Expectations. In my twenty plus years of counseling members of my congregation in marital distress, I found that most of their issues arose from unmet expectations. It makes sense. When you marry, you anticipate a life with your soul mate. That special person will know you like no one else. The two of you will be partners, achieving shared goals and weathering storms with loving, cooperative enthusiasm.
Or not. Over time, it becomes clear to you that the two of you are not always of “one mind.” Usually, it begins with little things that are fairly easy to overlook. His idea of a well-groomed lawn involves keeping goats in the front yard to eat the grass. Your idea requires a lawn mower and weed eater. “Fine”, he says, “But you loved my goats while we were dating.” Or, he had never priced a Michael Kors purse, but the tiny logo on a purse just doesn’t seem like it should be worth two month’s rent. “Fine”, she says, “Then I won’t be going to the annual employee dinner.” To which he replies, “But you said you would support my career!” And so it goes.
There is nothing quite as disappointing as unmet expectations, especially from the one person you thought shared your worldview. Disappointment is, of course, a part of life we can hardly avoid, but it doesn’t have to hurt your marriage. There is a way to have a happier marriage.
The first step is to realize that you don’t deserve each other. No, I don’t mean you should cultivate low self esteem or worship your partner like a god. I simply mean that your partner is not a prize you won for being so special. They are with you because they have feelings for you, not because you earned them like a payroll bonus. You are blessed to have them in your life and the appropriate response to their love is gratitude, not entitlement.
The second step is to realize that your partner owes you nothing. That’s right, nothing at all. They can love you with the white hot passion of the sun, but that does not mean they have to pick up your socks. Loving you does not mean serving you. I suspect you have already put this principle into practice with your parents. Your partner does not owe you supper on the table, an oil change or an education. Presumably you are a grown up, be prepared to take care of yourself. Being married does not give you the right to demand anything at all.
The third step is to give everything you have, everything you are to your partner and expect nothing in return. Give because you love them. Serve them because you love seeing the light in their eyes and smile on their lips. Ask for nothing, give everything. Learn about thier dreams and desires and spend your life trying desperately to fulfill them. Love yourself, but love them more.
Do you see where this is going? If both of you expect nothing and give everything, both of you will receive everything and lose nothing. You will spend your days finding ways to give large and small gifts to the one you love and find unexpected, undeserved gifts like diamonds lying at your feet. The secret to a happy marriage is realizing why it is better to give than to receive.