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Should we have great expectations in marriages?

I have many occasions in which I am able to see marriages at their worst. What would be more accurate to say is, “I see people at their worst in their marriages.” A friend of mine said to me one day that, “most expectations are usually pre-planned resentments.”  All of us have expectations, and we are not bad for having them.  The problem with expectations is that we often involve others in those expectations without them being very aware that they are part of our plan; this is when we are working on the “pre-planned resentments.”

Shane M. Jones, LSCSW

What is behind the tendency to have too many and too high of expectations?  First, we have to look at our sin nature when looking at expectations.  By nature, we are selfish and self seeking, striving to fill the desires of the “flesh.” (Romans 7:5)  We are not going to always look out for the needs of others, but rather our own, even when we have told ourselves we are invested in the good of others, we will often see later that we were striving to meet much of our own need.  Another reason we develop unrealistic expectations is because of the way marriage was modeled to us.  Often individuals never saw their parents disagree in front of them, and so when they have disagreements in their marriage, they not only don’t know how to handle it, but also are very discouraged because they expected that they would not have that level of “problem.”  A more common twist on what we experienced growing up is that a person will be prone to having such a desire to not have the stressful marriage they saw their parents have, that they will place expectations on themselves and their mate that says, “we will not do what I saw Mom and Dad do, so if we do happen to end up there, it must be your fault because I certainly did not want this!”

How can the problem of GREAT EXPECTATIONS be avoided?  First there must be a coming to terms with the sin of our own flesh, and how fallen this “body of death” is.  We must seek constantly for the Lord’s grace and mercy in our lives as we strive to keep our eye’s fixed on Jesus, and not the selfish desires/expectations that we all hold within ourselves, this is done best by staying in God’s word on a consistent basis.   Second, we must develop a greater servant’s heart for the one we have made a covenant to, and seek to serve rather than be served.

Every marriage needs to have the assurance that their partner is in it to the end and won’t let themselves consider ending the marriage.  The stabilizing factor of a commitment to not leave the marriage contributes greatly to a health and strong expectation that a couple can build on.  It has been wonderful for my wife and I to be able to express to our children the confidence they can put in our promise to always stay faithful to the marriage.  To always be faithful is the kind of expectation that is a must for any marriage, which is the ultimate servant’s heart.  Just remember how good it feels when we ponder the words of Jesus, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”  Pass that expectation along in your marriage, today!

–Shane M. Jones; Shane M. Jones & Associates, P.A.


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