Expectations in marriage versus reality with two arrows going opposite directions.

Expectations in Marriage

What expectations do you have for your marriage? Have you ever thought about it? What you think a marriage should look like, and how you believe your spouse should behave will affect your relationship. Many couples go into marriage with a set view of how their marriage will be and what “should” take place.

When I provide premarital counseling, I try to destroy unhelpful expectations about marriage. It’s important to know your own viewpoint of marriage and what you are expecting from your spouse. Sharing this viewpoint is important because they deserve the opportunity to discuss your desires so you don’t just put something on them that they did not agree to.

This post will describe what expectations are, some common expectations people have about marriage, what are some healthy expectations you can shift to, and how to talk about your expectations and come to a compromise on your own marriage. You can do this whether you have been married for 20 years or are about to start the journey of matrimony.

What are expectations?

The actual definition of expectation from Merriam-Webster Dictionary is the act or state of expecting. So what is the definition of expecting? It is the consider probably, or certain, reasonable, due, or necessary, bound in duty or obligated. They also mention the word anticipation.

Google.com says that an expectation is:

a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.

The Cambridge English Dictionary says that a boundary is:

the feeling that good things are going to happen in the future

Based on these definitions, it’s pretty clear that whatever we expect we are looking forward to it manifesting. We want what we expect. Maybe that is not always true. Obviously, we can have negative expectations, but we are usually pretty strong on our beliefs that whatever we expect will happen. It’s hard to change someone’s mind who believes something has to take place. This is where things get difficult. How do we change a spouse’s mind when their expectation can’t be met or is unrealistic?

Is it wrong to have expectations in a relationship?

Bringing expectations into a marriage or relationship is not necessarily wrong. However, you should be aware of the disappointment that can take place when your expectations are unmet. How will you feel? What will you do? Will you feel like you made the wrong choice in a partner? Unmet expectations can drive you to feel strong emotions. You might feel hurt, disappointed, angry, abandoned, and more.

However, we were created to expect. How else would you ever be motivated to do something? Right now as I write, I expect people to read this and get some help out of it. I am motivated by that possibility. Yet, if I formulate a belief that is so strong that I am unwilling to budge or leave room for my expectations to not be met, then I might become really devastated.

It’s not wrong to have expectations in marriage. However, it’s important to make sure that you leave room for change or things you could not see that might not allow that expectation to come to pass. As a Christian, that is true in many areas. We are not to expect that when the Bible says you will live in abundance this means that if we fully obey God we won’t run into stress in life. The Bible also says that God disciplines those He loves.

Have realistic expectations when you get married

Expectations and beliefs about the future motivate you to get married, but marriage may not be exactly what you hope it will be. Be pliable and open to things that could come and mess up your expectations. The devil is a deceiver and a destroyer and would love nothing more than to make your life miserable.

It is important to make sure you don’t let your thoughts beat you. You control your thoughts. You control your expectations. It was once said to:

“Always be realistic with your expectations.
Too much expectation
can only lead to frustration.”

― Mouloud Benzadi

Common Expectations in Marriage

It is normal for couples to have expectations, desires, and beliefs about what life will look like after they are married. It’s normal to have expectations about most things. However, they are unhelpful most of the time. They lead to disappointment. Although, others might say they are adaptive too. What would happen if you did not have dreams or ideas that you expected to happen. Again, motivation would be lost. So I believe it is healthy to have a level of hope and motivation, but not necessarily require the things you are hoping for to happen.

It is helpful to consider the most common expectations couple have in marriage. This will help you to know where you might get disappointed and feel hurt if you hold onto these thoughts. Let’s look at some common expectations in marriage.

Expectations about who does the chores and household duties.

When couples come together and get married, they usually have set thoughts on what each other will do regarding cleaning up the house and taking care of tasks around the house. Gender-specific tasks can definitely be an expectation. Most couples I see have said that they sometimes have an agreement for the husband to do the yard and keep the house maintained. Wives usually understand the need to clean the house, cook, and do laundry, but this is not always the case.

For example, some wives grow up doing a lot of outside stuff. They love to do yard work and get their hands dirty and sweat. They don’t expect their husbands to do this type of work, they expect to be involved in it, but what happens when the husband expects to have some quiet time and responsibility solely on working in the yard or keeping up the house? Another example may be when the husband expects to be taken care of hand and foot because that’s what their mom did. I have found few wives who adhere totally to this type of expectation in this day in age.

Expectations about how often to have sex.

Many husbands come into marriage thinking they will be able to have pleasurable sex anytime they want it. This unfortunately gets reinforced during dating when the girlfriend or fiance at the time is more than willing because of the excitement, pleasure, and infatuation of the dating phase. However, life changes when you settle down and get married. You have to become more responsible and mature, which causes stress, exhaustion, and difficult decisions to arise. The fun enjoyable times that were, now because more difficult to come by, unless you work at it.

