4 Ways to Deal with Unmet Expectations in Marriage

how to deal with unmet expectations in marriage
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No one gets married thinking, “This is going to be terrible!” During the dating and engagement phase, it is easy to get caught up in the butterfly feelings and floating hearts. But what about when the wedding day is over and the butterflies in your stomach start to fade? What happens when reality sets in and you realize that it isn’t everything you’d imagined it would be? My husband and I have been there and only God’s grace brought us through. So here is our story and 4 ways to deal with unmet expectations in marriage from a biblical perspective.

Our Beginning

My husband and I met at church. At first, I didn’t give him any thought because I didn’t consider him to be my type. Through a series of prophetic dreams given to me and a confirmation from a friend, God changed my mind. This was not an overnight thing. The dreams came over the course of 6 months and only fully tied together towards the end when I went back and read them all. The icing on the cake was when a friend shared the same final dream with me without knowing mine! How’s that for divine intervention?

By this point I had learned to trust the Lord and not my own understanding or desires. My own desires and choices had failed me far too many times. This included a divorce some years prior, before I sought a relationship with Christ. So, with excitement and anticipation, I began opening my heart to this man I barely knew.

Soon after, we started hanging out more at group events and eventually began the courtship process. He proposed a few months later and we started our pre-marital counseling sessions with our pastors. Everyone I spoke to, including my friends, had known him for longer than I because he grew up in the church. Every single one of them sang his praises and told me I should go for it. 

Wedding day Bliss

Unmet Expectations

You could imagine my confusion and anger when we got married and things were not at all how I had expected them to be! To be quite honest, our first year of marriage was terrible! I mean seriously miserable! I felt as though I had been duped and I thought he was the worst person ever. I’m certain he was equally disappointed with me. Over and over, I cried out to the Lord. I asked him if I had misunderstood and made the wrong choice. But over and over, he confirmed his will to me the way only a loving, patient father would. We laugh about it now; but at the time, there was no laughter or joy present in our marriage.

Unmet Expectations in Marriage
We had been married 4 months and the separation between us couldn’t have been captured in a more accurate way. 

We barely got through that first year. But at some point, in the second year, my prayers started working. Only, my husband wasn’t the one changing: I was! It wasn’t exactly what I was thinking when I began to pray, as my prayers usually involved several things I wanted my husband to change. I had read many Christian books and looked up many scriptures about marriage. This one in particular, “The Proper Care & Feeding of a Marriage,” by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, was quite helpful. It took a while to sink in, but it was only when I began doing the following 4 things, that a shift occurred.

1. Pray for my husband.

This is a biggie. When I began to pray for my husband, my heart began to change. Now, I’m not talking about my initial prayers. Those sounded like this, “Lord please open his heart. Help him to see that he is not being the husband you created him to be. Make him more loving and unselfish. Change him so that I can be happy…” You get the point, right? I can go on and on but I’m sure many of you have had similar requests.

Prayers that bring change are loving prayers, prayers that you didn't even know were inside of you. Click To Tweet

The prayers that brought change were loving prayers. Prayers that asked God to cover my husband, to build him up and strengthen his relationship with Christ. Prayers concerning his safety and happiness, lifting up his STRENGTHS, and giftings from the Lord. As I began praying for him in the spirit, I began to see him through the eyes of our loving Father. Only then, was I able to ask God to reveal MY heart towards my husband and to show me how to be a better wife. He began directing me and filling me with love for my husband.

Praying for your husband Ephesians 6 18

2. Ask him about his unmet expectations and truly listen.

I think many of us go into marriage looking forward to how we will get our needs met by our spouse rather than looking forward to meeting our spouse’s needs. We may have all these ideas about what marriage should be like and how happy it will make us. Only, we may not have put an equal amount of thought into what we can do to make our husbands happy. We should make every effort to listen to our spouse to grow more in tune to what he desires and needs.

