We all have expectations.

In an earlier blog post, we covered how expectations are at the root of many conflicts. We wrote about where they originate. And, the need to set realistic expectations in marriage.

But, what does expectation mean?

Every person enters marriage with expectations. An expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. Other words used to describe expectation are an assumption, anticipation, and belief. We assume how it should go. We anticipate what it will look like. And we believe it will be all good, or at least not as difficult as it is. We have to develop healthy, realistic expectations for a successful marriage.

A successful marriage has realistic expectations.

Realistic expectations open the door for hopes to be fulfilled. It communicates that we value the differences in each other. Unrealistic expectations become unmet expectations. Unmet expectations become friction in a marriage.

Make a plan that works for both of you.

Knowing what to expect helps couples avoid unmet expectations. Discuss the most common expectations listed below.  Ask each other the following questions. Make a plan together that works for the both of you.

  1.  Money: spender vs saver? joint vs. individual bank accounts? Who will manage the money? How will we budget? Future financial goals for savings and spending? How will we handle debt?
  2. Spiritual: What is the role of a spiritual leader? Who will walk in this role? Where will we go to church? Will we pray together? Should we volunteer together or separate?
  3. Communication: Do we communicate well? Talker vs. quiet? How do we communicate? How do we process?  An internal processor or an external processor? Emotionally availability?
  4. Sex and Affection: How often do we expect to be physically intimate? What is OK in the bedroom and what’s not? Sexual intimacy vs. non-sexual intimacy? Romance style vs needs?
  5. Conflict Style: Avoider vs Pursuer? Passive aggressive vs. direct?
  6. Kids: How will our roles change with kids? What are our discipline styles? How many activities will our children be involved in vs family time? Stay-at-home parent vs.childcaree/family member? Homeschool, public, or private school?
  7. Organized vs Disorganized: Tidy vs messy? Structured vs carefree? Planner vs spontaneous?

These expectations listed above are among some of the most common marriage topics discussed. However, we often discover hidden expectations during the course of a marriage.

 Don’t forget the hidden ones.

After a few years of marriage, we realize we have hidden expectations. Hidden expectations are the little things we don’t think of until we are face-to-face with them. They seem like small details at first glance. But, they can create some serious friction in a marriage. Some include:

  • Defining roles as husband and wife
  • Vacation decisions
  • Priorities
  • Holiday traditions and plans
  • Chore distribution

Or they discover they had no expectations for things that would pop up as challenges such as:

  • Seasons of loneliness
  • Dealing with differences (male/female, backgrounds, values or lifestyle choices, or religious training)
  • Selfishness in marriage
  • Trials or suffering and how to manage it together
  • In-law and Extended Family Strains

It is common for couples to have expectations about what marriage will be like. The question is, are they realistic? Don’t just assume that your spouse shares the same viewpoint as you.

Establish realistic expectations for marriage.

The best way to grow your marriage and develop realistic expectations is to communicate. Talking and actively listening matters for healthy communication in marriage. Learn clarify your needs. And, understand the needs of your spouse.

Discuss any unmet needs.

Talk about any unmet needs before they become unmet sore spots. Healthy communication helps you identify and validate each other’s needs. Compromise where possible. And, collaborate together for a solution that works for both of you. After a while, check in with each other to evaluate how it is going.

Few understand the importance of developing healthy, realistic expectations. Realistic expectations increase the chances of having a successful marriage. Christian premarital counseling and a relationship coach can help you develop realistic expectations for your marriage.

key to successful marriage, realistic expectations