Jon and I have discussed a lot of big, obvious issues throughout our relationship. We both recognize that our marriage will go through seasons, not all of which will be easy. We both understand that we can’t have a strong marriage without being best friends and confidants but at the same time, we can’t fulfill each other’s every need. We’ve discussed everything from insidiousness of emotional infidelity to finances. I think we’ve hit most of the important points. I want to believe we’re prepared to handle anything together. But I’m always hearing statistics – X% of fights are over money or children or jobs…whatever. Obviously no one plans to become a statistic. And though the focus of a relationship should NOT be on potential pitfalls and problems, there does need to be an awareness of how words, actions and even thoughts can impact the health of our marriage.
Sometime in the past few months I heard or read the statement: Everyone enters into marriage with expectations. (That could be said of all relationships I guess but that’s not what I heard and more to the point, not what I’m concerned with at the moment). Some expectations are prevalent in our culture: “Love will get us through” or the ever popular male/female “She won’t change after marriage.”/ “He will change after marriage.” And I think this is a key point. I don’t believe strife necessarily happen over issues. You don’t get upset (or aggravated or hurt) at your spouse for an action (or lack thereof) or words (or lack thereof) – you’re in emotional turmoil because your expectations weren’t met.
One thing I’ve finally learned (I think…) is these emotions can’t be ignored. They can’t be shoved aside or buried. Something triggered the reaction and if it’s not dealt with, it WILL happen again. This does not automatically mean your spouse has to deal with it though. First you have to determine the trigger and its importance in the grand scheme of things. Will bringing this up in ANY way improve your relationship or is it something you can reconcile and/or shrug away in the future? If you determine that it’s not something you can reconcile alone, by all means bring it up to your sweetie but recognize that this is YOUR issue. In most cases the problem is with where your expectations lay, not with your partners actions*. Don’t enter into the conversation with the intention of getting your spouse to fulfill your expectation, bend to your will or even of proving that you are (of course) right. Marriage is a partnership. You’re a team. Approach the situation as something to be managed together, to reach a resolution that works for both of you. Perhaps that resolution will be the love of your life realizing how important something is to you and will want to meet that need. Or maybe the discussion will bring to light new information and change the way you see a situation. And yes, compromise is always an option. But managing expectations doesn’t (um…always) equate to getting your way. Managing expectations is first and foremost a consideration of the person you chose to bind yourself to and the resulting relationship.
(This is an area I struggle with on a regular basis since I tend to be needy and think the world should revolve around me. The above blog is not meant to be preachy or the final word on the matter. It is simply me vocalizing things I’m considering as my own wedding day grows near.)
Oddly enough, the manner in which this has manifested with me most obviously is over household chores…oddly because my expectation is that *I* should be doing them. When Jon tries to do dishes or laundry I get very defensive. I feel like I’ve failed, like I’ve slacked off in my responsibilities and because he had to step in and take care of it, I’ve failed him. He has NEVER validated that viewpoint. He has always told me he does them so I DON’T have to; he will go out of his way to beat me to those chores because he enjoys doing things for me, enjoys spoiling me. And usually I enjoy letting him. But household chores are an expectation I have for myself and the relationship…that I’m not a “good wife” unless he never has to see dishes and dirty clothes. I’m still working on managing that one…
*Please note: I KNOW there are exceptions to this statement. Abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, compulsive spending, etc… If you’re in one of those situations, please leave this little blog and go consult with a professional.