Communicating Expectations in Marriage and Diffusing Confusion
First let me tell you why I’m writing this. I have experienced firsthand, secondhand, and seen from afar the error of avoiding communication about expectations in marriage. I have been in more than one relationship where marriage boundaries have been tapped, so I speak from experience and observation.
Marriages are crushed because the expectations stay anonymous, and couples are “shooting in the dark”!
Have you ever tried to shoot a gun at a target you can’t see? Have you ever tried to cook without a physical sense of awareness? Have you ever tried to build a house without a measuring device?
I haven’t either but I can only imagine how difficult it would be.
I have been to the shooting range and the most important thing to hit your target is focusing on your target. You look over the site on the gun intently, point your gun and your body towards your target, and pull the trigger. If you can’t look at the target, you can’t point your body towards it, and you shoot anonymously–almost guaranteeing failure.
With cooking, you have to put the ingredients in the pot, mixing bowl, or whatever utensil. If you’re pouring ingredients without seeing, touching, or feeling your utensils, then you’ll be waving spatulas, swinging knives, spilling food, and not creating anything. It might be a funny game, but if you are serious, you need a sense of physical awareness. Without some intentional training, and strong sense of physical awareness, cooking would be a disaster!
Building is primarily about accurate measurement. At the least, to build a house (not in survival circumstances), you would need a measuring tape. If not, your house will be crooked with uneven foundation, lumps throughout the floors, and probably wouldn’t stand long.
You may be saying, “What does this all have to do with communicating expectations in marriage?”. Let me explain…
Marriage is one of the things where people know the results they want (romance and companionship), but they don’t study the ingredients to get them there. The sharp shooter knows he needs to shoot at a target that he can see. The cook knows they need to have physical awareness–sight would be great–to create a good meal. The builder knows he needs a measuring device to build a nice house, but the married couple does not know the ingredients they need to have a marriage with companionship and romance. Something is wrong.
Communicating expectations in marriage is a KEY ingredient to a marriage with companionship and romance. How can you be a good wife if you don’t know what your husband thinks a good wife is? How can you be a good husband if you don’t know what your wife thinks a good wife is? When you’re thinking about having a discussion about marriage expectations, you should consider these 6 areas:
Walls have to stay painted. Grass has to be cut. Dishes have to be cleaned. Trash has to be taken out. Certain things need to be done to maintain the equity and comfort of your home. When both parties have not divided the duties within the home, you either step on one another’s toes or you don’t get anything done. Discuss who is in charge of maintenance–even if it means the person is in charge of hiring the functions–, so you can diffuse confusion.
Who is supposed to be in charge of bringing the income? What percentage? How often? I know it is funny to consider a family household similar to a business, but let’s use the analogy for a second. Some marriages will require one party to exert more than half of the sweat equity in parenting, home management, and finances while the other exerts less than 50%. What this means is that the one will feel overburdened because they are left to handle more than an equal share of taking care of the kids, cleaning and repairing the structure of the home, and supplying an income for the family. Discuss the expectations in the finances while staying conscious that the person that is more responsible for the home management and the children cannot also be equally responsible for the income otherwise it creates friction.
How in depth do you desire for your spouse to be concerned about you before you feel loved? Do you want your spouse to be concerned about your personal goals? Do you want them to also be concerned about your business goals? Do you want to participate in playful activities together? What are those activities? Discuss your companionship expectations with your spouse–ideally before you get married–, but also routinely after you are married.
The five love languages by Dr. Gary Chapman are real! Quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and giving gifts should all be intermingled in a way that best communicates to your spouse that you love them. Perform the action that gives the highest return.
Let’s use the analogy of a bank account…
Your heart will be the account. Your environment and your relationships are authorized to withdraw and deposit. You make a bad choice. Maybe you are running late to work, so you speed. The environment responds to the bad choice. A cop pulls you over and gives you a ticket. A withdrawal is made from your heart–even though its a self-inflicted wound.
Let’s talk about an exterior inflicted circumstance…
Someone makes a bad choice that negatively effects you. Maybe, you are driving to work and someone hits your car. A withdrawal is made from your heart because you are sad that you’re late and your car is damaged.
Self-inflicted and exterior inflicted circumstances happen that make withdrawals and deposits daily. Circumstances effect you and your spouse. The account (heart) of your spouse has a balance that you will identify by getting to know them thru observation. You want to always deposit into your spouse, and if their account is really low, you want to make a quick deposit in the most effective way. If their account has cushion, you can invest by depositing using a less effective love language, but still depositing.
If acts of service is not as effective, and you know the account is low, strike with their primary love language to fill them up. Talk to your spouse about their love language. Talk to your spouse about how to make them tick. Talk to your spouse…period. Communication between couples is key.
Do you have the power to make spending decisions alone? Do you have the power to make modifications without consulting your spouse? Do you have the power to make a parenting decisions without your spouse? What are your power boundaries? When do you HAVE to consult them? When can you implement alone? Power boundaries need to be defined.
Submission does not mean having less power. Submission means having yielded power within defined boundaries. Submission is given from loyalty; not entrapment. Big difference. Discuss the boundaries of power with your spouse. Be prepared to submit to one another as Ephesians 5:19-21 says.
Speak to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, [offering praise by] singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks to God the Father for all things, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; being subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21 Amplified Version)
In some areas, the authority may be given to the wife. In some areas, the power may be given to the husband. Power is usually given based upon skill; not gender. The power is distributed to make the family team operate the most effective.
And, Parenting (if applicable)
Do you pick the kids up from school everyday? Do you provide 100% correction? Do you provide 50% companionship? Do you provide 80% instruction? No one wants to feel overburdened. Talk with your spouse about how you want to distribute the parenting responsibilities of correction, companionship, and instruction. Decide what each duty looks like. What does correction look like? What does instruction look like? What does comapnionship in the parenting relationship look like? What are the boundaries that you will have with your children, and how will you both implement them? Parenting is a crucial part of a marriage, and your role as a couple who parents has to be discussed.
Discuss these 6 areas of expectation with your spouse.
Be humble enough to be assessed. Find out whether you are fulfilling expectations, and how you can do better.
Avoid name calling or criticism. Stay focused on constructing your marriage and depositing into your spouse’s heart.
Leave your comments below about how you communicate expectations in marriage, and let me know if there are any areas of expectation that I left out!