Expectations are powerful: they can set us up to be content with our lot in life, or they can doom us to perpetual feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment. Nowhere is this more true than in marriage, where so much of how we feel is based upon what we expected to experience in the relationship. Consider these areas where the expectations of your husband can be your friend or your foe at home.
1. Honesty. This one is a non-negotiable and fair expectation in your marriage. If either of you is faltering in your honesty with the other, it’s a quick downhill slide to disaster. And this doesn’t apply only to issues of faithfulness. It’s essential that a couple communicate with honesty in all areas of life: parenting decisions, financial practices, etc. If you suspect that honesty is missing from your relationship, it’s a matter worth seeking counseling to correct.
2. Good Work Ethic. Americans today have some pretty hefty expectations in terms of material wealth and lifestyle. It’s easy to allow unrealized lifestyle expectations to become a wedge in a marriage. So are your expectations of your husband in this area of life fair, realistic, and reasonable? Even if your husband is a great earner and provider, he may have a different priority system for your family’s resources (Like savings. Remember that, America?) beyond buying the greatest cars and going on the flashiest vacations. Some husbands are working hard to provide, but are dealing with a down economy, and could really use a cheerleader at home, rather than a disappointed wife. So what’s fair? It’s fair to expect your husband to work diligently and responsibly to provide for your family’s essential needs. Note: commercial-grade appliances and marble countertops are neither essential, nor a need. The other stuff is gravy.
3. Respect. It’s a well-known fact that men desire respect from their wives, but even women, who are better known for their need to feel loved, need respect, too! It’s important that you show one another respect in the way you speak to one another privately and especially in front of others. If your husband pokes fun at you or doesn’t show you the respect you desire in some situations, tell him how it feels to you and ask him to treat you as he’d like to be treated.
4. Helping Out. Keeping a household running smoothly and caring for children is a huge task, and it’s more easily accomplished (with sanity and joy intact) as a team. It’s impossible to say with specificity which tasks you should expect your husband to help with, because every family’s situation is different (one-career vs. two-career; hired help available vs. help not available). But it’s fair to sit down and look at your joint schedules and demands and negotiate a deal that keeps all parties from feeling overwhelmed. And once the division of labor is agreed to, it’s fair to expect everyone to follow through.
5. Love. It seems like a no-brainer, but in some marriages, the love can be hard to come by. It’s reasonable to ask your husband to show you that he loves you on a regular basis. The thing you need to remember is that, just like we all have preferred “love languages” (see Gary Chapman’s book on this!), your husband may be doing things that don’t necessarily speak your primary love language, but are evidence of his love for you. Sure, coach him to show you the affection you need, or give you the verbal affirmation you need, but don’t overlook what he’s already doing (being a great provider, spending time with you, helping out at home) to demonstrate that you’re important to him.