a more satisfying marriage in the long run. Just keep pressing on. Don’t give up. Keep persevering… and forbearing. I want my husband to forbear with my faults. I will do the same for him. Are you willing to put up with your spouse’s faults? It’s hard, but with God’s help, you can do it!
Join the conversation: What is one action you can take in your marriage today? What is one small act of kindness you can show to your spouse? You can leave a comment below or in our Facebook group: Practical Living for Christian Women.