Are Your Marriage Expectations Realistic?
My husband was 22 and I was 23 when we got married. And although we had been high school and college “sweethearts," we didn’t really know what it would be like to be married and live together.
We were babies, but we were so in love (and thankfully, still are). We probably should have discussed our individual expectations of a spouse prior to getting married, but like I said… we were young and in love. So we did it. We jumped in headfirst knowing we had obvious differences but were determined we’d figure it all out.
I grew up in a single-parent family where most days my dad worked till after 5:00, picked up some form of fast food on his way home and served it to my siblings and I as we watched TV on the couch or did homework in our rooms. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a home where his mother or father cooked a meal almost every night and his parents, siblings and him all ate together as a family around the dinner table after saying a blessing over the meal. Needless to say, our ideas and our expectations of a spouse and family were polar opposites.
A month after our wedding, we moved across the country, just the two of us, and were forced to turn these expectations of each other into a blissful, married reality. Throw in the added obstacles of being married to an Infantryman in the Army and me, a college graduate who worked full-time for the government prior to getting married and moving, and who could not find a job in our new city, and it is safe to say that we were a confused, young married couple.
We argued, we debated and we pleaded to each other to have our individual expectations of a spouse met. I realized, while listening to an episode of “This American Life,” after a couple kids and half a decade of being married that both of our expectations of a spouse were simply unrealistic. I also realized it was much deeper than whether we cooked dinner or picked up a couple cheese burgers on the way home.
It was this:
Spouses are expected to be caregivers, homemakers, providers, chefs, do laundry, be handy, organize schedules, be accountants, mediators, lovers… As a spouse I’m expected to be a jack-of-all-trades! It’s exhausting. To even the playing field, I also expect the exact same things from my husband. If I have to wear all those hats, he should too, right?
But is that realistic?
I mean… would you call an electrician to fix your leaky sink?
Still, I expect my husband to be all the above. But, in reality, he’s just not. He never will be and, honestly, he shouldn’t have to be.
Neither should I.
So why do we expect so much from one single person?
I complain and nag at my husband for not thoroughly listening and providing insight to my endless rants about PTA problems and how the children no longer listen to my requests, but that’s not him. That’s not most men, to be honest. And I am definitely not the woman that enjoys talks about world history and how it’s affecting today’s society. In fact, we both took the “Myers Briggs Personality Test” and we are complete opposites. He’s “INTP- The Logician” and I am the literal opposite “ESFJ- The Consul.”
But we make it work. We’ve learned so much from each other in our almost 15 years of dating, six of which have been married ones. Our differences have contributed to different ways of thinking, problem solving and making decisions for our family. We’re not perfect, I still nag him to listen and he still scratches his head that I don’t know when the revolutionary war took place or the exact date of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
We’ve both accepted that sometimes we just can’t play certain roles in our marriage. However, I want to stress that this doesn’t mean we’ve “settled.” We understand that there are just certain things each other cannot provide to fully fill the other’s tank.
We’ve had to look outside our marriage to fulfill certain expectations and we’ve also had to learn or adjust to wearing other hats we weren’t familiar with or don’t necessarily enjoy wearing.
What does that mean? “Look outside our marriage.”
Please understand, I’m not telling anyone to go have a sexual affair. But I am saying to look for people in your life to fill in gaps that your spouse isn’t. My husband will never be interested in the Real Housewives, no matter what city they start filming in and he'll never understand the excitement I felt when Target announced Joanna Gaines was starting a home goods line there.
I wanted him to for so long, but then realized that's what my girlfriends are for. I still tell him my commentary from each episode and make him pause his movie while I do a ten-second dance of excitement at that announcement, but I no longer expect him to provide meaningful input on those types of things; I look outside my marriage for that. In return, he's scored a few extra guys’ nights to be able to talk about his interests more.
I have also taken it upon myself to hire professionals to do regular maintenance on large household appliances. It was something I always expected my husband to do, but he never gets around to it and I would always nag him for it, so it was time for me to just look elsewhere. In return, he's hired a CPA to do our taxes, a task I normally complete each year, but, with our growing family and added work demands, is something I can no longer complete.
In other areas of our marriage, we’ve had to take steps to try to fulfill a few of each other’s expectations without looking for outside help. After hearing how important staying up-to-date with the daily news is to my husband, I began watching the news every morning so that we can discuss it throughout our day. He'll agree to a true-crime documentary rather than a historical documentary in order to please me.
The last point I want to make is: Give your spouse a break sometimes and ask your spouse to do the same. We can’t possibly expect our spouse to fill every gap in our life and as long as you’re both trying your best to achieve each other’s expectations that should count for something.
Marriage is hard. It takes daily effort. Consider your expectations carefully and know that expectations can change over time. If you and your spouse are able to effectively communicate your expectations of each other and are able to look elsewhere or step up to the plate where you're lacking, marriage can be a whole lot sweeter.
About the Author
Alexandra gained her writing experience during her time with the Department of Energy as a Contract Specialist where she wrote government contracts and amendments. She graduated from the University of New Mexico with a bachelor's degree in Economics. She is a native New Mexican who also recently became a real estate broker in North Carolina. Currently she is living near Fort Bragg with her husband and their two children while he serves in the Army.