Expectations: Unrealized or Unrealistic?

4 Apr

It’s inevitable as a human to have expectations about something. When anticipating a future event, it’s our natural tendency to picture how it will all happen and what it will be like. It’s also inevitable for the event to never turn out how you pictured it.

For women, this happens a lot with marriage. I personally grew up always dreaming. I dreamed about having a boyfriend: he would understand me perfectly and know exactly what I wanted. In high school, I dreamed about marriage: we would have the same interests and go on lots of exciting adventures. When Travis and I were dating, I imagined what being engaged would be like: I would finally be assured that I was loved. When Travis and I got engaged, I dreamed about marriage: we would finally be able to be intimate and share everything. We would lie in bed on Saturday mornings, watching cartoons, cuddling, and eating pancakes. We would go on romantic vacations and explore the world together. We would be so in love and constantly exclaiming “I love being married!” As the wedding grew closer, I dreamed about our honeymoon: a week of relaxation and bliss next to the ocean; a week of uninterrupted intimacy and romance; a picture perfect world.

But when you think about it, where do the greatest romantic movies end? Right after the beloved couple realize they’re “meant for each other.” If the movie went on (and were anything close in semblance to real life), the movie wouldn’t have such a happy ending. It wouldn’t be an unhappy ending either (not necessarily at least) but it wouldn’t leave you with the feeling that everything is right in the universe.

Rather, I imagine the feeling would be more like how my marriage makes me feel. The sense that there’s great potential for the situation but something just doesn’t sit right. That the movie started off great, you could sense the couple’s love for each other was (and is) real, but their current relationship doesn’t really seem to reflect that at all.

This morning Travis and I ended up in a fight on the way to work. About what doesn’t matter. Something insignificant, really. After I dropped him off and was on my way to my office, I started thinking. When we first got married (which will be a year ago on May 19th) and went on our honeymoon, I had a really hard time. I had been trapped in the expectations mentioned above, imagining that everything would be 100% perfect, romantic, and intimate 100% of the time. But as I discovered the first day in Mexico, even on your honeymoon, your life is still your life. Reality is still reality. When you get married, you don’t float away on the clouds with Cupid to sing love songs and feel butterflies for the rest of your life. Husband and wife are still just as sinful as fiance and fiancee–who were just as sinful as boyfriend and girlfriend–who were just as sinful as man and woman. Since we are the same people before and after said event, the relationship will mostly be the same after said event (obviously with a few exceptions).

I learned after our honeymoon that having expectations about the way things should be, especially in marriage, wasn’t a great thing to have. And I have continued learning this throughout our first year of marriage. I can’t expect Travis to be a certain way any more than I can expect myself to know what I want for lunch next Tuesday. Or what book I’ll want to read in July. Or where I’ll want to go out to dinner on November 15th–or if I’ll want to go out to dinner at all.

Neither can I expect that our marriage will be a certain way. I can’t expect us to be 100% in love and intimate all the time. I can’t expect to lie in bed on Saturday morning watching cartoons–if not just for the fact that we don’t have cable at all nor do we have a TV in our bedroom. I realize expectations cause tension and dissatisfaction when they aren’t realized.

But my question is: what do you do about your expectations? What do you do when what you had pictured your marriage being like isn’t at all what it actually is like? If you desire for your marriage to be a certain way, even after the rose-colored glasses have been sat on and squished, and yet it’s not that way, what do you do? “Change it” would be the easy response. But unfortunately, changing a marriage’s dynamic doesn’t happen overnight or easily, as I have found.

I fear that I still have expectations about our marriage and that those expectations are causing me to constantly compare our real marriage against (what I would consider) our ideal marriage. But is our real marriage ever going to measure up? Do I need to edit my expectations so that they are more in line with what it is actually like? Sheryl Crow says in her song “Soak up the Sun”–“It’s not having what you want; it’s wanting what you got.”

Does marriage come down to wanting what you got instead of getting what you want? Are my expectations about marriage just unrealized or are they unrealistic?

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