When most couples exchange their marriage vows, there are expectations inferred in each statement. For example, often times while happiness is not part of the marriage vows, it is implied. The expectation is that my spouse should make me happy. In other cases, while meeting my needs was not explicitly stated in the marriage vows, couples expect their spouse to meet their needs. If for some reason this expectation is not met, most couples conclude that they married the wrong person regardless of what was expressed during their marriage vows.
Oftentimes couples set expectations in marriage either consciously or subconsciously based on three fundamental influences.
- The marriage they grew up in: This plays a major role on how we set our expectations of our spouse. We form our expectation of the role of a husband or wife based on the image we saw from our parents, grandparents or the marriage we grew up in. The struggle with this is that we all grew up in different homes. In other words, our expectation of spouse in marriage is already skewed based on the marriage we grew up in.
- Society: This plays a huge role on how couples set expectations in marriage particularly if the couples are the type that follow popular trends. Society places are certain expectation on what it means to be a husband or wife which some couples allow to be the filter that guides them in setting certain expectations. The struggle with this is that societal trends typically changes and as such allowing this to be the filter that sets your expectation in marriage is not sustainable.
- The Bible: The struggle with the first two filters (The Marriage you grew up in and Society) is that they have limited capacity. When couples allow the word of God be the filter that sets their expectations, the capacity of such expectations become unlimited. For example you can love your spouse very deeply. The demonstration of that love is limited to your human capacity which is in turn subject to your feelings. However if you allow God love your spouse through you, the capacity of such love is unlimited. A way to allow God love your spouse through you is to set your filter on His word. When couples allow the word of God be the filter that sets their expectation in marriage and in life, the capacity of your spouse to meet and exceed those expectations is then based on the power of God’s word. That is why the palmist expresses it this way
My soul, wait silently for God alone, For my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5
Also when couples allow the word of God be the filter that sets there expectation, they really more on God’s ability to meet there needs rather than their spouse. Their expectations shifts from a performance based (I have to serve my spouse) to a grace based (I want to serve my spouse) expectations.
Too many marriages are based on the limitations of chemistry, the volatility of emotions, the entrapment of rules and regulations and the disappointment of feelings that comes with falling short of expectations. Marriage is not about rules, dos and don’ts but about freedom to express your God-given potential. Marriage goes beyond successfully living together with someone. It has to do with pleasing God. It is about couples coming together and cultivating the right environment to flourish by expressing their God given purpose to humanity. Marriage requires you doing your due diligence and letting the Holy Spirit play His own part (supplying the grace and wisdom you need).
I will leave you with this, the assurance you have that your marriage will stand the test of time is in the expectation you have of your marriage. If your expectation of a successful marriage is based on your spouse’s ability to meet your needs, you are off to a rocky marriage. Your expectation of a successful marriage should be based on God’s word. This is why scripture put it this way
For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off. Proverbs 23:18
As always, marriage is a journey and not a destination. The bible is the blue print while the Holy Spirit is your guide.