Managing Marriage Expectations

Written with love, by Pastor Dave Page


Did you know that every disappointment involves an unmet expectation? I believe expectations can make or break a marriage relationship. Expectations about love and marriage can definitely have a powerful impact on relationships. “To a large degree, you will be disappointed or happy in life based on how well what is happening matches up with what you think should be happening” (Howard Markman & Scott Stanley, authors of Fighting For Your Marriage).

In the premarital counseling, I offer couples a whole session to discuss expectations. We examine expectations each potential spouse brings with them into the marriage, conscious and unconscious, spoken and unspoken. This session includes identifying, ranking, communicating and negotiating these expectations so that there are no major surprises going into the marriage.

managing marital expectations


Three Common Pitfalls Regarding Expectations

Below are some common pitfalls to avoid in regard to expectations:

Couples are often unaware of their own expectations:

Not until they already feel the frustration or disappointment of unmet expectations do couples realize they had made some dangerous assumptions about how things “should” go.

Expectations are unrealistic:

Hollywood movies, love songs, and pop-culture have a way of promoting and romanticizing unrealistic expectations. Sadly, this sets many couples up for real disappointment. Phrases like “one true soul-mate” and “you complete me” paint unrealistic pictures of relationships.

Couples fail to discuss their expectations:

There is a risk in expressing expectations. It opens you up to disagreement or rejection, and is therefore a vulnerable and risky thing to do. The risk of not expressing expectations, however, is to set your relationship up for disappointment, hurt, and anger.

Sample Expectations by a Bride

Below is an excellent example of twenty-five realistic expectations from a bride I recently married (used by permission). She read each expectation to her fiancé and they discussed them together and came to a mutual agreement on each expectation.

 ·         We will be faithful and honest to each other.

·         We will speak lovingly and respectfully to each other (no criticizing, belittling, ridiculing or name-calling or cussing) and we will validate each others' feelings.

·         We will go to couples therapy if at least one of us thinks we need to.

·         We will continue to meet each others' intimacy needs and when things get busy (like with children) we will be intentional about making time for it.

·         We will continue to be affectionate toward each other on a daily basis (holding hands, kisses, hugs).

·         I won’t work or will only work part time when our children are 0-3 (before preschool) and then I will go back to working more full time again.

·         There will be no physical or verbal abuse.

·         We will divide household chores evenly when we’re both working but I will do more when I’m not working and vice versa. You will be more responsible for fixing things in the house and the cars.

·         We will save money to travel somewhere once a year, and once every two years when we have children.

·         We will be responsible with our finances and make joint decisions.

·         We will make compromises for each other.

·         We will take responsibility for our health and take responsibility for eating well and staying active and try to look and feel our best.

·         You will be patient with me when I work through times of anxiety and high emotions.

·         We will be responsible for my special needs brother when my parents pass away.

·         We will continue to go out with friends and be active in our social lives together.

·         When we have babies, you will also help with waking up in the middle of the night and changing diapers (equal responsibility for the not-so-fun stuff).

·         We will be on each others' team when our children ask for something (instead of one parent saying yes and the other saying no, we’ll be on the same page and support each other) and not let our children get between our disputes.

·         We will support each other in our goals.

·         You will protect us and our family and be the take-charge person in a crisis situation.

·         I expect for the passion to ebb and flow but that we will work on keeping it alive when necessary; date nights, making time for each other, trying new things, getting away for a weekend, etc.

·         We will be intentional about making time for quality conversations.

·         We will continue to laugh every day and maintain our sense of playfulness; keep a sense of humor.

·         We will take individual responsibility for being the best people we can be (physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually) because marriage isn’t only about finding the right person but being the right person.

·         We will take time to check-in on our relationship and do couples retreats/ read couples books to continue to make our marriage the best that it can be.

·         If we had fertility issues or a child with a disability, we will be on each others' team and come up with a solution and take an equal part in supporting the child.