Unmet Expectations

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Unmet Expectations

I have been married for about nine years and have three kids under 7 years of age, and every weekend becomes a disaster in my marriage. My husband and I both work outside the home, but like most couples in our age group I end up doing all the chores at home. On Sundays when we’re looking forward to a more relaxed time together, I find myself angry at my husband for spending all day watching sports without lifting a finger to help with the household tasks. I’m not sure how much longer I can do this. Please help. 

Thank you for being so transparent about your frustration with your husband. You seem to expect him to be more of a team player in your family life, but feel alone in certain instances rather than with the companion who pledged on your wedding day to love, honor, and cherish you.

Your story is one we’ve heard before from many disappointed marriage partners. Yet, many of them have never spoken to their spouse about their feelings and needs. What you’ve shared is described in the marriage literature as unmet expectations, which are among the most difficult situations to deal with in marriage.

Because so many couples get married without going through a meticulous program of premarital or preengagement counseling/education, they often fail to talk with each other about important expectations they have for their marriage relationship. Most times they don’t get an opportunity to hear their partner’s perspective and have a better understanding of their future spouse’s point of view on certain issues before getting married. Sometimes, however, even if you have had good premarital counseling, after nine years of marriage and the busyness of life it’s easy to forget what you spoke about when you were in a state of euphoria. 

What happens to most couples when they meet someone they feel a strong attraction for—which they call being really in love—they’re convinced they’ll naturally know what the other person needs because they “get each other” and are obviously compatible. The truth is, being attracted to someone because of the way they look or how they speak isn’t enough to develop a long-lasting marriage relationship. 

Expectations are unexpressed needs or wants. We all have expectations because we were born with needs and desires. In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need to ask for anything from our spouse because he or she would intuitively know what we desire and take care of it. In the imperfect world we actually inhabit, however, our hopes to have all we need and desire in marriage are often disappointed. 

Our experience is that most times unmet expectations in marriage remain so because they’ve never been shared. Also, it’s important to consider the positive contributions your husband makes to your marriage and family and take that into consideration as you assess what else you really need from him. Remember that in marriage it isn’t all or nothing.