Setting Expectations in Marriage

June 6th, 2012

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Hello again everyone! Married life has been keeping me busier than expected.  When my wife and I were discussing what we thought married life would be like, we thought we would be spending the majority of our free time together – and it would be so great!  The truth is that although we do spend the majority of our free time together, it just never seems like there’s enough free time.  And while the time we spend together is great, I’m left wanting more.

Have any of you experienced this too?  Were you surprised by what you expected marriage to be vs. the reality of what it is? 

Another thing that surprised me about marriage was how we sleep at night.  Before we got married, I thought my wife would sleep on her side of the bed and I would sleep on my side.  We would both get a good night’s sleep and wake up rested.  Oh… how my expectation has been blown into pieces.  My wife loves to cuddle.  She snuggles up in the blanket, inches close to me and then attacks!  Once she clamps onto me, she falls immediately asleep.  I like cuddling too; it’s just different than I thought it would be.

In marriage, and life, we have expectations about how we think things will be; however, these expectations aren’t always realized.  It can feel like a boxer hitting us in the head and knocking us out.  I’m trying to find ways to overcome this “knockout” and in my search I’ve found some great advice.

In an article that I read from this website, Rita DeMaria suggests that couples should talk about their own expectations and their partner’s expectations.  She said that sometimes we expect things from our partners and we don’t even realize what the hidden issues are.  Sometimes, we compare our spouses to other spouses or to our parents and that can be dangerous.  Rita De Maria suggests that couples should talk about their hopes and dreams, even if they can’t meet them all.  She also said that couples should be realistic about what they ask for and try to find a win-win situation.   When we feel disappointed, that’s a good time to think about the expectations we have and where they come from.  (Rita DeMaria is a marriage and family therapist and a member of the Council for Relationships.  She also is the Director of Relationship Education and has been working to support marriages for more than 30 years.)

The RELATE inventory also has some great questions that can help a couple get on the same page about their expectations for marriage – before and after the wedding. Click here for more information on the RELATE questionnaire.

Have you had experiences with your expectations for marriage?  Please share them and any personal advice you may have. 


2 Responses to “Setting Expectations in Marriage”

  1. Donna says:

    As I was older (39) when I married, I really thought I had covered all the bases with my spouse before we married and we would seamlessly transition into marriage. Very naive !! I don’t have a specific incident to offer, but I will say that we should not be discouraged if our expectations don’t become our reality. I would say things can even be better than anticipated if you and your spouse can communicate (like your mentioned in your blog)about your expectations. This means the other party must listen, see if they can off a way to that expectation, and vice versa. But really, I think we need to remember that a marriage can be great despite unmet expectations.

  2. Tim, I believe all of us fall short of these expectations we put on our marriage. After 16 years of marriage, Alisa, my beautiful wife and I realized that one big reason for this in our marriage and others that we have talked to is that there is a lack of emotional intimacy.

    We as couples need to communicate what our expectations are to our spouse first. This allows for both partners to be on the same page. Even after this happens some expectations won’t be attained. This is OK as now the lines of communication are open and both can come together and learn from it.

    I would say is that make sure you talk about where the breakdown is happening and adjust. The key here is that you want to be successful in your marriage so the two of you are going to have to ebb and flow as nothing is set in concrete.

    If you have some time take a listen to the ONE Extraordinary Marriage Show my wife and I do weekly. We did one on Great Expectations,


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