What Almost Ruined My Marriage
In a small church on an ordinary Saturday, I walked down the aisle in a beautiful white dress carrying the prettiest arrangement of purple hydrangea flowers. Arm and arm with my dad as Pachelbel Canon in D strummed in the air, and I walked to the man of my dreams. Blissfully unaware of the challenges and hardships that laid in the days, months, and years ahead.
When you get married, you hear tales and warnings of marital hardships. You know that it won't be perfect. At a head level, you understand two imperfect people represent a relationship. Therefore, you know it won't be a romantic comedy. But you don't image crying yourself to sleep at night, avoiding the very person that once put butterflies in your stomach, or hurting each other with your words.
Marriage has a way of bringing the best in each other and highlighting the worst.
It didn't take long for a spotlight to shine on the unhealthy and unwhole parts of my heart.
Growing up, I often felt alone, misunderstood, and, well, different. I learned to overcompensate and hide parts of myself to find acceptance (have you done this too?). As a child, I heard that my emotions were "too much." In my marriage, I tried to suppress my feelings. I ignored hurts in an effort for things to be okay. I tried desperately to control myself and my emotions.
When I couldn't control things any longer, I would explode in anger. Like a growing snowball, my resentments and disappointments would build and build until I couldn't contain them any longer. With no more strength left, my hurts and frustrations pummeled my love.
Justin often had no idea that I had been upset. Little did he know that I had been compiling a list of grievances: things I expected him to do. Usually, these expectations were unhealthy and unreasonable.
My most unrealistic expectation that caused damage and devastations in my marriage was my hope that Justin would make me happy. I wanted him to anticipate all of my needs. I wanted him to notice if my mood shifted, if I was hungry (and what food I was craving), and then meet those wants and needs.
Whatever my need was, I wanted him to know this need, validate my need, and fulfill my needs. You may be thinking this is what a good relationship is: anticipating others' needs. When you make someone responsible for meeting your needs, you are making them lord of your life. I became dependent on Justin. Like a thermometer one day good, the other day down. My mood, my mindset, my day hinged on his ability to fulfill my expectations.
I set Justin up for failure and set me up for frustration and disappointment. He became defeated and passive. Unsure of how to meet my ever-changing moods and anticipate my needs. These expectations almost ruined my marriage.
Nothing kills a relationship faster than unrealistic expectations. Over time and after a lot of hurt feelings and arguments, I realized that I was squashing Justin's confidence by demanding and expecting certain things.
I expected Justin to make me happy. This expectation is unrealistic because he cannot control my emotions. That's up to me. I would be left frustrated and disappointed when he didn't make me happy. Unrealistic expectations cause division in relationships — Overtime, division results in the death of a relationship.
The Holy Spirit convicted my heart of my unrealistic expectations. God showed me that I have the opportunity to partner with Him to meet all of my needs. I don't have to be dependent on others to make me happy. Letting go of expectations is incredibily liberating and frees me up to love others well. No longer do I wait for others to pursue me or prove their love for me.
These expectations no longer limit me. I traded in frustration, disappointment, and resentment for love, peace, and connection.
What about you?
What are unrealistic expectations in your relationship?
What's the effect of these expectations?
What would it look like for you to replace expectations with a dependency on Christ alone?
You aren't likely to fix your relationships overnight. And it's not a once and done endeavor. I continually am presented with an opportunity to partner with God to meet my needs or depend on unhealthy ways on my spouse. When I notice my patience waning, I've gotten in the habit of asking myself, "who do I depend on to meet my needs?" This is a daily, sometime moment by moment decision.
Blessings to you,