Great Expectations! A Journey Together
“My husband thinks because he cooked dinner last month that he should be excused from all other responsibilities. All I want is a little help. I have tried asking him nicely but he still calls me a nag. I feel really upset! What should I do?”
“My wife is spending too much time and money on shopping. Each weekend she lugs home her buys, which can come up to hundreds of dollars. When I tell her to stop, we get into quarrels!”
Each of these complaints reveals some expectations marriage partners have of each other. Expectations in marriage are one of the things that a newlywed couple would discuss and sometimes squabble over especially during the first three years of their marriage. If you have attended one of the pre-marital courses, most likely you would have heard about it and been cautioned that this is an important aspect you need to take special note of.
Why do I need to know his/her expectations in marriage?
As a newlywed, it is important to know your spouse’s expectations in marriage because it will help you to communicate more effectively and efficiently. It will also reduce the conflicts that you are likely to face. Unspoken expectations can lead to disappointment and frustration in a relationship. Does your spouse do, or not do, something that they may not know you expect them to? Is he or she expecting something of you that you do not understand or know?
What are some of these expectations?
Expectations in marriage do not just pertain to the areas of household responsibilities or money matters. They fall mostly in the following broad categories:
- Finances - How do I expect my spouse to spend money? Should we discuss what purchases to make? Should we live debt-free? Do we need a monthly family budget?
- Career – Would my spouse support me in my career pursuits? How do we manage a dual career in the family?
- Household chores – Who should clean the toilet? How often should we mop the floor?
- Family goals – How many children do we want to have? How big a house should we own?
- Social life - How often should we visit in-laws? How do we spend our weekends?
- Physical activities - Do I expect my spouse to exercise with me?
- Emotional Expectations – Do I understand his/her fears?
- Priorities - What are my priorities in life? Who, or what activities, come first?
Take time to sit down and have a heart-to-heart discussion about the marriage expectations you have of each other and it could be today or this week. Simply identify, communicate, and discuss your marriage expectations with your spouse.
Below are some simple action steps you and your spouse can take to better understand each other’s marriage expectations. Do not rush it, as the journey is not going to be a short one. Prioritise the most immediate issues that affect both of you.
- Write down and go through your expectations of your spouse in your marriage for that particular issue, be honest about it. (Refer to the above marriage expectations list).
- Do a reality check. Are these expectations realistic? Clarify or explain your expectations if they are unclear or ambiguous.
- Tell your spouse how you feel about these expectations. Share your positive and negative feelings about them.
- Discuss what compromises are needed to meet these expectations. Are there certain sacrifices that you need to make? Share why you are making them.
- Take action and evaluate within an agreed time (e.g a month or three months) to determine if you are meeting those expectations.
However, such open communication is sometimes easier said than done.
But always remember to word the things you say in a way that does not sound accusing, and watch your non-verbal communication too! When these questions are asked with respect, they can help to smoothen your marriage journey as marital roles and responsibilities are clearly agreed upon. In contrast, with unspoken expectations, even when the couple eventually reaches a resolution, one or both parties have already experienced resentment and hurt.
Remember this is an on-going process of discovery as there will always be some expectations that are hidden deep in our core beliefs or subconscious that will only surface down the road of your marriage journey. And when they do appear, go through the same process of discussion, action and evaluation. It will surely enrich your marriage.
Open and honest communication is the way to go on this journey to understanding and managing your marriage expectations!
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