I thought about blogging about the delightful summer day I had yesterday… of pancakes at the airport, of a parade on the brick streets around the town square, of a water fight between fire fighters, of picking mulberries barefoot (and staining said feet), of laying in the sunshine, of 4-wheeling through the field, and of braiding little white flowers into my hair… but while that is all delightful, it makes a rather boring blog post. So since I have time to write at the moment, I’ll give you my further thoughts on expectations in marriage to follow my initial post on this topic, which I no longer believe are completely true.
All boiled down: It’s my belief a husband and wife are to treat each other in specific ways, not because the other deserves it, but because God deserves our obedience to him. Instructions about our behavior as a wife or husband come from God and our obedience of these instructions should flow from our love for him.
Even though we owe certain behavior to God, his acceptance and love for us is not qualified by our performance. If it were, we’d never be accepted. (To read more about this Jesus Based Acceptance, please read this post a friend of mine blogged yesterday… it ties well into the topic of marriage.) As the sinful humans we are, we deserve nothing good. Anything good we experience in life is a blessing from God. Cancer? It isn’t unfair for some to be plagued by it, it’s unfair for those who are healthy to be healthy. This may seem harsh, and unfeeling, but I think this attitude will help us live with gratitude and let us more easily focus on what we do have, rather than on what we think we’re missing.
Now, back to the word ‘expectation.’ Some use this word with the idea it’s a rule or principle that is used as a basis for judgment. They think that if they fail to meet someone’s expectations then they’ve let that person down and thus have lost acceptance, love, and approval. They have lost this as a consequence to not living up to someone else’s expectations (or standards).
I use the word ‘expectation’ on my blog, and typically think of it as synonymous with ‘anticipation’ or ‘prediction’. There is nothing wrong with entering marriage (or any relationship) with certain anticipations. Furthermore, it’s impossible not to! For various reasons we have an idea of what will happen in life. We don’t know what will happen, and it’s unhealthy to act as if what we think will happen is what will actually be, but to estimate, to guess, to “expect” to some degree, is unavoidable.
I know you expect things of your future. Some of yours are probably that you predict your husband/wife to speak the same language you do, to live in a house and not in the woods, to wear regular clothing instead of painting his/her body like some ancient tribal Indian might have, and not to kiss every stranger he/she meets in the city. The list could be exceedingly long (including such things as which way the toilet paper rolls will be mounted on the wall), but it’s unnecessary to list all the super obvious, or rather unimportant expectations. There are many however which are good and important to discuss with someone you’re considering for marriage; it’s important in order to know if both people are on the same page in terms of what they want and predict the marriage to look like. If they have very different pictures in their minds, they may not be a good pair of people to be married to each other. If one wants to paint his/her body blue, let him/her find someone else who wants to paint his/her body blue too.
What you choose to do with these expectations then is the critical question.
The long list of “expectations” I wrote out a few weeks ago is what I anticipate (or predict) my marriage will look like, and many points are also my hopes. For clarity’s sake I should probably divide my list of “expectations” into two. One list would be the biblical characteristics a husband and wife are called, from God, to obedience in. I can anticipate these things, because I plan to marry a Godly man who cares about living in obedience to God out of his love for him. The second list would be what I can reasonably expect will be a close picture to what my marriage to practically look like. Neither list has a single qualification for love on it, and both lists only have reasonable items on it.
Included in my lists of anticipations for myself as a wife, and for my husband, are the major responsibilities of caring for a family, and keeping a home (this would be the practical list). A household needs divided responsibilities. Without this organization life in the home would be chaotic and the same chore could unknowingly be done multiple times while others are unknowingly skipped. Who would pay the bills? Well, if nothing was expected of either spouse then maybe some of the bills would get paid sometimes. Or maybe the kids would only have a bath every other week because both the husband and the wife filled their time with other important tasks. No big deal, right?
It is good to train yourself to expect realistically, forgive quickly, give grace freely, give thanks, and learn adaptability. Living in these ways will not only help you live a more fulfilled life, but it will also help those around you feel loved and appreciated.
Within marriage, I think the proper focus is not “Am I receiving what I deserve?” but is rather “How can I show my spouse honor?” (Romans 12:10-21). Focusing on self, and creating a selfish competition out of the marriage, is essentially saying “I don’t trust God to provide for me so I’ll look out for myself.” This mentality flows from pride because the person living in such a way essentially believes he/she can be God because he/she knows best and can decide what is right and wrong.
In Philippians 2:3 we are instructed to “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than [ourselves].” The right outlook and aim then is for each spouse to submit to each others’ role in the marriage (God clearly tells us what these rolls are), and work together to create an environment for each other to flourish. We should trust God will provide what we need. Serving a spouse then should not come from feelings of owing a debt, or pressure from his/her spouse to live up to some man-made standard (whether the pressure is there or not), but should flow from a sense of gratitude and humble love. Even if you’re in a poor marriage, and your spouse treats you wrongly, treating them with selfless love is still the right thing to do.
I know from experience in my family relationships and friendships that when one person in the relationship lovingly serves the other out of the love he/she receives from Christ, it’s relatively easy for the second person to want to respond with a loving, selfless attitude. With a response like this the first person will then want to respond well back with the overflow of love he/she receives through his/her relationship with Christ. This could become a circular pattern created of love from God, love to each other, acceptance of that love, and servant-hearted action. I think these actions and motives are what create a healthy marriage.
Thank you, Dear Friend, who spent a lot of time talking with me through this topic.