My idea of what a husband/wife should be is .........
When I get married, my marriage will include .....
I am sure my husband/wife will know to ....
We go into marriage (and life) with so many expectations. Expectations can be some of the most disturbing and disrputive parts of marriage. A friend of mine, who has also worked with young, married couples a lot, suggested it might be better if we went into marriage with no expectations. As I thought about the idea, I decided it would be really sad if a person didn't expect to be happy and have a great marriage.
So, how do we keep those expectations from becoming resentments? In marriage, it's very important to discuss our expectations before marriage and as we go through the marriage journey. We couldn't begin to talk about every expectation; some of them are deeply hidden within our mind, we might not even be aware of them. Every man and every woman goes into marriage with a list in his/her head of what a good wife is, what a good husband is, what a good marriage looks like. Most often, we don't reveal these lists to each other .... not until they aren't met.
Ultimately, we have to learn what it means to give those expectations to God. "Trust God" has almost become a cliche' in the Christian culture, regardless of the veracity of it. I can convert my expectations into desires in my life - desires that I pray about, desires that I do my part, regardless of the response of the other person. We usually try to make those desires happen on our own, which involves trying to control, manipulate, or change someone else. The "trusting God" part is when I quit trying to make those desires happen.
We leave the results of what we do, the results of what we pray, up to God. We turn loose of the results. We don't try to control the results. We don't try to change other people. The reality is that we can't anyway. We cannot control anyone else. We cannot change anyone else. The change is God's work in a person's life and their response to Him.
Unmet expectations usually result in anger and/or hurt, leading to bitterness and resentment. The red flag in my relationships is the anger or hurt. At that point, I have to go back and ask myself what the expectation or goal was. Was the expectation or goal something that I could accomplish on my own? If not, then I can release it to God and let Him do His work. I do what He leads me to do on my part and I leave the results up to Him.
If I focus more on the good that my partner does, rather than the unmet expectations, suddenly life becomes better.
Some verses (my emphasis added) that give me guidance in what to do in the times of unmet expectations:
- Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Phillipians 4:8-9 (NIV)
- Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)
- Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on [trust in] ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and He will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us. 2 Corinthians 1:9-10 (NIV)