Let’s face it: None of us knows on our wedding day what life will throw at us over the years. It’s great to have high, clear expectations going in. But it’s equally important to be able to roll with the punches when things take an unexpected left turn.
My friend Sarah’s husband owned a very successful residential construction company when they married. They enjoyed a lot of luxury in the early years of the marriage: a large home, a vacation home, travel, country club memberships—the works. Then the housing bubble burst, and their world was turned inside out pretty quickly.
Aside from the financial and lifestyle adjustments they were forced to make, Sarah found herself suddenly dealing with a man who was distant and struggling emotionally because he felt like a failure. To say the very least, if their marriage was to survive, Sarah had to adjust her expectations of what their lives together would look like. Unfortunately, this marriage didn’t survive. But, we offer this example as a cautionary tale to underscore the necessity of flexible expectations and a willingness to adjust in the ups and downs of life… and marriage.
Are your expectations in marriage fair and flexible? Find out how to expect the right things for a long and happy life together.
1. Expect a spouse who cares about you and your needs.
While our circumstances sometimes alter what we’re able to do and how we’re able to live as a couple, you should always be able to expect that your spouse cares about how you’re feeling. Even if he can’t alter the circumstances in the way you’d like, knowing he would if he could should count for something.
2. Remember: You married a person, not a lifestyle.
If the last ten years in the U.S. have taught us nothing else, they’ve proven that you can’t always predict your financial future. If a job loss or illness causes your family to alter your lifestyle to survive, do it with a willing heart. If your family’s lifestyle has been forced to take a step back, odds are no one is more affected by it than your husband. Male pride and the desire to provide for the family are strong things, and when husbands feel that they’re falling in this area, it can be brutal to their self-esteem. Be in his corner, and let him know that you value him more than you value his income.
3. Be aware that your spouse has probably had to alter his expectations of you along the way, too.
Unless you won the genetic lottery or have a fantastic plastic surgeon, you don’t look exactly like the 20-30-year-old your husband married. If you’ve thrown a couple of kids into the mix, you probably don’t have the time to give him your attention like you did once upon a time. We all have to roll with the punches.
4. Recognize that your unmet expectations may only be for a season.
Things may be a little off today, but as they say, “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” He may lose the weight and get in better health. Things might improve with his job and your family income. He may learn to help out with the kids more when they’re a bit older. Wouldn’t it be a shame to blowup your marriage over something temporary? Hang in there and work together to get it all back on track.
Have you ever been forced to adjust your expectations in marriage when circumstances changed? Tell us about it.