Nope I’m not Brad Pitt: The Pitfalls of False Expectations

Dave and Anne walking

Proverbs 10:28 The expectation of the just is joy…

It goes back to 2003 when my wife and I led a trip to the Dominican Republic to work in an orphanage.  (Side Note: Missions trips are great for couples!)  I preached in the evenings in different churches.  After one service, I was approached by a woman.  In her broken English she said a statement that left me stunned.

You look like american actor…Brad Pitt.

My response, “Ma’am, first of all, thank you.  Second, I don’t think you know what Brad Pitt really looks like”

We all had a great laugh at the moment.  To this day, I have no idea who she thinks Brad Pitt is.  I’m just not hoping she didn’t have Jack Black in her head and mistaken the names.

It’s this memory along with Anne’s prompting that has me thinking about expectations.  It’s something I deal with more than you realize.  With the amount of premarital couples I counsel combined with normal marriage counseling, expectations are always coming up.

Why?  Pre-marriage expectations look “rosy” through idealistic glasses.  Out of love and infatuation, we look past issues, faults, and growth areas thinking that things will just get better and/or will take care of themselves. We don’t communicate our expectations and we assume things will just change.  But therein lies the problem. Idealistic approaches to marriage can lead to martial disappointments.  Often when there’s disappointment, it’s from having false expectations for someone to produce something it was not designed to produce.

One of the greatest marriage destroyers is that of unrealistic expectations. Expecting something out of your spouse that the other is either ignorant of, too stubborn to offer, or simply unable to provide. Frustration and anger become the result.

Our expectations can come from a number of sources.

1. Personal Desires. From things we want, or like to have.
2. What we think we deserve. Even the Declaration of Independence says we deserve some things. Most people think this way too.
3. The environment we were nurtured from. We all grow up differently. But we all grow up a certain way. That ‘way’ becomes familiar, and normal. We come to expect that.
4. Looking at the potential. Gambling is a prime illustration. You know that the odds at the casino are against you, but you know there is a potential that you can win. You see others winning. So you play expecting to eventually win. Maybe on a more practical note, you observe a friend’s generosity, and you come to expect the same level of giving from them in the future.

Have you ever said the words “We are so incompatible!”? If you have (and most of us have), it is a sure sign of having false or unrealistic expectations. I want to give you a TRUTH:

Every single married couple is absolutely and wonderfully incompatible!

Sure, some of us share more hobbies, interests, beliefs, and perspectives about life with our spouses than other couples do. However, every couple deals with differences in one way or another. You are not alone.  Your marriage is not alone. We all deal with incompatibility.

Unrealistic expectations cause incredible stress not just in a marriage but in life. Adjusting expectations from unrealistic to realistic can produce a sense of contentment and peace in your marriage.  Adjusting speaks to your spouse a lack of selfishness and a fighting desire to work toward marital health.

I want to give you some realistic expectations for marriage:

1 – EXPECT your spouse to be different then you are. You are two different individuals. You both possess different likes and dislikes. You are blessed to see the world in different ways. You will think of ways to solve problems differently.  This is reality. Differences will exist, and sometimes they will cause conflict.

2 – EXPECT to have conflict in marriage. It’s not being pessimistic. This is normal when two lives come together. It’s a natural. The key is to learn to handle conflict appropriately and in a healthy way. When you handle it well, it will chase away the fear of conflict and can actually deepen your intimacy.

3 – EXPECT your husband/wife to fail. He/she is human and humans make mistakes. They aren’t perfect. When you expect your spouse to fail and make mistakes, you are better prepared to respond to their failures the same way Christ responds to you: with grace and forgiveness.

4 – EXPECT changes in the “feelings.” No couple feels “in love” all the time. Feelings are fluid and they don’t always tell us the truth. If you feel that you don’t love your spouse anymore, recognize that true love is a choice, not a feeling. Take the time to let 1 Corinthians 13 pour into your life. Increase your loving actions, and your feelings will reignite in time.

5 – EXPECT to ask for help. When our bodies are sick, we go to a doctor. When our marriages are sick, a Christian counselor can be a huge help.  A counselor can aid you in digging down to issues at the core of your challenges.

6 – EXPECT to share your expectations. You don’t posses ESP. Your spouse is not a mind reader. He/she doesn’t feel the same way you do. He/she doesn’t think the same way you do. He/she doesn’t make decisions or process hardship the same way you do. If you desire something from him or her, ask with words, tones, and mannerisms. That conversation will either help you get your needs met or help you see that your expectations are out of line.

Where have you realized that you have unrealistic expectations that need to change to realistic expectations? I remind you of what our opening scripture says: Proverbs 10:28 The expectation of the just is joy. In other words, approach your marriage with the proper, healthy, and godly expectations and the result will be joy.

Guard you heart.  Guard your marriage. Help each other with your expectations.

Thanks for letting me ramble…

pdbarringer

Anne's Husband. Cammi & Ethan's Dad Lead Pastor @kalamazoofirst

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