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Unmet Expectations

Jul 28, 2022

I have had so many conversations lately with married couples that are miserable in their marriage. Some still co-exist in the same house, but aren’t really living together. Others have decided to separate, and are considering counseling and trying to work it out. Some have already filed for divorce, and wanted to talk to me to get me to agree with their plan. What each of these conversations have had in common over the past month or so is that every couple had numerous unmet expectations in their marriage.

Maybe that is you today…maybe you expected more from your marriage than you are getting and you are saying to yourself what these couples have said to me “This isn’t what I signed up for.” The reaction to unmet expectations, if you don’t recognize it, has a progressive effect…first you are angry, then you are resentful, then you are distant, then you are hopeless, then you choose things you thought you never would (separation, affair, divorce).

There are two things that Trisha and I learned during our separation about unmet expectations:

  1. Unmet Expectations are usually unspoken expectations. When our spouse doesn’t come through on something we expect them to naturally come through on, our response is usually anger and withdrawal, and we hold them hostage to the expectation they didn’t meet. So that need, desire or expectation continues to go unmet and we continue to pile up hurt, anger, resentment toward that person. If we would choose, early on to communicate with our spouse what we expect from them, or what we need from them in certain situations, then our spouse has an opportunity to meet our needs because they know what they are. What we have found is that unspoken expectations are almost always unmet expectations.
  2. Unmet expectations, in many cases, come from me expecting my wife to fill a need in my life that only God can fill. My wife isn’t God. (She is a goddess, but that is a different post). She isn’t perfect and she can’t be everywhere all at one time. She can’t react in the right way all of the time, and she can’t handle people and their problems and not be affected by it. What we learned is not only did we have God-sized expectations of each other that were unhealthy, we were looking to each other to provide what only God could. So we were robbing God of a role that He longed to play in our lives, and we were holding each other hostage for not coming through in areas that we were never designed to come through.

Your wife isn’t perfect. Your husband can’t read your mind. Your wife can’t take care of everything at the house, feed your kids, wash your clothes, cook your meals and not feel exhausted at the end of the day. Your husband can’t read your mind. 🙂 But what we have learned is if we take time to communicate with each other what we need and what we expect, each of us long to fulfill that for one another. We have also made a decision to allow God to be God and not expect our spouse to be something they can’t ever come through on.

How do you deal with unmet expectations?