“Have you stopped beating your spouse?”
Answering this question is tricky, because if you agree, it sounds like you use to beat your spouse. If you disagree, it sounds like your still beating your spouse.
Watch out for the trick questions.
When I do premarital counseling, I often ask a couple to complete an inventory where they respond to a variety of statements on a continuum between “strongly agree” and strongly disagree. Some of my favorite statements to which they must respond are statements like:
- I have never regretted my relationship with my partner.
- My partner gives me all the love and affection I need.
- We completely understand each other.
- My partner has all the qualities I’ve ever wanted in a mate.
- We are as happy as a couple can be.
A couple preparing to get married will usually agree with these statements, but a couple that’s been married for a while will usually laugh at these statements. The difference is the couple preparing for marriage is in LOVE, where as the couple that’s been married for a while are in LIFE.
It’s all about your expectations.
There’s always a difference between our expectations and our experience. When we’re preparing for marriage, we have all kinds of optimistic expectations about how marriage should be. Remember those? Sleeping in. Leisurely sharing a cup of coffee together before starting your day. Always having your spouse’s attention and affection. Sharing the same interest in sex. Always having control of the remote. Having the same goals and plans. Spending your spare time together. The list goes on and on.
But after you’ve been married a while, those expectations aren’t always met, and you begin to struggle. So you attempt to get your expectations met. You start off by trying to talk to your spouse and explain why you need them to meet your expectations. If repeated attempts to communicate don’t get you anywhere, then you’re generally left with three options…
- Manipulate or make demands to get your spouse to meet your expectations. This increases frustration, raises defensiveness, and tends to make marriage worse.
- Leave your spouse for someone else whom you think will meet those expectation. This will bring an end to what could be a perfectly good marriage…not to mention the fact that no one will ever meet all your expectations.
- Adjust your expectations to something more realistic. This will help you both relax and have a marriage that will go the distance.
Adjust your expectations.
Adjusting your expectations in marriage will actually teach you some valuable lessons…
- You don’t have to like everything about your spouse, or your relationship with them, to have a good relationship.
- You won’t always get the love and affection you think you need, but that doesn’t mean you’re not loved.
- You don’t have to completely understand one another to completely love and support one another.
- Your spouse doesn’t have to have all the qualities you want in a mate. (That person doesn’t exist.) But they have enough of those qualities to make it work.
- The two of you could always be happier, but that doesn’t mean your not happy.
These are critical lessons for a long and loving marriage, but you can only learn these lessons by adjusting your expectations.
Don’t fall for the trick questions in marriage. Marriage is not about the two of you getting every expectation met. It’s about figuring out which of your expectations are realistic and which are not. It’s also about the two of you meeting as many of each other’s expectations as you can, while leaving room for you to be yourselves.
What is one expectation you have for your spouse and your marriage that…if you were honest…is probably not realistic? Which of the five lessons do you most need to learn? What’s one thing you can do to let go of an expectation and be happier?
Copyright © 2018 Bret Legg