WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR MARRIAGE WHEN EXPECTATIONS DOMINATE

Drifting in marriage happens, but my marriage never drifts into anything of value. 

Ever.

And without the daily maintenance of texts of scripture and the Holy Spirit, my drifting will always leave me with a sense of frustration and emptiness. Frustration because I don’t understand how I got “here” again; emptiness because the pursuit of my agenda always leaves me wanting more.

I had a friend encourage me some years ago to listen to a marriage podcast by Andy Stanley named iMarriage. I recently taught a marriage workshop at our church and needed his reminder. We all go into our marriages with a set of dreams, wishes, and desires. Dreams for how we envision this sweet union; wishes of how my wife and I will love and support each other; desires of living the good life together. 

Marriage drifting into expectations

But then life just happens. And by that I mean marriage can just kind of…settle. It does not have to be heated arguments or unloving exchanges. It is just that in the reality of marriage, busy schedules, the full life of children, things can take on an air of staleness. And somewhere in that realm of processing life, our dreams, our wishes, our desires begin to morph. And they change into something that may seem just and right, but the end result will be catastrophic to your marriage. 

It happens when your dreams, wishes, and desires turn into expectations. So what do I mean by expectations? Let me answer my question with a question. Have you ever thought or said any of the following:

  • I have a right to be loved by my husband.
  • I have a right to be respected by my wife.
  • I deserve to be treated better than this.
  • Doesn’t he know I have these needs?
  • If he would just change in this area, it would make our marriage so much better.
  • If she would just quit doing (fill in the blank)…our marriage would stand a chance.
  • I do this for her, and she can’t even (fill in the blank)?
  • His problem is that he never appreciates me – doesn’t he know all I do for him?
  • I’m not the one with the problem.

If any of these examples fit you, trust me, your marriage has moved into having expectations. Two people living together whose hearts are universes apart.

Marriage is a covenant, not a contract

And the devastation that then occurs is a morphing of your marriage from a covenant into a contract. What do I mean? Whether you thought of it this way or not, when you got married, you were covenanting with your spouse that your marriage would present the glorious reality of the relationship between Jesus and His church. When you said “I do” that is what you were saying. But because of our own brokenness, this picture-of-a-more-glorious-reality relationship can easily turn into a contact.

How so? I have a contract relationship with my internet company. I pay. They deliver to my house unlimited wireless capabilities. And sorry, maybe you are different, but not once have I sat down with a piece of stationary and a pen and started writing a thank you note to them.

(Soft background music playing) Dear Internet Company, as the holidays are here, I just wanted to reach out and express how much I feel our relationship has grown over this past year. From my heart, I wanted to express my heartfelt desires of thankgiving. Your performance in our home is humbling, and I wanted to say ‘thank you.’ Also, enclosed you will find a $50 Amazon gift card and fruitcake because we do care. You guys rock.

Sorry, it has never happened. Why? Because I have a contractual relationship with them. I pay. They do. And guess when is the only time I do contact them? Yep. When an expectation is not met. When my internet is down…again. 

That is what I mean by our marriages falling into expectations. It becomes a debt-debtor relationship.

“You owe me.”

“I should be able to expect this from you.”

“This is what is right and I am going to hold you to it.”

There is one way to meet my expectation and a hundred ways not to. I check it off when it is done. The problem with this mindset in a marriage is that you completely lose all trust, romance, intimacy, and gratitude. Every. Last. Ounce. And your marriage will never be driven by unconditional love. 

I would encourage you to reflect on yourself and dig deep. Do any of these mindsets exist in you? If so, empty your box of expectations. Think of the relationship that Jesus has with you – it is completely debt free. And Jesus desires that you have the same debt-free relationship with your spouse that He has with you.

So has your marriage changed into a contract? If so, here is what I would recommend:

  • reflect on our own marriage and talk with your spouse. See where dreams, wishes, and desires have transitioned into expectations. 
  • confess and repent – first to God and then to your spouse.
  • empty your box of expectations – every last one of them.
  • realize there is no change that is going to happen unless God intervenes and changes both heart desires and affections. Sorry to burst your bubble, but you trying harder or promising to do better is only going to sink you deeper into your pit.
  • agree with and live out Jesus statement: “… for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

Get this rooted out of your life and watch God do unbelievable things in your marriage. Freedom and joy like you have never known. He knows what He is doing.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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