Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Great Expectations: How the Past and Childhood Influence Our Thoughts Toward Marriage

Expectations drive our lives and our decisions. Everyday during the week I am expected to get to my internship at 8 am. I expect there to be traffic on my commute to work. I expect to be very tired when I return from work. Many of us even have expectations for some of the most minor things in our lives, like what we are going to eat for dinner.

Expectations are important because they influence our decisions and our reactions toward expected and unexpected events. If something happens according to our expectations, we are satisfied. However, if things don't work out as planned, sometimes we can become extremely disgruntled, angry, frustrated, or sad. Since expectations have such a large influence on our lives and decisions, the primary focuses of premarital counseling are the expectations each partner has about marriage and married life.

People normally have various expectations about what their marriage will be like. If you ask most unmarried men, many will tell you that they expect to have frequent sex with their wife when they are married. Some women may have the expectation that their husband will be the primary bread-winner for the family.

Are expectations an unneeded weight our your
relationships's shoulders? Source
Expectations can also be influenced from our past and our childhood. For the children of divorced parents, like myself, there is the expectation that their marriage will be better and communication in their marriage will be better than their parents' marriage. (If not, we'd all remain single.) By the same token, children of parents with a near perfect marriage may expect to have a fairytale marriage with minimal problems. For children of controlling parents, they may assume their spouse will be controlling, impacting their intimacy and communication with their spouse.

Since I am potentially interested in doing Marriage and Family Counseling as a career (and since I want to have a good marriage), I've been reading a book released by Focus on the Family titled The First Five Years of Marriage -- Launching a Lifelong, Successful Relationship. This book has some of the most valuable and understandable advice on common marriage issues and it's a must read for all couples looking to marry or newly married. The First Five Years of Marriage has a chapter called "Why Isn't Marriage the Way I Thought it Would Be?" Sadly, this is a question many couples outside of the honeymoon stage are asking because marriage is not the fairytale the media portrays it to be.

This chapter in the book raises the point that many times the expectations couples have about their marriage are focused on what "their marriage will be like, not what they want their marriage to be like." If we embrace the belief that we want our marriage to be a certain way, that implies that we must work to make it that way. Things do not magically fall into place and you can be guaranteed that your marriage will have problems. The author of this chapter warns us that our expectations "might be slightly off target, but they could be early warning signs about issues that will cause more trouble if you don't resolve them."

So how do we adjust our expectations from what our marriage will be like to what we want our marriage to be like? There are two steps:

  1. Recognize that marriage is a call to selflessly serving your spouse.
  2. Read and follow God's word for what He wants your marriage to be like.
Marriage is not easy and it takes this servant attitude and a desire to follow God's word to make it truly successful. Through reading and meditation on God's word, we can grow to truly understand God's call to us in marriage to live more like Christ. A successful marriage is learned, not inherited. We must learn to listen, encourage, serve, and unconditionally love our mate. 

I am by no means perfect or all-knowing when it comes to marriage advice, and Marisa and I are not married yet. We are, however, trying to grow together and we invite you to join in our journey. If you have had a successful marriage in Christ and want to share your testimony and wisdom with us, we would love to hear from you. Also, if you have questions or want either of us to address a specific topic about marriage, young marriage, courtship, or any Christian dating topic, we also would love to honor your requests. Please email us any time at 

God bless you!

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