The world conditions us to expect the best. Glossy advertising and consumer-driven marketing all tell us, “You deserve more; let us give it to you.” Yet the world consistently underperforms. We get angry and frustrated that it wasn’t as good as we had hoped. The higher our expectations, the less satisfying reality becomes.
This is also true for your marriage. Sometimes, we go too far in striving for perfection and expect our spouse to be someone they can never be. We want more and more from them, without considering how it affects the marriage in the long-term. As humans, we are going to fail. We will make mistakes and have to try again. When you have sky high expectations for your spouse, you open the door for complete marriage breakdown. Here are the ways your unrealistic, selfish expectations are tearing apart your relationship.
You are setting them up to fail.
Your spouse is a human, a person who makes mistakes and forgets things, who feels sad, happy, excited, overwhelmed, and angry. They are a perfectly imperfect human, just like you are. High sky expectations don't allow for the variability of life, and puts an incredible amount of pressure on your spouse. They will want to try and meet all of your needs, but something will happen where they will fail. Overtime, your spouse will feel defeated because they know they will never live up to the expectations you have placed for them. They can begin to think they are not good enough for you, but the truth is no one would be good enough for you. Because your expectations are unreasonable.
You are lowering their self-esteem.
Do you remember the last time you didn't meet someone's expectation? You probably felt horrible about yourself - frustrated, sad, and like you weren't enough. Why would you want your spouse to ever feel that way? You shouldn't want your spouse to be anxious or insecure about failing to meet your expectations. That is only causing them to beat themselves up, and feel like they are a failure as a partner. As a spouse, you should make the other person in the marriage always feel valued and lifted up. You should have them feel comfortable and at ease when you're around, and not like they are walking on eggshells. Only when we feel that way with our partner we can be authentic, vulnerable, and intimate.
You can’t force someone to change.
Marrying someone with the expectation they will become a different person after marriage is unreasonable and unfair. Marriage is not a magic change agent that transforms a person. Before you are married, your job is to be sure the person you want to marry is someone you love. After marriage, your job is to work to understand and love the person you married despite any changes that happen in life. The journey to happiness in marriage is not one of insisting your spouse change. It is in learning to change your thoughts by letting the mind of Christ become yours. Christ sees your spouse as a beautiful gift from God, and you should as well.
You are ruining your own happiness.
Whenever we set an expectation that our partners don't meet, we feel let down. We've set them up to disappoint us and set ourselves up to be hurt. We get frustrated that our marriage isn’t making us happy, but your happiness isn’t your partner’s responsibility. Instead of letting their shortcomings make you feel down, start building up your own happiness and confidence. It's something you do have power to control. No spouse is perfect, and no person can be your single source of happiness. Only Jesus can give you continuing happiness. Turning to Him will help you live a happier life. You will be able to lean on Him when things aren’t perfect.
All marriages go through struggles.
The reality is most marriages will hit a wall at some point. Sometimes a couple is surprised by a season of difficulty in their marriage, because they believe it should be sunshine and rainbows all the time. This faulty expectation leads them to assume then that their marriage is already as good as gone, and there is no reason to work on it anymore. They choose to give up. If, when you encounter such a difficult period, you recognize that every problem can be worked through with the grace of God, you’ll get through it and be stronger for it. A determination to strengthen your relationship can get you through the rough patches, so don't expect things won't even be hard.
Unmet expectations cultivate resentment.
When you have expectations of your spouse they aren't meeting, you are likely to start getting angry. Your spouse, in turn, also starts getting frustrated they can't perform the way you want them to. Over the years, this constant battle breeds resentment. Holding on to resentments is one of the most destructive things you can do in a relationship. It makes it hard to communicate with your spouse, because everything you say will be coming out of anger. Instead, you need to learn how to let go of disappointment. Learn to love your spouse for who they are, and not what you want them to be. Don’t constantly bring up past unmet expectations; rather move on from what happened in the past.
You take focus away from the present.
The expectations that we create for ourselves and for others are based on what we have experienced in the past. They are based on hurts, failures, achievements, beliefs, and traumas that we have lived through. Expectations are the result of us using our past to predict our future. They completely take us out of the here and now. When you can remove expectations, you become more mindful and reap the benefits of living in the present. It’s when you slip out of being in the now that you are truly disappointed. Stay present with your thoughts, and see if you’re holding onto expectations of how your spouse should behave. God wants you to appreciate each moment by actively paying attention.
Do you want to transform your marriage? Leave selfish expectations at the cross, and choose to bring Christ into your marriage. With Christlike expectations, your marriage will become stronger. You will want to serve each other, without any expectations of getting something in return. You do things out of the kindness of your heart, rather than selfish reasons.