For me, this was as simple as asking him what he enjoyed most about our marriage and what was not as he had envisioned it to be. The key to this conversation is to be open and unoffended. You cannot be defensive or lash out, whether through passive-aggression or outward hostility. The point is not to add more division to your marriage, but to become more united.  Do not let it become a tit for tat situation where you have a comeback or complaint in response to every one of his points. Instead, use it as an opportunity to assess your spouse’s needs and discuss specific ways that you can meet them.

love 1 Corinthians 13_4-5

3. Go out of my way to serve him, even when it wasn’t being reciprocated.

Can we be completely honest here? Many times, we don’t want to serve. We don’t have that servant mentality. And when we do, we expect praise, appreciation, and reciprocation. But what if your spouse doesn’t reciprocate? Or what if he/she doesn’t speak the same love language as you? Is your reaction to become bitter? Angry? Do you go on strike and stop serving? Do you withhold affection, communication, intimacy? I know I am guilty of all of the above so there is absolutely no judgment here.

Jesus Served

However, we should all strive to be servants of all our brothers and sisters, just as Christ himself served. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43-45, English Standard Version, ESV). So, why not serve the closest person to you? Why not honor God and your spouse in this most valuable way?

If we can't serve our own spouse with our whole heart, then we are not following Christ with our whole heart. Click To Tweet

The Bible also tells us in Luke 6:33, 35 (ESV), “And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same… But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”

I am in no way saying that your spouse is an enemy or evil, but what I am trying to illustrate is that we are to serve even when there is no reciprocation or when we do not feel like it. If I am not feeling appreciated by my husband, the last thing I want to do is serve him! However, that’s the best thing I can do to bring intimacy and restoration to our marriage.

4. Allow him to lead and respect his decisions.

Husbands and wives may come from two different backgrounds or cultures. In our case, my husband was brought up in a traditional family. His mom chose to stay at home to raise and educate him and his four siblings. He also grew up in the church. Though my father was active in my life, I did not live with him. My mother was a single mom who had to work hard. She was also more of an authoritarian parent who valued performance and achievement over other social-emotional factors. Because of our distinct upbringings, my husband tends to be more laid back and I tend to be more assertive and task-driven.

While I am extremely grateful to all our parents for how they raised us, it certainly has been a challenge to find a healthy balance in our marriage. I had to learn to truly let him lead, not pretend I wanted a strong husband and attempt to overpower him at every turn. He had to learn that we may have to do things a little differently than what he was used to growing up. The key is to find your happy place with your spouse. My husband and I realized that we did not want to have the same exact lives that our parents had. Though we were taught valuable lessons, we also discovered the freedom to go where God leads us, not where our family leads.

“Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.”

Genesis 2:24 (ESV)

Grace & Blessings

We may not always agree, but I am learning to trust my husband’s final decisions things. Sometimes, my initial advice was the better one but that’s okay. He appreciates that I gracefully allowed him to make his own mistakes and I appreciate that God honors us anyway. It draws us closer as one and the benefit of our increased intimacy supersedes my desire to be right. In trusting my husband, I am also saying to God that I trust him as the one who put my husband over my family.

 “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians 5:21 (ESV)
love 1 Peter 4_8

Are you struggling in your marriage or need some encouragement? If so, I would love to pray for you and your husband. Actually, I would love to pray for your marriage and family whether you’re struggling or not. Drop a comment below or email me at [email protected]. I would also love to hear your marriage stories. What are some wins and some opportunities you’ve had in marriage?


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11 thoughts on “4 Ways to Deal with Unmet Expectations in Marriage

  1. Thanks for sharing your marriage story. I am in my second (last) marriage. I learned a lot from my first marriage and most of this comes naturally now.

    1. Hi Rae! Thanks for stopping by. So glad it comes naturally for you now. Here’s hoping other women don’t have to go through two marriages like us. So grateful God is in the center now to help us out. : )

  2. This is so true. My first marriage was nothing like I expected and it never got better or easier. I am thankful to the lessons I learned during that time though. My 2nd marriage is 100 times better and it is due to the lessons I learned. Loved this!

  3. Whenever we put the other person first, it makes all of the difference! Learning to think of/esteem our partner higher than ourself, right?
    Thank you for sharing your story!

  4. My Father gave us the book The Feeding and Proper Care of Husbands, this book is relavent, in today’s world “Happy wife makes for a happy life” has turned marriage into a one-sided commitment…and you need two for a marriage! Great post!

    1. That’s wonderful Holly! She also has one for women, although the marriage version was enough for me. Lol. Our culture definitely does not promote biblical marriage. Instead, it tries to make both parties the same and interchangeable, which we are not! Thank you for reading!

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