Great Expectations

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images“Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.”

Such a familiar story, man and woman fall in love, decide to spend eternity together, begin a family, dreams of living in a nice home, jobs, and a future together start off with a kiss and “I do.” It’s hard to imagine what other expectations nestle in the brain of husband and wife regarding their future. I’m sure if you ask the bride the morning of wedding day about her husband-to-be, “He’s perfect.” Going through premarital counseling, potential problems come up. I wonder how many engaged couples think, “That won’t be our problem, we’re in love.” (yeah, so I tried to laugh, then realized I did the same thing).

But in the real world — as opposed to marriage la-la-land — all of us have weaknesses, flaws, and sin. Did you think or know someone who thought, “Oh (s)he’ll change once we get married.”? Unfortunately, spend long enough in the church and we’ll hear people who confess she knew he had this major problem but thought he’d change or grow out of it. Of course, this is not gender specific either. Men have expectations and get disappointed when his wife fails to live up to them. Unfortunately some expectations are heart breaking:

  • “I thought after we got married (s)he would desire to go to church with me.”
  • “I figured he would give up video games.”
  • “I thought she would want intimacy every night.”
  • “I thought he would give up pornography.”
  • “I figured he would read his Bible and pray with me.”
  • “Her pride and stubbornness will turn into humility.”
  • “He’ll become compassionate.”
  • “He’ll love sacrificially.”
  • “He’ll start making money.”

After the rose colored “I do’s” fall off and life settles in, problems introduce themselves to the marriage. But the problems don’t really introduce themselves, they just come back. That “thing” you overlooked in the dating and engagement process should be gone now, changed, and no longer a problem. But it isn’t. It’s still here, hanging around like dirty, smelly, mildewy laundry.

Unknown-1So now you’re disappointed and upset. This issue just will not go away. You’ve talked to your spouse a hundred times and change only exists in your mind but the spouse remains the same. So Uncle Friction enters the house like an unwanted in-law ruining the fung shui of my dreams . . . our dreams! The house is in disarray because I’m in disarray and unhappy! “You’re ruining my life long dreams!”

So . . . your spouse doesn’t live up to your expectations? Do you know what is the real problem? It’s you. Yup. Sorry, I think I could’ve been nicer in how I delivered the answer but trying to work on being concise.

Let me be specific. . . . The real problem comes from our wrong expectations. I’m setting up standards, actions, and scenarios based on my own desires and therefore creating false hopes waiting to be shattered. See, if we think our spouse will change, then we have placed our expectations on our spouse to live as we see fit for them to live. At some level, expecting my wife to live in accordance with my perspectives, really asks my wife to live as if I’m the Lord, and my desires should rule. This is not fair to my wife nor to any spouse.

Paul David Tripp says, “Many people get married with unrealistic expectations about who they are marrying. Here is my point: you both bring something into your marriage that is destructive to what a marriage needs and must do.” [1]

UnknownHaving expectations, especially high expectations, sets us on the road of conflict. See what James 4:1-2 says, “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel.”

Our expectations are our desired pleasures, they’re our lusts and we’re envious for them to come true. When my spouse doesn’t live up to them, then curse her! (not really, my wife is gold, pure gold, and the greatest woman in the world; perfectly designed for me by God to make me a better child of Him and husband).

What expectations should we have? We should expect a spouse to sin because we live in a fallen world. But he’s a believer, he should change! Is it okay to expect him to be faithful? Of course. It’s even reasonable to expect your believing spouse to want to grow and walk with Christ. But here’s where reality meets expectations. Your spouse still sins and will not be perfect. It’s true, just like we do; they’re just like us, failing in perfection and living up to God’s holy character.

So if I can expect my spouse to sin (and myself), then how do we respond? Learn, grow, act, and expect yourself to minister to your spouse. Instead of taking his / her failings personal, get to to root issue. Is his failing a sin issue or preference issue? For instance, did she lose her cool with her kids? Yes, that’s a sin issue, instead of taking it personal and asking, “Why do I have to deal with this or why can’t she love the kids all the time,” go minister to her, serve her, find out what is wrong, how can you help, how can you serve her, and how can you lead her back to Christ?

images-1If he just cannot get the bathroom cleaned right, realize this is a preference issue. No where in the Bible does God instruct us regarding how to clean the bathroom. Yes, you may prefer he use the Chuck Norris stroke when cleaning the bathroom, but he learned from Mr. Miyagi; it’s okay. Preference issues need to be seen just as that, a preference.

Instead of placing expectations on your spouse, place them on yourself. Expect yourself to minister to your spouse, love your spouse, and serve. Expect your spouse to sin and expect to be there when he/she does and love them. Expect yourself to pray for him/her and love your spouse even when he/she is having a bad day. Why? Because God lavishes love on us even when we have a bad day. If His love can manifest in that way toward me, then why can I have higher standards and expectations? I can’t. In fact, knowing He loves me like this, I’ll love her/him like this too.

[1] “What did you Expect”, 23.