I heard an interesting quote the other day: “Expectation is premeditated resentment.” Consider the truth of that statement for a moment. When our spouses do not meet our expectations, we become angry. That anger, if left unresolved, combines with continued unmet expectations to grow into resentment. That resentment will destroy our marriages.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting that we have no expectations in marriage. After all, not all expectations are unreasonable or negative. At the very least we all generally hold the expectation that our spouse will remain faithful and committed to us. But even positive expectations, when not handled wisely, can lead to resentment. So how do we make sure our expectations are not “premeditated resentments”? Here are 3 steps.
- Make sure your expectations are reasonable. Sometimes we enter marriage with unreasonable expectations learned from past dating relationships, our family of origin, or even movies we enjoyed as children. A few examples of unreasonable expectations include:
- “My spouse will make me happy all the time.”
- “Marriage means I can have sex anytime I want it.”
- “My spouse thinks about money the same way I do.”
- “My spouse will always do the activities I like.”
- Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married by Gary Chapman can help you explore some potentially unrealistic expectations. Even if you are married, you can find this book a great discussion starter.
- Make your expectations known to your spouse. Talk about your expectations with one another. This can help assure they are reasonable as well as making sure you & your spouse understand one another’s expectations. Use the information in Expectations, Skills, and a Happy Marriage to start the conversation of expectations in your marriage.
- Negotiate and compromise to reach an agreement regarding expectations. You and your spouse will agree on many expectations. Sometimes, however, you and your spouse may disagree about an expectation. When this disagreement becomes known, talk about it. Ask: What makes this expectation important to you or your spouse? What does my spouse not agree with? Negotiate and compromise. Remember, part of an effective compromise is keeping in mind your desire to add joy to your spouse’s life. Come to an agreement you can both live with.
When you follow these three steps, expectations are not “premeditated resentment.” Instead, expectations are an opportunity to grow more intimate with your spouse by knowing him or her more deeply. They become an opportunity to express the depth of your love for your spouse by meeting their expectations.
They say that “love is blind” and that we “lose our mind” in the early stages of love. In How to Avoid Falling in Love With a Jerk, John Van Epp offers practical solutions to recover from that blindness and keep hold of our minds while going through the process of falling in love. Realizing that relationships are notoriously complex, he does not give pollyanish solutions. Instead, he offers a comprehensive road map to relationship development that is readable, practical, and humorous. He calls this road map the “Relationship Attachment Model” (RAM). The RAM model describes five relationship dynamics–know, trust, rely, commit, and intimacy–road signs, if you will, that guide a person into healthy relationships. The first road sign reads “SLOW DOWN.” Do not travel too fast down the highway toward intimacy. Slow the pace of the relationship so the heart does not outrun the head. Practically speaking, the author offers the three-month rule—“it takes three months for many subtle but serious patterns to begin to surface.” So, follow the speed limit and take time to know the person. Learn how your potential partner interacts with friends and family. Find out if they make you a “better person” when you are with them. Discover their values and beliefs.
The next sign reads “CAUTION–winding road ahead” and informs the reader to never trust a person more than you know them, never rely on a person more than you trust them, and never commit to a person more than you rely on them. Along the winding road, the author encourages the reader to stop at various scenic overlooks. One scenic overlook gives a lovely view of the “date-mate profile” to help assess and develop an appropriate level of trust. Around the next bend, a second scenic overlook gives a panoramic view of the relational “Investment-Reciprocity-Accumulation” (IRA) Account to assess a partner’s level of reliability. Another overlook offers a scenic view of the three strands of commitment–the “want-to,” the “have-to,” and the “reluctant-to” strands. Each of these scenic overlooks offers the reader a glimpse of the road ahead before they cautiously travel further down the road toward a healthy relationship. Taking the scenic drive toward relationship at a slow pace and taking advantage of the scenic overlooks to learn about one another’s nuances, the couple arrives safely at the beautiful villa of intimacy.
John Van Epp’s five dynamics-know, trust, rely, commit, and intimacy-offers an excellent road map for anyone seeking to develop a healthy relationship. I highly recommend this book to anyone currently involved in a dating relationship or anyone thinking about starting a dating relationship. In fact, I actually did recommended this book to at least three people this month…and I guess this recommendation makes four.
Book available at Our Favorite Picks.
Gary Chapman, author of the 5 Love Languages series, hit another homerun for relationship success with his book Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married. In this book, Chapman shares lessons he learned while helping couples for over 35 years as well as from his own experience. Written for those who are dating or engaged, Things I Wish I’d Known explores 12 relationship facts that every couple needs to know in order to find marital happiness. Unfortunately, many young or engaged couples misunderstand these 12 relationship facts and this misunderstanding leads to marital conflict and stress. Gary Chapman candidly explores each of these 12 relationship facts and how to respond in a way that will promote marital happiness. Some of the facts explored include: “Being in love is not an adequate foundation for building a successful marriage,” “how to solve disagreements without arguing,” “mutual sexual fulfillment is not automatic,” “I was marrying into a family,” and “personality profoundly influences behavior.” Two of my personal favorites include “toilets are not self-cleaning” and “apologizing is a sign of strength.”
In an age where we spend months and thousands of dollars preparing for our wedding, this book offers a great investment in preparing for a lifetime of marriage. Each chapter has practical tips you can discuss with your date or spouse-to-be in an effort to truly prepare for marriage. Truly, I would have found this book helpful in preparing for my own marriage. I hope you will take the opportunity to read and discuss this book with your future spouse in preparation for a truly happy marriage. Find this book and others like it at Favorite Picks & Resources.