Wifey Wednesday: Are You Expecting the Impossible?


It’s Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post and then linking up!

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You may have heard it said before that “the enemy of the best is the good”. The French philosopher Voltaire made it famous (though he said it in French!), and it’s famous because it’s so true. Often we get so caught up doing good things that we miss the best. We miss our priorites.

But that being said, I think the reverse can also be true. Sometimes the best is the enemy of the good. When the best is more a fairy-tale ideal than a reality, then it can become the enemy of making any kind of real progress. The best can actually be a hindrance to your marriage.

Allow me to use an analogy that doesn’t have to do with marriage first to show you what I mean. A while back I caused a ruckus in the comments section of this blog because I insinuated that there were things that women could do to reduce the chance of sexual assault, and we should teach these to our daughters. I never said that we could eliminate rape–but I said that we could reduce it.

People kept taking issue with me, so I kept writing follow-up posts, and the comments grew worse and worse. One commenter really summed up the other side perfectly. She said (and I paraphrase):

Women should be able to wear whatever they want and go wherever they want. You should be talking to the men, not to the women!

She was a little ruder than that, but I’ll leave out the colorful language.

What a strange comment, though. OF COURSE women should be able to wear what they want and do what they want without getting raped. We should live in a world where there is no abuse, no rape, no children in poverty, no wars, and no violence. But we don’t live in that world. And since we don’t, what steps can we take to protect ourselves?

They were focusing so much on what SHOULD be that they refused to acknowledge that there were any steps you could take to make our present life, the one we are living in right now, even the least bit better. It was all or nothing.

Have you ever felt that way about your marriage? I once knew a woman who eventually left her husband, who explained it to me this way:

God created marriage to be a joining of two human beings–an institution where we’re able to communicate, and love, and respect, and share ideas and share vision and purpose. He created marriage to build us up, not to tear us down. He created marriage to be part of our fulfillment, not part of our destruction. My husband didn’t know how to communicate. He never listened to me. He never talked to me; he only ever talked past me. He used sex just to satisfy himself. In other words, it wasn’t actually a marriage. And so I ended it.

I have no doubt that her marriage was extremely difficult, but do you see the problem with her position? She was saying that because her marriage was not one in which two individuals were completely joined, it was thus not a marriage. God intended marriage to be fulfilling; it was not, therefore the argument about whether one had biblical grounds to divorce was moot because this wasn’t even marriage!

Her argument is flawed, because while God said marriage should be like this, He never invalidated marriages that were not like that. Indeed, in Corinthians Paul even tells women married to men who aren’t Christians to stay if they can–and these marriages are obviously not a complete joining of minds and ideals.

This woman was looking for the best; she didn’t find it, so therefore she invalidated everything else.

Many of us enter marriage with similar thoughts. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we can completely bear our souls. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we are unconditionally cherished. Marriage SHOULD be a place where we find our best friend. Then, when the should doesn’t happen, we give up. That’s how things SHOULD be, and we can’t settle for second best. We don’t look at little changes that we could make to grow the marriage, or to grow our communication, because we figure that he is just hopeless. He’s so out of touch with what a husband should be, that growth is well nigh impossible.

None of us is perfect, though, and I think we need a different strategy. If your husband isn’t a good communicator, or sulks constantly, or watches too much TV (or plays too many video games), or never spends any time with the kids, that doesn’t invalidate your marriage, and it doesn’t mean that things can’t get better. After all, by staying away from drunken parties, girls can drastically reduce their risk of date rape. Similarly, by learning new communication techniques, you can drastically reduce your risk of growing apart and ending the relationship. You can do things to move in the right direction, even if those things won’t give you 100% change. They can still make your life significantly better.

What I would suggest, then, is that we stop looking at what marriage is supposed to be in the ideal, and we start looking at what we can do to make things better. In other words, quit focusing so much on the destination, and focus instead on the direction. Move forward, even if it’s slowly, and you will eventually get there. Focus so much on the finish line, and how far it is away from your current position, and you can quickly lose heart.

This applies to aspects of marriage, too. I was at a place in our marriage once where everything was going really well–except sex. It’s not that it was horrible; it just wasn’t what it was supposed to be, according to the media and all the sermons I heard about how God created sex to be wonderful. For a few years, I gave up. It’s not that we didn’t make love; it’s just that my attitude was one of: “this just isn’t for me. It’s all for him, and I’ll just get through it.” I believed that if it wasn’t the ideal, then I had been gypped, and there was no point in even trying.

