Has your husband ever disappointed you? Or, even worse, has marriage disappointed you?
Every Wednesday on To Love, Honor and Vacuum we talk marriage, because I love sharing things that will build up your relationship. Today Esther from Wellness Mom Life has a great perspective on how her husband’s attitude towards housework was a big disappointment when they married–and what she decided to do about it.
Love her heart–here’s Esther:
When I first got married, at the age of 21, I had a lot of expectations. I had a picture perfect idea in my mind of what marriage was going to be. I wasn’t prepared for the fact that my ideal image of married life might not be reality, and I was certainly not prepared for the disappointment that came along with that.
The Problem with Expectations in Marriage
We all come into marriage with certain expectations, whether we know it or not. How we grew up, what types of norms we had in our home, whether we had parents who were happily married or not, what our dreams about marriage were – these things all play a role in creating expectations for our own marriage.
The problem is, it’s rare that our expectations line up with reality. And when our expectations are not met – in marriage or otherwise – it can lead to disappointment.
My Unmet Expectations: Household Chores
When my husband and I got married, I had certain ideas about what he would do and what I would do around the house. I believed strongly that the husband and wife should share the household chores 50/50. I didn’t buy into the notion that the wife should do ALL the household duties, especially if both were working full time.
In addition, I grew up watching my father be very involved with the household duties, helping my mother out around the house quite a bit. I was looking for, and expecting, the same.
Prior to getting married, we never really discussed these issues. We were just crazy in love, and I think we both assumed that the other knew what we were expecting.
When we got married, and this did not automatically happen, I became frustrated. I was disappointed that my husband wasn’t jumping at the chance to vacuum or do the dishes. I also expected him to volunteer to help with things, even if I didn’t verbalize that expectation.
Unfortunately, these unmet expectations led to resentment, frustration, and conflict in our marriage.
Over time, I learned some important lessons about dealing with expectations and disappointment in marriage, and I want to share them with you.
While dealing with household chores may not be a challenge in your marriage, there are many other areas in which you might experience disappointment: your husband might not be the spiritual leader you desire, you may not have a healthy sex life, you might struggle with infertility, or you may be parenting a child who is strong-willed or intense.
These recommendations will apply regardless of the type of disappointment you are experiencing.
What To Do When Disappointment in Marriage Strikes
1. Bring it to God.
First of all, if you are experiencing disappointment in your marriage, you need to bring it to God. Lay down all of your hurt feelings, frustrations, and anger at His feet. He is always there to hear our cries, and He knows our hearts better than anyone else.
Anytime I’ve dealt with disappointment in my marriage, I have turned to journaling my prayers to God. Writing out my concerns has been very therapeutic for me, and at the same time, I’m praying and asking God to intervene or change my heart.
2. Evaluate your expectations for your husband.
As we know, disappointment is usually a result of unmet expectations. So it’s important to evaluate your expectations to determine whether they are realistic or not.
Try to be as objective as possible in this process. You may even need to discuss your expectations with a trusted friend who is willing to be honest with you.
Remember that in doing so, you don’t want to demean your husband – simply share what your expectations are about the issue, and ask your friend whether this seems reasonable or not.
You may discover that you are having unrealistic expectations, and you need to make changes in yourself rather than expecting your husband to change.
3. Address realistic expectations with your husband.
If you have determined that you have a realistic expectation that is not being met, it’s time to discuss this with your spouse. There are times that our husbands are not even aware of our expectations, and therefore, it’s impossible for them to meet them.
There are other times that your husband may be aware of your expectations, but he doesn’t necessarily agree with them. In this case, I find it most helpful if you approach the situation as a team.
You might say to your husband, “I have a concern about _____ issue, and I need your help to come up with a solution that works for both of us. I am feeling _______, and I would like to know how you are feeling about this issue.” Then, discuss the concern without accusing or attacking your spouse.
4. Check your attitude.
Oftentimes in my marriage, when I was experiencing disappointment about a particular issue, I would end up having a very negative attitude. I would allow my disappointment to affect the rest of my interactions with my husband.
Instead of checking my attitude and choosing to nurture positive thoughts about my husband, I would wallow in self-pity and frustration. A negative attitude is not helpful or beneficial to solving any problems in marriage.
If you are finding yourself stuck in a negative mindset, take steps to improve your attitude and outlook towards your husband.
What I’ve Learned About Expectations
In the end, I had to learn that marriage is not about 50/50. It’s not about having everything evenly divided so that it’s “fair”. It’s about both partners giving 100% and doing the best they can at that point in time.
My husband and I still sometimes run into challenges around our expectations and disappointment, but we keep the lines of communication open.
When one partner is struggling, overloaded, or stressed, the other partner may need to step it up, and vice versa.
In addition, each year we get away for a marriage retreat. During the weekend away, we assess where we are at, and re-adjust as needed. Throughout the year, we also have conversations about what is working and what is not when it comes to household duties, as well as the rest of our marriage.
Dealing with expectations and disappointment is inevitable in marriage. It’s not a matter of if that is going to happen, but rather how you handle it when it comes up.
So here’s my challenge for you:
1. Take time to determine what a few of your expectations have been in your marriage. Are they realistic, or unrealistic? Are they causing disappointment, resentment, or anger?
2. Determine how you can either change your expectations or talk with your spouse about an expectation that needs to be addressed. Try doing this in a way that will not be blaming or accusatory – instead attempt to do so while approaching the problem as a team.
3. Join the Better Attitude Marriage Challenge. This is a free, 5-day email challenge to help you have a better outlook on your marriage and learn practical steps you can take to improve your attitude!
What unmet expectations have you experienced in your marriage, and how have you dealt with them?
Esther Littlefield is a feisty pastor’s wife to her husband, Scott, and mom to her spirited daughter, KJ. They live in Maine where they enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible in the midst of homeschooling, business, and church life. In her free time, you’d probably find her with a cup of coffee, a good friend, and a sink full of dishes. Esther is the founder of WellnessMomLife, helping moms balance marriage, motherhood, and ministry by caring for their personal, physical, spiritual, and relational wellness.