Written by Bryan Striegler
Families are supposed to eat dinner together, or at least that’s what my wife believes.
I, on the other hand, grew up eating when and wherever I could. Our whole family was pretty busy between work, school, and sports, so we rarely all sat down together to have dinner.
So, when I got married, I brought that background into our marriage, and my wife brought her own expectation.
One night, I made my food and started heading toward my room to do some work and eat, when she stopped me.
“Why don’t you come in here and eat with the rest of the family?”
I froze in my tracks.
This idea had never really occurred to me. I took my food and sat down with our young kids to eat. It was a bit weird for me because I normally eat so fast and then move on to something else, but I could tell this was important to my wife, so I hung around.
Now, I have no idea how long my wife had wanted to ask me to eat with them. I have no idea how long she was holding in frustration or even resentment. I had no idea about any of this, and that’s the point.
We all come into marriages with different backgrounds and experiences. This leads us to having expectations that we view as normal, but might be completely foreign to our spouse. If you aren’t careful, you might find these hidden expectations leading to all types of fights and problems.
The sooner you figure this out, the better, so I’m going to share 5 tips for dealing with expectations and a few areas where these expectations will pop up.
Let’s start off with looking at some of the common areas our expectations pop up and can cause chaos.
First, there is the day to day living.
We all have ideas of what a husband or wife should do or what a family should look like. Some women believe that the husband should take out the trash and mow the yard, and some husbands believe women should stay home, cook, and take care of children.
Most often, people’s expectations come from what they saw in their own family, so if the husband took out the trash, that’s the norm.
Families have changed so much in the past 50 years, so it’s made everyone’s expectations so different. We now have so many women in the workforce and so many people growing up with single parent families.
Second, people have different expectations about children.
The most obvious and big one is if both spouses even plan on having children. Unfortunately, I have seen marriages fall apart over this. Somehow people have got married without ever talking about this subject. Then, once married, they found they wanted different things.
The other big issue with children is how will you raise them. Will they be forced into doing certain things like band or sports, or will you allow them to choose what they want? Do you expect all A’s? How are you going to discipline them? Any one of those can cause some major issues between the parents.
Third, people want and do different things for the big events of life.
I personally don’t care much about birthday parties, but my wife puts a ton of effort into them. She has a theme, decorations, games, gift bags, and possibly special outfits. What about other holidays like Christmas? Do you get to open a present on Christmas Eve or do you wait until everyone wakes up on Christmas morning? For so many people these big events are stressful and cause arguments.
If only they understood each other’s expectations.
Alright, now that we’ve looked at some of the common places for misunderstandings, let’s look at 5 tips for preventing or resolving these conflicts.
1. Discuss and set expectations early in life.
Most people get engaged and married, and they really have no idea what to expect or have any kind of plan. It’s not until a few months in that they start to realize there’s more to it and problems start to pop up. This happened to me as well, and I honestly wish we had dealt with things earlier.
One really great way to deal with these expectations is to do premarital counseling. Your counselor is trained and has experience that will help you both go into marriage a bit more prepared. He or she will show you lots of areas you might not have considered and help you understand your future spouse better. Then, you can discuss any differences you have and find ways to deal with it ahead of time.
2. Don’t hold it inside and suffer silently.
Is there something that your spouse does that’s annoying? Something that’s been bothering you for a long time, but you don’t do anything about? I think we all have something we hold in. Eventually, though, it comes out, and it’s usually in a burst of anger. Don’t just sit there and suffer silently. Speak up!
There’s a good chance your spouse doesn’t even realize what he or she is doing. He or she has no idea that you are angry and would love to change, but that’s not possible unless you tell him/her. The longer you hold it in, the angrier you are going to be, and you could have saved yourself a lot of pent up frustration if you had only said something.
3. Communicate before getting angry.
Now, just because you told your spouse about the issue, doesn’t mean things are going to be fixed instantly and forever. Things take time and people make mistakes. If your spouse does something to bother you, try communicating with him or her before you get angry. Again, it might just be a misunderstanding or your spouse might not even realize he or she did something wrong.
I have a bad habit of leaving my shoes on the floor. As a kid, I always walked in the door and just took off my shoes. My wife has told me multiple times that this bothers her, and this is a sign that I don’t respect her.
I don’t feel that way or even understand why she thinks that, but still, I have tried really hard to break that habit. Sometimes I still fail, but it’s not something I do on purpose. Maybe I had my hands full and was planning on putting up my shoes in a few minutes. Maybe I really just forgot. Maybe the kids knocked my shoes down.
Whatever the case, it’s best to talk about things first before jumping to conclusions and getting angry.
4. Consider your spouse’s background.
This advice is similar to the previous one. In most situations, it’s better to be slow to anger and stop and think about things first. Before you judge or get angry, think about your spouse’s past and why he or she does things the way they do.
My wife and I had very different childhoods and upbringings. My parents were very supportive and I could even be called spoiled, while she grew up with divorced parents and had to work for everything.
Now, my wife likes spoiling our children because she wants them to have things she didn’t, and I am harder on them because I saw some of the issues with being spoiled. When I think about her past, I’m less likely to judge her, and I understand why she wants to do things a certain way.
5. Love always.
You got married because you were in love, and no matter what happens, you should continue to love. Love your spouse when you are irritated and when he or she makes the same mistakes over and over again. Love your spouse when you can’t understand the crazy things he or she does.
Marriage is tough. It’s so tough that a lot of marriages fail. Many of them fail because they don’t set expectations early on, don’t communicate about the issues that come up, and get angry over every little thing.
Love will help you get through those tough times, but more importantly, love will get you a lot farther with your spouse than anger. Continue to love no matter what, and you’ll be amazed at the changes that take place.
Wherever you are in your marriage, and no matter your different backgrounds or expectations, you can learn new skills, change, and create a healthier marriage. Try out some of these tips and see how things change. They will make a huge difference!
You may also enjoy One Simple Way to Nurture Your Marriage and 5 Tips for Dealing with In-Laws Who Feel like Out-Laws
"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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