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How to Manage Marital Expectations

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Marriage is not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s a commitment - a trial of love, faith, and courage. While a majority of married couples will argue that the good of marriage outweighs any bad, conflict is a natural part of marriage.

Conflict is inevitable in marriage and can create damage or discovery — we choose which it will be. Discovery means learning new ideas, approaches, and solutions if we fight together for our marriage (focusonthefamily.com).

Often, conflicts in marriage arise from unmet expectations leading to frustration, anger, sadness, etc. Managing martial expectations means to understand, adjust, and communicate with your partner to move forward. Without this management, expectations can continue to go unmet, leading to unhappiness and resentment.

Your Expectations vs. My Expectations

We base our expectations for marriage, children, finances, etc. on our own experiences, and we often assume that our experiences mirror our spouse’s.

“If a man grew up with a stay-at-home mother, he may assume that his wife would do the same; on the other hand, his wife grew up with a career-driven mother, and she plans on following that path. Clarifying these types of scenarios can help couples understand each other better, and offer an outlet for a compromise that satisfies both partners.” – 3 Benefits of Premarital Christian Counseling, Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries

Be Realistic with Expectations

We all have expectations – whether consciously or subconsciously – and some are more significant than others. Like the woman who never realized how much she wanted to have children until she was told she cannot conceive. She expected to be able to.

While there are circumstances in life, like that scenario that is beyond our control, most expectations that you set in a marriage are controllable and should be realistic.

You and your spouse will change over time, and so should your marital expectations. Maybe, as newlyweds, you and your spouse had a “date night” every Friday, but now you have a newborn baby. While the two of you may try to continue these date nights every week, your circumstances have changed. Instead of allowing yourself to feel upset that your spouse is too tired one week or you can’t find a babysitter another week, redefine your expectations. Instead of every Friday, maybe it’s once a month.

Remember that your spouse is not to blame for this unmet expectation; sometimes, our circumstances shift, and we must align our expectations accordingly.

Communication is Key

Communication is a vital component of managing marital expectations.

Husband: What’s for dinner?

Wife: I thought you were making/picking up dinner.

While that exchange may happen more often than not, it is an unmet expectation. Each partner assumed the other one was handling dinner, and while, sometimes, that exchange can be laughed off, other times, it can lead to conflict.

Husband: What’s for dinner?

Wife: I thought you were making/picking up dinner.

Husband: I had a long day at work and haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. I’m starving, it’s _____ o’clock at night, and you expect me to go back out!?

While his response may seem like an overreaction, his feelings stem from his unmet expectation. Communicating clearly and effectively can help you avoid this and future conflicts – big or small.

At Pathfinders Pastoral Care Ministries, we utilize Temperament Therapy and work with couples to help them better understand themselves as individuals so that they have the tools to better understand their marriage and manage their expectations.


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