It was only when I had an attitude shift where I started to ask whether I could believe that it could get better–even if it was slowly. When I made the mental shift, then the way I acted also changed.

Whether it’s in your marriage as a whole or in individual parts of your marriage, don’t give up because you haven’t reached the ideal. Ask God to help you make baby steps, because those steps can add up! Ask Him to give you a new heart to grow, even if it’s slowly, because moving in the right direction gives you a new attitude or outlook on your marriage which is so much more energizing.

Whatever you do, don’t let the best become an enemy of that real, helpful change.


  1. >Too many are expecting the impossible and wanting the perfection of a TV or movie marriage. Baby steps! What little things can you do to improve YOUR marriage.

  2. Lisa Marie - The Canadian Homeschooler says:

    >Great article. Just what I needed to hear. Thanks for sharing.

    I've often struggled with the challenges of overexpection and not being able to have people actually be able to fulfill those expections. I think husbands are particularly vulnerable to this challenge because we, as women, are brought up to believe in prince charming and happily ever after.

  3. >I also think this is a good reason to be careful about reading too many romance novels.

  4. I read this and I have a lump in my throat. I’m thinking about leaving my husband and he always tells me I expect too much from him.I know he cares about me but we’ve been through (and are still going through) so much.
    I struggled with depression after our only child was born and it took its toll on us and he has had several affairs and locks his phone, hides to answer calls or doesnt answer them when Im around. His phone is always on silent and he has alot of calls from different girls coming in. He says I should stop focusing on his unfaithfulness and focus on builiding the family and lists all the things he has done for me e.g., a surprise birthday, meeting the family’s financial needs etc.
    I have come to feel that he is trying to buy me with favors and I tell him that I appreciate all the good things he has done but it doesnt mean I wont call him out when he is wrong or hurting me. I have begged him to get a male mentor to guide him and discuss things with but he refuses to see anyone and gets angry when I speak to anyone about his unfaithfullness or any issue we have.
    I have threatened to leave but I dont and each time we argue he tells me to leave if I cant live with him anymore cos he has to live his life and love me on his own terms.
    We’ve been married 3 years and he started cheating 2 months after we were married and has been doing it since then. Each time I find out about a new girl he breaks it off and then starts again after a few weeks. He wants to go out and gets angry when I ask where he’s going or who he’s going to see; says Im monitoring him and he cant be free around me. I feel helpless and I have begged, argued, prayed but he has always maintained that its his issue and he will deal with it himself but it hasnt changed. I feel ungrateful sometimes when he says I should focus on the good but I know I do tell him I appreciate him and I always help out financially, I take care of the home, our daughter and I work fulltime yet I always seem to come up short.
    I really want to leave but Im scared for myself and our daughter. I dont want to change her life so much but I dont want her to grow up with all the fighting and knowing her father is always unfaithfull. Im so confused right now. He tries to do things he feels I will like but when this comes up he is a whole different man.
    He has told me point blank that if I cant take the cheating I should leave. Im so tired Sheila. What do I do cos I just want to leave and try to heal.

    • Hi DOO, I’m so sorry that you’re going through this! How awful!

      I actually deal with this scenario at length in my new book, but let me say a few things here: if he is cheating, that is the main issue. Are you ungrateful for other things he does? Perhaps. I have no idea. But those sorts of issues can’t be touched until the cheating stops and you work through it with counseling. He is breaking covenant and endangering the marriage, and nothing else matters right now. You are right to be upset; you are right to keep at it. Absolutely.

      The only thing I would say is that words don’t do much. Actions do. Your words will not get him to stop cheating. Until you say, “I will no longer tolerate this, and if I find you are sleeping with someone else, I will ask you to leave the house,” it is very unlikely it will stop. Whatever you tolerate will continue. Right now, even though you’re unhappy, and even though you are telling him, you are still tolerating it.

      Will it make him stop? I don’t know. But you are worth more than this. You really are. So I’d suggest finding a church family that can support you in this really difficult time, and then taking some decisive action to save your marriage (even if that means temporary separation). God bless you.

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