Wives might come into the relationship expecting to continue the security, closeness, and doting of their now husband. They expect him to still be charming, loving, kind, and chivalrous. However, due to the changes after marriage, if unaware, husbands will not provide these things at the previous level, and disappointments and hurt will arise.

Expectations about finances.

Couples almost always have built-in expectations when it comes to finances. Depending on their history, they may be a spender or a saver, thus expecting their partner to be the same. Conflict could shortly arise when it comes to what each other spend money on, how much money is spend, whether to budget or not, and other issues.

Couples may have expectations of where to live, what jobs each other will have or not have, if they will go on trips, and how often. So many expectations could arise due to finances. Yet, communication and understanding is needed to work as a team to meet mutual goals, not expecations.

Expectations about in-laws.

Parents, cousins, and other extended family tend to come up regularly when you talk to married couples. We are deeply attached to the ones we grew up with and those who nurtured us. No wonder we would have expectations to spend time with them just as much as we always have. They are our safety net.

As a couple, you now have to detach some from those safe people and talk to your partner about what their needs are too. Yet, we can have expectations about how those relatives are involved in our lives and how much. Think about holidays. What expectations do you have about where to spend Christmas, Thanksgiving, Easter, and even birthdays and vacations? If you don’t get to spend those moments with extended family, how might you feel?

Expectations about children and parenting.

Many couples come into marriage with expectations on how many kids they will have and how they want their kids to grow up. Yet, if your expectations are different, there could be fighting or disappointment that follows. Do you even want kids? What if your husband does? I have seen this. It’s hard to compromise in these situations, but expectations about them can lead to hurt.

The values you want to carry or not bring with you into marriage from your parents about parenting or other aspects of life can also be common expectations. What does discipline look like? Are you going to have meals around the table? What about teaching your children about God or other other important things? You both will find that your expectations may not match and thus could bring up problems if you don’t manage them, communicate well, and find compromises that work for both of you.

Unhealthy Expectations for Marriage

Expectations become unhealthy when you are unwilling to compromise for the sake of the marriage. It’s normal to have hopes and dreams, but expectations are beliefs that what you expect will be the result. If you let yourself have inflexible expectations, you will probably be disappointed.

Unhealthy expectations for marriage are those that are based on unrealistic thoughts and beliefs. Sex every day for the rest of your life is not realistic. To have a 4 to 5-bedroom house on 5 acres may not be realistic either, at least not right way, if you both are just starting in your jobs and have student loans. It could be years before you get their. The “American Dream” has sold us a lie that you can have what you want when you want it.

An unhealthy expectation is basically living in a fantasy world. Others can see that your expectations can’t be met. What about when we expect our spouse to be perfect? We can all say we don’t really expect that, however when you get hurt because of their inability to meet an need, what do you do? Do you lash out or cry? Why would you do that if you didn’t expect them to be able to meet that need? If you didn’t expect them to be perfect, you would be much more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. Let’s not put our trust in people. Let’s put our trust in God and work to make life and each other better through a focus on love.

Healthy Expectations in Marriage

Healthy marriage expectations are those that consider your spouse and the truth about your circumstances, your life, and your partner. What are their strengths? Where do you live? What is the world really like? What are your strengths?

Realizing that the world is build in such a way helps us to place our expectations in the right place. You can succeed in life, but it may take some hard choices, time, and different circumstances. Do you want that big home, nice car, lake house, and boat? Both of you may have to work and your kids may need to be in school. For some that may mean sacrificeing the possibility of homeschool and private education.

Healthy expectations are ones where couples can communicate what they think and are open to potential possibilities that may not fully line up with their original expectations. What is the expectation to be joyful, to find love, to be happy? These are all things that you control yourself and no one can take them away from you because they are based on your perspective and choices.  Healthy expectations in marriage are more likely about how you view your situation than what you have or can get.

Finally, here are some healthy expectations you can have. Expect to feel safe and secure with one another, but not for your spouse to be perfect. Expect to be treated with respect, but not for your spouse to be perfect. Finally, expect for each other to strive to grow, communicate, and not give up on each other, but not to be perfect.


You have seen that expectations can have different effects on marriage. They can motivate a spouse to grow, learn, and improve. However, they can also cause conflict, disappointment, and loss of affection. Your expectations are important, but they need to be based on reality. They also need to be focused on how you view your situation and less on what tangible items you can receive. They also need to be flexible. You also need to communicate them to your spouse. Keep your communication fluid and transparent. Expect little, except to choose to be happy and joyful and to have the right to feel safe and secure.


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