Expecting too much from your spouse or your marriage is a recipe for disappointment. Consider what it would mean to have a “perfect” marriage. Would it mean that your spouse is perfect? In whose estimation? What are the chances of having a perfect spouse? But wait—does that mean you must also be perfect? Do both of you have to be perfect all the time? You can probably see where this line of reasoning is going—it would be impossible, with these criteria, to have a “perfect” marriage. Would you be satisfied with a “good” marriage? What would you expect of your spouse and of yourself in a “good” marriage?
As a society, our concept of marriage has evolved over time, from a practical economic or political arrangement to an expected lifetime of bliss with our lover, friend, confidant, caretaker, and many other things all rolled into one. That’s a lot to expect of our spouse and our marriage. Too much, say the experts.
Firestone (2019) lays out seven ways we might “over-rely on our partner that can … put undo strain on the relationship.” Among these are expecting to find your missing piece, forgetting the other’s autonomy, and shrinking our world. Says Firestone, “One rule of thumb I believe in is that when a relationship starts to narrow our world, things get worse for both parties. When it expands our world, both people thrive — not to mention, the relationship itself remains livelier and more sustainable. In large part, this depends on how much we are willing to support our partner’s independence … Supporting each other in this way actually keeps both people in a couple feeling more alive and brings them closer when they’re together” (2019). Other ways we might over-rely on our partner are expecting our partner to read our mind, and holding onto a fantasy:
“… we are all human, and we are all flawed. Our interpersonal actions and reactions are largely shaped by our past. … unless our childhoods were impossibly perfect, we are basically designed to misread and make mistakes. … Therefore, the best way to approach a romantic partner is to let go of a fantasy of who that person should be and see them realistically for who they are. Our goal should not be to merge into one, but to come close together and connect in a way that is respectful and loving of the other as a separate being. … When we keep this as a principle for how we approach our relationships, we don’t just become more accepting of our partner’s inevitable weaknesses, but we feel a greater appreciation, a deeper attraction, and a more vital connection to their strengths” (2019).
We don’t need to expect too little of marriage, either. According to the Psych Central staff (2016), the ASU sociologist Mary Laner takes the view that while inflated expectations are not helpful, marriage is “like any other partnership. You hope that your relationship is going to be a happy one, where you will be cooperatively solving problems and where the rewards will exceed the costs.”
A balanced and realistic view can help us to make the marriage the best it can be within the constraints of reality. Not perfect but rewarding!
Firestone, L. (2019, July 1). Are you expecting too much from your partner? | psychology … Psychology Today. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/compassion-matters/201907/are-you-expecting-too-much-your-partner
Staff, P. C. (2016, May 17). The myth of the perfect marriage. Psych Central. Retrieved January 10, 2022, from https://psychcentral.com/lib/the-myth-of-the-perfect-marriage#1