Before we got married, John and I spent hours and hours talking. We discussed our growing up years, our hopes and dreams, our likes and dislikes. We spent (literally) every free moment together. I thought I knew him pretty well. We were engaged after four months, and we married five more after that. I’d found the man for me. For life. Even though I didn’t realize it at the time, I had expectations of what life would be like after we were married. Very unrealistic expectations I soon discovered.
For example, I’d visited John’s apartment on many occasions, and I could tell he was a neat freak. His bed was always made. The dishes had been washed and put away. He did his own laundry and ironed his own clothes. What a guy! I was just the opposite. In fact, one thing my mother repeatedly told me growing up is, “I’d hate to see what your house will be like when I’m not around to pick up after you.”
Cool, I thought. John will do all the housecleaning . . . this will work out perfectly.
Okay, we have to stop right here. I’ll wait as you finish laughing.
You see, John had his own expectations.
Great, John thought. Once we get married Trish will be around, so I won’t have to do all the housecleaning . . .
As you can guess, we both had unrealistic expectations, and we were both hugely disappointed!
Now, if those were the only expectations we had, then married life would have been fairly manageable. But this wasn’t the only unrealistic expectation. It was just one drop in the tidal wave. Our thoughts on issues like money and child-rearing, sex and our extended-families soon made waves as deep-seated emotions, past experiences, and firm opinions stirred the sandy beaches of our mental honeymoon paradise.
Ohmygosh! Who is this person I married? I wondered with my chin set and my arms firmly crossed over my chest. When did he get so opinionated and stubborn?
Growing up, all of us develop expectations of what marriage is like. And when we finally meet that special someone our expectations reach an all-time high. This is going to be GREAT, we think as we confess our love to each other. This is the person I’ve looked for all my life!
In the beginning things are great. Discussions focus on happy things like dreams and values and future kids. It never crosses our mind to talk about real-life stuff.
In fact, I like to compare the dating relationship to M&M candies. We’re so excited about the shiny, varied colors of our attraction, and the sweet chocolate of romance, we don’t pay much attention to the other person’s nutty opinions, habits, and real-ness . . . until we bite in.
I didn’t realize, until after I said “I do,” that marriage isn’t about the future. It’s about the present. It’s not about possible careers or imaginary kids. It’s about everyday stuff like toothpaste tubes and laundry piles, or Monday Night Football and karate films versus chick flicks.
Have you had unrealistic expectations? How have you gotten over them?
© Tricia Goyer author of Generation NeXt Marriage
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