Expectations are part of a healthy marriage. But unmet expectations can cause frustration and tension. 

You expect something from your spouse. 

Maybe you expect them to do something (but they’re not). 

Or to not do something (but they are). 

Your expectation is for them to live up to a certain standard. And for whatever reason, your spouse isn’t meeting that standard. 

So what do you do? 

Well, the big question you need to ask is: Why? Why aren’t they living up to the standard you’re hoping for? 

Typically, there are three simple reasons a spouse might not meet your expectations: 

1. They don’t know or don’t clearly understand what you expect. 

I expected my wife to spend a lot of time with me when we were first married, but it didn’t seem to happen much. The problem? She didn’t know what I wanted because I never told her. And I get it; it’s easy to think, but we’ve been married for a while now… they should know me! 

Expecting your spouse to read your mind (even after decades of marriage) sets them up for failure and you for frustration. It doesn’t matter how close you are to someone; there’s no substitute for good communication. 

Your goal is to clearly and respectfully communicate your expectation to your spouse. When you can both positively focus on the conversation, say something like this: 

  • Hey, I just want to be sure I’m doing a good job of being clear. 
  • Do you feel like we clearly understand what we hope to expect of each other? 
  • Can we talk about what I hope can happen with… (keeping the house clean, spending time with each other, eating better as a family, etc.)?
  • Can we work together to make sure these things happen? 
  • Is there something I can do better to explain my expectations more clearly? 

2. Your spouse can’t do what you expect them to do. 

The critical question here is: Does your spouse feel like your expectations are realistic? 

Here’s a hard truth: Even when you believe your expectations are realistic, if your spouse thinks they aren’t, expectations aren’t going to be met.

Ask yourself, Do I expect my spouse to give me something they don’t think they can provide?

Like their undivided attention right after a stressful day with the kids or at work? 

Or a chore that needs to be done to your exact specifications? (Fold the towels this way…) 

Or a level of fitness or body type that’s beyond reach? 

Maybe you could say something like, I was hoping I could count on you to… But now I’m wondering whether my expectations have been realistic. Can you help me figure this out? Let these questions guide you in a respectful conversation about what you can realistically expect from your spouse.

3. They just flat-out refuse. 

When you’ve expressed a realistic expectation clearly, and your spouse says no, what do you do? 

I’m going to assume your spouse isn’t refusing just because they’re a stubborn jerk (unless you’re into marrying stubborn jerks). If this is the case, it’s time to seek some professional help

Refusal to meet expectations may happen because there’s some kind of disagreement about where those expectations are heading. It may indicate they’re dealing with past baggage. Or maybe it suggests that a deeper marital issue needs to be addressed. 

Again, this is where an honest conversation with your spouse is helpful. Say something like, I realize you don’t like the thought of (doing whatever your expectation is). Could you help me better understand why, and how we might be able to come to a compromise? 

One last thing: After talking through any of the above scenarios, you may not end up having the same expectations you initially brought to the table. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Expectations are part of a healthy marriage. And they shift and morph throughout the marriage journey, but you’ve gotta talk about them. The idea is to maintain expectations that help you both grow stronger as individuals and as a couple.

Other helpful blogs:

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at:1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Was This Helpful?

Thoughts? Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *