Secrets of a Newlywed: Being Aware of Your Expectations

This is the next post in Secrets of a Newlywed, a series where I open up and share some of the lessons, insights and understandings--the little secrets--that have made my marriage the wedded bliss that it is. Like anything else, they are easier said than done. But I know from personal experience that when I do manage to live them out, I've seen what beautiful fruit they bear in my relationship with my husband. 

So, today, I share another with you: Being Aware of Your Expectations.

I remember when my husband and I were going through our marriage-counseling seminars (the same ones where we wives were coached, “Remember, you did not marry Brad Pitt!”). The seminars were filled with workbook pages and breaks for us to talk over things like how to address conflict, what we wanted our marriage to look like, and what kinds of expectations we had.

“I don’t have any expectations,” I remember thinking. On second thought, I realized I did have one expectation: That my husband would take out the trash, a chore I looked forward to retiring when I got to wear that pretty silver ring.

But to my innocent mind, I couldn’t think of anything else I expected from my husband.

That’s the thing about expectations, you don’t realize you have them until it’s too late…

Fast forward to the day-in-day-out reality of married life: Inevitably, I'd find myself upset over something my husband did or didn’t do. At some point along the way, I realized how many of those incidents were linked to expectations of mine that had prowled beneath the surface.

Whether it was that I expected him to want to spend a Saturday evening mooning over romantic comedies with me rather than want to check out a concert or that I expected him to applaud the fact that I found natural dish soap marked down for something ridiculous like $0.50, I suddenly realized that I was filled—overflowing, actually—with these sorts of expectations.

The truth is, they’re not things you consciously decide on; they’re just the things you just think are normal and natural, which is why it never occurred to me to question them in the first place. That's what makes them so stealthy; they sneak into your marriage without you even realizing it!

The problem with these kinds of expectations, though, is that they're a recipe for disaster. Because who can live up to our lofty expectations? No one, and certainly not our husbands. If we nurse these expectations, we're setting ourselves up to be discouraged, disappointed and angry. Which is no way to live a marriage, if we can help it.

It must have been the grace of the Holy Spirit more than anything else, but slowly I started to catch hold of this truth. In the midst of me feeling discouraged or frustrated, I'd suddenly realize what was really going on: "It was all about my expectations! That's why I'm upset!"

That simple recognition was a turning point in those times when I was tempted to be upset over something that didn't fit what I felt ought to be "normal." Like a helium balloon popped and slinking down to the floor in a tangled bunch of colored plastic, those realizations did wonders to keep emotions from escalating and prick my selfishness, showing it for what it really was.

(To read through all the posts in this series, click here.)

Related Posts
Secrets of a Newlywed: Get Used to Saying, “I'm Sorry”
Secrets of a Newlywed: What Can You Do for Him?


  1. What were some other expectations that you've found out that you had and how do you deal with them now?? What advice can you give me as I am about to get married concerning how to figure out what my expectations are?! :) Thanks Carmen! I love this series.

  2. i think one of the benefits of recognizing and catching hold of our expectation is that once we stop having these crazy standards for our spouse, when they DO things we want them to or when they make that extra effort, we're that much more excited. it's that much more meaningful to us and we don't take it for granted. instead of their actions being things we just expected them to naturally do, we see them for what they truly are and appreciate them so much more. and then our relationships can be enriched so much more.

    great post! this really is huge, i think! something i definitely struggled with when we first got married. and still catch myself having to work on regularly. thanks for the wonderful series! :)

  3. Anonymous - Congrats on your engagement!

    There are so many expectations! I think for me a lot of them are little, everyday things like I expect my husband to react to things differently or I expect him to want to do everything the same way I do. A lot of it is realizing that the world doesn't revolve around me and I'm not in control of it.

    I guess my advice would be for you, as you prepare for marriage, is to start honing in on your expectations now. For instance, when your fiance does something that upsets or hurts you, track that back to the reason why, and I bet you'll discover that it's because you EXPECTED him to do or say or act otherwise. Start cluing into those elements now and that'll help you release your hold on more expectations once you are married!

    Feel free to shoot me an email if you have more questions :)

  4. Steph, you hit the nail on the head! The real danger with expectations is expecting perfection from our spouses, or anyone else for that matter! Releasing those does truly make it all the more sweet. And it's something I'm most definitely still working on, nearly every day it seems!

  5. I've been married 26 years (sometimes I round that off to "a thousand," lol) - just so you know where I'm coming from.
    I agree that we tend to take our expectations for granted until we meet with disappointment.
    The big opportunity in a relationship is when the disappointment arrives. When I'm disappointed I have to decide if my expectation was something that has a high priority for me. THEN if it's not something that I have decided to let go (i.e. something insignificant), I need to express that expectation to my spouse so that we can work out our priorities as a team.

  6. That's a really good way to help decide whether or not expectations are worth addressing or not. My only problem is that I have a lot of trouble letting anything go, haha! But I've definitely started learning over the past two years what is significant and what really isn't worth the battle and will actually be more beneficial for me to just let lie.

    Thanks for the advice! :)

  7. Bonnie, I love the idea of what you said about looking at priorities together "as a team." Congrats on 26 years of marriage! I can't wait to make it to that milestone :)

  8. Steph, I do think that figuring out when to speak up about an expectation and when to let it be is definitely one of the delicate parts of marriage. I think my usual tendency is to let things go, but I'm trying to figure out when things are "preference" vs. "priorities." There are a lot of expectations that are just due to my own selfishness, but there are others that boil down to bigger issues like respect or encouragement or stuff like that. Those are the ones I think are worth addressing, even though it can be such a struggle for me to do so! And letting go is definitely something I can only do by the help of the Holy Spirit :)

  9. Ha...I SO remember when we got to the "expectations" chapter in our "Before You Say I Do" books (we had to do ours over the phone, just us, because we were 1000 miles apart!) - my very FIRST expectation was that HE would kill the bugs! (Probably because at the time I was living by myself in an apt that was infested with earwigs). His response was - "as long as they're not beyond a certain size!" That was almost 19 years ago. ;-) I would have to dig out the book because I can't remember what our expectations were of each other, but the fact that we talked about them made it easier to deal with them when they didn't happen, or realize that what we expected was either unreasonable, or not something that really needed to be that important.

  10. Melissa - Love your perspective as someone who's been at this marriage thing for almost 2 decades. Congrats on that! And I completely agree with what you said that, when we stop to think about it, a lot of them end up being unreasonable or less important than we really realize. So true :)

  11. gosh! so good!

    as much as you think you go into marriage prepared to have zero expectations, you still do. :) so thankful for God's grace and Hubs' patience.

    and totally i'm adoring your photo at the top. we are doing a balloon photo shoot tomorrow!! ahhh!! so excited!

    found your blog through 20something bloggers!


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