A wise old woman was asked the secret to her long and happy marriage. Her response? “I lowered my expectations.”
Expectations...your perfectly concocted plans of how married life should be – how much money you’ll make, what color kitchen cabinets you’ll have, the sports your children will be involved in, and the very specific Christmas traditions you will uphold.
If you have been married for more than a few months, reality has probably smacked you in the face with this one simple truth: life rarely goes as planned.
A great religious leader, Spencer W. Kimball, once explained the reality that hits in marriage:
"One comes to realize very soon after the marriage that the spouse has weaknesses not previously revealed or discovered. The virtues which were constantly magnified during courtship now grow relatively smaller, and the weaknesses that seemed so small and insignificant during courtship now grow to sizeable proportions. . . . The habits of years now show themselves. . . .”
In your little casa on the hill, you are quickly coming to realize that she is not the wife you had hoped for. He's not the husband you always dreamed of. Every day there are hundreds of things he or she does that you never expected – and most of those things annoy you, frustrate you, or hurt your feelings. All of a sudden everything that your spouse does is wrong (or perhaps just different than the way you would do it) and seems to give you reason to constantly be angry, critical, and/or frustrated!
Your husband or wife isn’t who you thought they were.
Or, are your expectations simply too high?
If married life isn't what you imagined it to be, try these three tips to help you adjust your expectations and to “keep things real,” in your marriage.
1. Lower your expectations (and take a good look in the mirror).
Do it. Just lower your expectations*. That simple act will reduce conflict and contention in your marriage, and will change the way you view that dashing husband or beautiful wife of yours. To put it simply...
Take a good look in the mirror.
Don't sweat the small stuff.
Don't expect perfection from your spouse.
By lowering your expectations of your spouse, things change dramatically. All of a sudden your husband or wife begins to exceed all your wildest dreams - by a mile! With lower expectations, the thousands of positive behaviors your husband or wife show each day will begin to blow your mind and prove to you that they do more, and are more, than you ever could have imagined!
Choose to love what you have. Remember that saying, "Choose your love, love your choice"? Well, if you're married, you are now in the "love your choice" phase of life. Don't look back!
Instead of trying to change your husband or wife to fit your expectations, choose to love and celebrate the differences that make both of you unique and wonderful. Holding high and unrealistic expectations over each other's heads has never improved any marriage.
(*Certainly you can and should expect respect, support, and of course no abuse!)
2. Communicate your expectations.
If your birthday is the absolute most important day of the year to you - then you better find some way to communicate it to your spouse. You can't expect your wife to go "all out" - surprising, celebrating, partying, etc. - if you haven't communicated your desires (and made a little extra room in the budget!).
Communicating realistic expectations is a must in marriage - period.
Communicate the fact that it actually takes you an hour to get ready - not “fifteen minutes” - so your husband isn’t frustrated all night about being late to dinner, or about having to wait around for forty-five minutes while you “primp.”
Communicate the fact that you love a clean and tidy house, but that you hate washing dishes... you loathe dishes. Communicate that you will stay on top of keeping the bathrooms clean, if he stays on top of keeping the dirty dishes out of the sink.
Communicate that perfection isn't expected, but that teamwork is.
Communicate how it makes you feel when your wife spends what you hoped would be “cuddle time” perusing Jane.com trying to find what you believe is her 13th maxi skirt. Communicate your feelings and desire to spend quality time together.
Communicate your likes and dislikes, your hopes and dreams, and your plans for the future.
And in all of this communicating, don't forget to listen and learn from each other!
3. Be generous in your praise.
Simply be generous. Grant your spouse room to be themselves. Room to be real. Room to mess up. Room to improve.
Catch your spouse doing good. Instead of complaining every single time he leaves the toilet seat up, praise him every single time he puts it down. Be pleasantly surprised, amazed, and thrilled at any and every effort your husband or wife puts forth to improve themselves, simplify your life, make your day, compliment you, bless your marriage, help around the house, etc.
How comforting it will be for your husband or wife to hear you say on occasion (in public and private), “Married life is all I hoped it would be and more. I never imagined my life would be this good. I couldn’t have asked for a better spouse.”
With all this talk (and these three tips) about expectations, there is one expectation you should always hold high and never lose sight of - expect your marriage to be a success! Expect it to be the very best thing that ever happened to you. Expect it to work (even though it's real - with ups and downs). Expect it to last. We believe it can.
By focusing on and working towards that ultimate expectation, you and your spouse together will enjoy the greatest blessing and joy life has to offer - a successful marriage.
photo credit: Jason Corey Photography
"What counts in making a happy marriage is not so much how compatible you are, but how you deal with incompatibility."
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