Tag Archives: expectations in marriage

Young, Perfect Love and New Marriage

With wedding season upon us, so many couples are about to blissfully enter into marriage, hopefully with dreams and ideas of their long and happy lives together. Do you remember those times? Maybe you’re long past your newlywed days. What advice would you give them?

I’m reading one of the reported “best books of all time,” Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. Nearly smack dab in the middle of the book, I was struck by a character’s experiences of entering marriage. Levin had adored and loved Kitty for many years and dreamed of marrying her. Finally, the stars aligned and they were engaged. They had an elaborate wedding and went off into the country to begin their lives together. Levin never expected petty annoyances to get in the way of their love, and he was surprised how easily this happened. I want to share a short excerpt from the book, because I think it offers a great image of expectations along with reality.

“He was happy; but on entering upon family life he saw at every step that it was utterly different from what he had imagined. At every step he experienced what a man would experience who, after admiring the smooth, happy course of a little boat on a lake, should get himself into that little boat. He saw that it was not at all sitting still, floating smoothly; that one had to think too, not for an instant to forget where one was floating; and that there was water under one, and that one must row; and that his unaccustomed hands would be sore; and that it was only to look at that was easy; but that doing it, though very delightful, was very difficult.”

Tolstoy goes on to say, “As a bachelor, when he had watched other people’s squabbles, the jealousy, he had only smiled contemptuously in his heart. In his future married life there could be, he was convinced, nothing of the sort…”

I thought the description was fitting for life and for marriage. We often envision a future that is nearly perfect like that little boat floating along. But once we get farther down our path and feel the sun beating down on the rocking boat and realize that it’s work to maneuver the boat, we are surprised. It doesn’t mean it’s not delightful, but that it requires our effort can sometimes be unexpected. Levin sees his life as “suffused with the brilliant light of happiness” so it’s not that he is disappointed in marriage. However, his expectations were simply different from reality, at least at the beginning.

In many ways, we have expectations for our partner that are different from our reality, often not in a bad way, just different.  Keeping perspective on this might help us maneuver through some of the potential conflicts in relationships.  

I’ve often heard young parents make a similar confession, saying that they always imagined what perfect parents they would be until the real child rearing challenges became apparent. It doesn’t mean they don’t love the role of parenting, just that it was far different from their expectations.  Forgiving ourselves from our parenting mistakes becomes just as important as forgiving our partner for their perceived failings.

What expectations do you still carry with you into your marriage? What petty annoyances are you allowing to create division with your mate? How do you dream about and picture your future 10 or 20 years from now? And what advice do you have for those starry-eyed couples about to be wed?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available  at Amazon.com and in all e-book formats at www.LoriDLowe.com.

 Photo by Noomhh courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.

Happy Couples Give Spouses Their Attention

“Happily married couples respond to one another’s bids for attention 86 percent of the time,” says Dr. Michele Gannon in an article for Hitched Magazine. She continues, “They ask one another questions, communicate understanding and respond positively when their spouse asks them to. They say ‘Yes’ to one another as often as possible. However, research has found that in unhappy marriages, couples respond to one another only 30 percent of the time.”

This finding intrigued me, and made me pause ask myself when my husband and I interrupt one another, how often we offer our full attention. I don’t think I’m nearly up to 86 percent, and frequently ask for a minute to finish what I’m doing. Whether it’s for something fun or something important, I’m going to work on providing my attention when asked. Ask yourself if you might improve in this area with your spouse, and even with your children.

Some other interesting research-proven habits for happy marriages Dr. Gannon shared in the article include showing admiration and fondness for one another, prioritizing affection and sex, making time for one another, helping one another grow, and cultivating forgiveness.

Forgiveness is one of the keys to a happy marriage in my opinion, and an area in which we can all make improvements. So I read with interest Dr. Fred Luskin’s forgiveness steps. In part, he advises:  “Successful forgiveness requires that we allow ourselves to feel deeply our hurt, disappointment and anger. We need to ask ourselves whether the betrayal or disappointment is a deal breaker or not. If we stay in the relationship, we need to allow ourselves to feel our pain, soothe ourselves, and then be willing to widen our hearts, surrender and risk pain and disappointment again. All of this can happen even if our partner is not willing to take responsibility and change.”

The research findings are from the web site Greater Good Science. I found it to be a truly interesting resource with lots of research-based advice on living a more fulfilling life. For instance, “How well do you know your partner?” shares that knowing your partner’s long-term life goals will make your relationship more satisfying in the future.

Another interesting article I read recently is “The line between no expectations and doormat” by Patty Newbold at Assume Love. It’s about how our expectations can get in the way of our love. Here’s an excerpt:

“You are not a doormat if you take out the trash when your husband fails to. If you were not married, there would be trash to deal with. If you take out trash AND have a husband to love you, you are well ahead of the game. Where you shoot yourself in the foot is when you let yourself expect that if your husband loved you, he would do more around the house or be as prompt as you are with chores. Now, you have trash to take out and what looks like an unloving husband, even though it’s the same husband and the same bag of trash. And while you’re stewing over the garbage, you may very well miss out on some great loving. He might have walked in the door ready to kiss you, but turned right around when he sensed your mood. He might have wanted to tell you he sucked it up at work today and did not quit on the spot because of his commitment to your wellbeing.”

In sum, she says, “When I let go of my expectations, I was completely shocked by how much love I could see in my marriage.” I’ll be interterviewing Patty Newbold soon and sharing her incredible story with you.

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Happy Memorial Day and many thanks to our veterans and to their families.

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