Expectations. We all have expectations before we get married. We have expectations about what marriage will be like. We have expectations about how our spouse will act. We have expectations that tend to become the standard by which we measure and evaluate the quality of our marriage. We expect things like…
- A marriage that will follow us all the way to the nursing home.
- A spouse who will always be interested in us, even when we’re not interesting.
- A nice house in a nice neighborhood.
- A marriage that is lighthearted and fun, even when we’re not
- A spouse who shares our interest (or disinterest) in sex.
- A marriage and family that looks as good as those we see on Facebook.
But eventually, we will find ourselves thinking, “This is not what I expected.”
- Maybe the marriage you hoped would follow you to the nursing home, feels more like it’s headed toward the funeral home.
- Maybe you’ve become disinterested in the spouse you once hoped would always be interested in you.
- Maybe you’ve gotten the nice house in the nice neighborhood, but the things going on in the house are not very nice.
- Maybe overwhelming obligations have you on the run, instead of having fun.
- Maybe sex has moved from playground to battleground.
- Maybe you look at other marriages on Facebook, and begin to wonder what’s wrong with yours.
Relationships never go exactly as we would like, because relationships are messy. Marriage is especially messy, because it’s so close, so personal, and so 24/7.
So what do you do when your marriage is not living up to your expectations? Do you…
- Force it to fit your expectations?
- Nag your spouse, because they’re not meeting your expectations?
- Assume you’ve married the wrong person and either sink into depression?
- File for divorce?
I found some help on this in a most unlikely place. I was reading a photography blog by David DuChemin and came across a post entitled, “What To Do When the Photographs (really, really) Suck,” As I was reading, I realized his advice was not only applicable to photographers disenchanted with their photos, but also to spouses disenchanted with their marriage.
So, paraphrasing the photographer’s advice and applying it to marriage, here are some things you can do when your marriage is falling short of your expectations:
- Be grateful for the good things. It’s so easy to focus on the things you think are wrong and forget about all the things that are right. You focus on your spouse not helping around the house, rather than how hard they work outside the house. You focus on the lack of time your spouse puts into the house, rather than the time and effort they put into the kids. If you change your focus from the negative to the positive, you may find your attitude about your spouse and your marriage will likewise begin to change.
- Learn and grow from the difficult things. There’s no way around the fact that difficult things will come…in marriage and in life. When they do, will you see it as an reason to grouse or a reason to grow? When marriage is not what you want it to be, choose to see it as a teaching tool. Let it teach you something about yourself..your attitude, your habits, your communication, your assumptions, your selfishness, or your inflexibility. If marriage is not what you hoped it would be, it could be your spouse is not the only one who needs to change.
- Don’t make quick decisions. When you’re in a difficult or disappointing marriage, it’s easy to “reason” your way into cutting your losses and leaving. But aside from reasons of abuse, you shouldn’t make any quick decisions. Take time to let the emotions settle. Take time to grow and change yourself. Take time to think through the possibilities for your marriage…including the good ones.
- Let someone you trust evaluate the situation. You’re probably too emotional and too close to the situation to see things objectively. Whether it’s a trusted friend, a pastor, or a counselor, let someone who is not as personally invested in things look at and speak into your situation objectively.
Just because your marriage is not what you expected, it doesn’t mean your marriage can’t be good. To borrow an analogy from playing cards…you may not have been dealt the hand you wanted, but that doesn’t mean you can’t play the hand you have well.
What’s something you find disappointing in marriage? Honestly ask yourself the following questions…”Is it really as big as I’ve made it out to be?” “Is there a different way I could look at this?” “What are some positives that balance out my frustrations?” “What’s one simple thing I could do to would help to build a better marriage?”
Copyright © 2017 Bret Legg