What Are Your Expectations for Marriage?
What are your expectations for marriage?
That’s what my pre-marital counselor recently asked me and my fiancé in a restaurant not too far from my college campus. During the next few counseling sessions I’m going to share my expectations for marriage, and my fiancé will share his . . . and hopefully we’ll be on the same page!
So this question has been floating in my head: What are my expectations for marriage?
My basic list probably matches a list you’d write, too:
- I expect my husband-to-be to love me faithfully, and I promise to do the same.
- I expect to spend time with him.
- I expect him to take care of me, and I’ll take care of him.
- I expect him to communicate with me.
Those expectations seem simple enough! Do we even need to hash out the nitty-gritty details? I’ve got reasonable, practical, totally attainable expectations.
Or . . . maybe—just maybe—there are some expectations lurking under the surface. Expectations that I anticipate my husband-to-be to just get. He’ll read my mind. He’ll know this is what all good husbands do, right?
Expectations like . . .
- He’ll know the perfect time to bring me flowers—just because.
- He’ll have a sixth sense that picks up on my emotions.
- That means he’ll know when I need a hug.
- It means he’ll know when I need to talk things out.
- It means he’ll be a pro at talking sweetly to me (even if I’m a grouch).
- He’ll bring me Starbucks when I’ve had a terrible, horrible day.
- He’ll always be interested in my work. And he’ll help me, too!
- He’ll surprise me with weekend trips home to see my family.
- He’ll come to my rescue any time I need him: when I have a flat tire, when there’s a spider in the closet, when the peanut butter jar lid is distressingly stuck . . .
- He’ll snuggle up to me with Earl Gray tea and watch Food Network and HGTV with me. (Yes, even when the Yankees are playing.)
- He’ll be the perfect spiritual leader, and he’ll challenge me to grow every single day.
- For Christmas, he’ll get me a precious little kitten wearing a big red bow.
Girls, I hope you’re laughing with me, because we all know that no guy can meet all of those expectations, no matter how fantastic he is.
Yes, those are all lovely thoughts, and they conjure up a picture of a wonderfully attractive, manly man with a sensitive, tender side and a big heart for God. But wouldn’t you agree that those expectations for marriage are totally unrealistic?
When we see a list of expectations like that, it’s pretty easy to recognize that a man can’t fulfill all our dreams (that are probably Pinterest-inspired) for a fairy-tale marriage. And what’s more, I think any guy would be terrified by that list!
Yet, I think we hide these kinds of marriage expectations in a little corner in our minds, without necessarily realizing it. We dream about all the sweet things he’ll do. We imagine all the ways he’ll show us love, but in reality, those expectations are actually pretty selfish.
If we buy into the idea that our future husband’s purpose is to meet all our needs, that’s a dangerous place to be.
Why so dangerous? I’ll give you two reasons.
#1: Because God never designed men to be our need-fulfillers. He’s the only One who will ever meet our desperate needs and longings.
Psalm 107:9 says, “For he satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things.”
And take a look at Psalm 73:25–26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
Those verses tell us that God satisfies. God fills our hungry souls with good things. God should be the sole desire of our hearts. God is our portion forever.
Those verses convict my heart because, all too often, I try to make my fiancé my satisfier of good things. He ends up as the desire of my heart, when God is the rightful Owner of my heart.
That brings me to the second reason . . .
#2: Our relationships, in dating and in marriage, are harmed when we make men the need fulfillers.
Why? Because a true love relationship, one that honors God, isn’t about taking. It’s about loving one another with a selfless love. In our flesh, that’s not always easy to do.
My fiancé could tell you that I’ve had to ask his forgiveness over and over again because I place undue pressure on him to make me happy.
Here’s what happens:
He didn’t meet an unspoken “need” of mine—I’m disappointed in him.
He tries harder to make me happy.
I keep finding new “needs” to be met.
He withdraws from me, because I never seem to be happy.
That’s not how God intends our relationships to work. Like Paula recently reminded us, we’re to “outdo” each other in love.
Am I loving my fiancé by expecting him to meet unrealistic needs? No way. My sinful selfishness is propelling me to be a taker—a rotten, never joyful, needy taker.
So let’s ask the original question: What are my expectations for marriage?
You may not have a ring on your left hand (and if you do, congrats!), but I’d love for you to consider your expectations for marriage. Are they realistic? Or do they sound a little more like my long list of—let’s be real—over-the-top expectations?
Here are my new, revised expectations for marriage:
That Christ will work in our hearts to do only what He can do in a marriage . . .
- To follow Christ with our lives and grow in 1 Corinthians 13 love, despite both of our failures.
- To show a deep respect for my husband.
- To find my fulfillment in Christ—not in my husband.
Why? Because the Lover of our souls is the One who satisfies. How do I know God will make these expectations come true? Because His Word tells me those are His expectations for my marriage. Isn’t that incredible?