Marriage Traps

Expectations are traps that take away our participation in our present. They set us up for battles of misunderstanding. Remember, expectations are nothing but premeditated resentments. Author unknown

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)
I don't have to step into the marriage trap of unmet expectations.  Remember, expectations are nothing but premeditated resentments.

Love and War, Devotional for Couples - Book Review

Reality. The first year of marriage. How did I get here? What have I done?

These thoughts speed through the mind of most newly marrieds. Couples struggle with answers to those questions much of their marriage as they hang onto inappropriate expectations of marriage. John and Stasi Eldredge talk us through the reality of marriage to find “the marriage you have always dreamed of.”

Love and War, Devotional for Couples is a companion to their book, Love and War. Since I have not read the book, I was curious as to how meaningful the devotional would be as a stand-alone book.

The devotional has eight weeks/five days per week of devotional material. Each week has a theme:
1. Remembering What We Wanted
2. The Two Shall Become One
3. The Journey
4. Companionship
5. Your Spouse Is Not Your Enemy
6. The Little Foxes
7. Increasing Intimacy
8. The Most Excellent Way

The dimensions of the book are small; each devotional is 2-3 small pages, making them very easy to read and digest. Included at the end of each one is a prayer to offer to the Lord. On the fifth day of each week’s section is an exercise to aid in application. The exercises are written towards one person – not requiring the participation of the other spouse. They guide the way for one person to be able to make a difference in a marriage.

Most of us, who have been married for very long, learn that unconditional love is impossible on our own. I do not have the strength, the resources, or the capacity to love in that way. That kind of love only comes from God, but He has given us His Spirit to receive that love and to love others in the same way.

John and Stasi Eldridge make that concept come alive in their book and direct the reader back to the Lord who loves him with an everlasting love.

In the first day’s reading, they acknowledge how hard marriage is, but they also give hope. “Marriage is meant to be wonderful, and most of the time it is. Though it’s sometimes so hard, think of the difficulty as a doorway. A doorway to all the more Jesus has for us in himself. There is hope!”

Through the devotional they take the reader on a journey to find the heart of God towards them and towards their marriage. The journey is a love story. The love story expands beyond the couple to the kingdom of God.

"Remember, we live in a love story, set in the midst of war. Love is our destiny, and all hell is set against it. We wake each morning and find that we have to fight our way back to all that is true, fight off the thousand reasons to settle for less than the life we were created for. Our bodies awaken, but them our hearts and souls must awaken, too, so that we might play our part in the grand affair. And God has made our hearts in such a way that nothing awakens us quite like some great mission, which is ours alone to fulfill. You have a mission. Your spouse needs you. The kingdom of God needs your marriage. And God is on your side. It will worth it.”

It is worth it! This devotional will encourage you and give you hope. It will help you see God’s love for you and a path to the joy of loving your spouse in a way that transcends the difficulties of this life.

(I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.)

New Year New Marriage

Who would like a new marriage?
Maybe a new husband or a new wife?

You can have a new marriage and a new spouse. I highly encourage it.

But don't get a divorce. Make your current marriage new. Become a new husband or a new wife. You will have a new spouse in no time, without a divorce.

How does that happen? There is an old saying that crazy is when you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. So, to have something different, you have to do something different.

To have a different marriage, DO something different.

Here's a simple place to start. Read a devotional for marriage. Think about what you are reading, then apply it.

If you are doing it alone, I suggest you try the Love Dare. This book will give you 40 days of devotions and specific encouragement of things to do to minister to and encourage your spouse.

You may be thinking "He's the one that needs to read the book" or "Why do I have to be the only one trying?"

I can tell you from my experience and the experiences of others that one person can change the atmosphere and dynamics of a marriage. You are choosing to love (an action and an attitude, not just a feeling) unconditionally. We each want to be loved unconditionally. Am I willing to love my husband/wife unconditionally? That means I will be kind and considerate in my tone; I will demonstrate acts of love in my actions.

This devotional will encourage you in God's perspective and His power, as well as give suggestions on acts of love.

You can have a new marriage in the new year!