We all know divorce is rampant. After 25 years of marriage I was divorced. So you may want to discount what I say about marriage because I have a failed marriage on my record. Or, maybe one with a failed marriage has something to say about marriage. I’m not going to get into any specifics about my previous marriage, just some observations I have made through the years in the marriages of others.
One of the things I believe that starts marriages out on an uphill climb is expectations. Most of us have no idea what we are doing when we are first married. We are attracted to the other person, have good times with them and honestly believe they would make a good life partner. I think in most cases that may even be true, were it not for unrealistic or skewed expectations.
A hundred years ago and in most of all history expectations for marriage were realistic and simple. The wife was trained by her mother to cook, clean and have babies and she fully expected that kind of life and looked forward to it. It was considered one of the highest callings both in and outside of the church. With the nuptials began a life of fulfillment because marriage and raising a family was a lot like the wife expected it to be.
The man expected to be married to a wife who assumed her “role” and he would assume responsibility for most of the things outside of the home including bringing home the bacon. This is the life he expected so marriage and family were also fulfilling for him.
For years we approached marriage with a sense of duty and giving. Now we approach marriage with a sense of entitlement and getting instead of giving. Sometime in the not so distant history something drastically changed. Most men have the same expectations as they always have. They expect to go off to work, make a living and be ultimately responsible for the physical and financial welfare of the family. But someone, and I think we know who, starting lying to the ladies and eventually they believed it. “You can do better than that. You have needs too. Throw off that ball and chain and go out and meet the challenges of the world and show the men you are just as capable.” The ladies also heard, “Your husband must meet your needs.” Of course the new “needs” are built on new expectations that the man will undoubtedly fail at, like:
- We don’t expect to have financial problems but we go into debt more than any generation in history
- We expect our spouse to meet our various emotional needs and don’t realize we are emotionally on the edge because of a lifestyle that God never intended for us.
- We expect our spouse to continue to be as good looking as when they started or as hot as the people on TV
- We expect our spouse to be as fun and funny as the people at work or as enjoyable as our friend’s spouses
- We expect our spouses to always agree with us and are greatly offended when they don’t.
In short, we expect the perfect money manager, the perfect personality, increasingly more exciting in bed, to grow better looking with age, a personality that gets better and more fun all the time, meets all of our physical, emotional and intellectual needs (and happily takes responsibility for said needs) and always agrees with us. Oh, and they also let us pretty much do what we want. THAT PERSON DOESN’T EXIST!
And let’s face it, the expectation for the modern women is impossible. She is expected to:
- Get up early
- Get the kids ready for school
- Make their lunches
- Tidy up the house
- Make breakfast
- Listen to her husband’s plans for the day
- Get herself ready for the day
- Get to work on time
- Maybe stop at the daycare on the way
- Deal with all the drama and challenges at work
- Have a drink with the girls after work
- Pick up the kids from daycare
- Make dinner
- Help with homework
- Do laundry and most of the household chores
- Put the kids to bed
- Prepare for the next “rewarding” day
- Oh, and the husband still isn’t done with her yet…
Bottom line: We expect too much of each other. Some of our expectations come from media, some from our upbringing, and some from thin air. But expectations exceed most spouse’s ability to perform.
The cure? Simplify. And maybe a little dose of yesteryear. Life wasn’t all good back then but it wasn’t all that bad either. The less expectations and stress, the better the chances our marriages will make it. Hiccups and curveballs just go better when life is simpler. The more similar our lives are to the past the more solid our marriages become.