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Marriage is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding.

Some days, you won’t like your spouse, but each day you wake up, you must make the decision to love them.

Always, always, always hope for and expect the best from your spouse. When in doubt, refer to 1 Corinthians 13:7. 

These are some of the golden nuggets happily married folks have given me since I got engaged several months ago. The latter is my absolute favorite. And for much of my engagement, it’s been the one that I’ve been working the hardest at. Post-it notes, daily devotions…you name it. I realize that hard times are inevitable and that there may come a day when expecting and hoping for the best from my future husband might be challenging, but I’m optimistic that with God’s help, all things are possible. I was pretty sure that I was doing the right thing by adopting this mindset until recently.

While checking out NPR this morning, I came across an interesting yet somewhat disheartening story titled, “If You Set High Expectations For Your Marriage, Is It Doomed?” based on a study published last week in the  Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin with the deflating title, “Should Spouses Be Expecting Less From Marriage?” Essentially, the experts zoned on 135 married couples whom they periodically checked in on from the time they were newlyweds until four years into their marriage.

By doing this, Florida State University Professor James McNulty hoped to explore whether or not modern-day couples place too many expectations on the institution of marriage. So, McNulty surveyed the couples on their marital expectations and also, their level of satisfaction with their marriages.

What McNulty found is that couples who spoke directly when their spouses did something that made them unhappy and explained how their partners could fix the problem reported higher marriage satisfaction. On the flip, people who used indirect hostility as a means of communicating their unhappiness and resorted to indirect comments, sarcasm and expecting their spouses to read their minds were less likely to have their expectations met.

“That is why it is problematic; it conveys discontent without providing the partner with clear information about how to address the underlying issue,” explained McNulty.

Of course, this makes perfect sense. Expecting someone to read your mind without explaining your issues with them spells relationship disaster, but what the study uncovered about initial marital expectations is actually what gives me pause. Apparently, couples who began their marriages with pretty low expectations to begin with didn’t become significantly less happy over time, and their expectations were met. Also, spouses who entered a marriage with high expectations and those expectations were not met, found themselves experiencing decreased marital satisfaction and the marriage’s likelihood of ending increased.

I certainly understand how entering a marriage with extremely unrealistic expectations would cause serious issues as far as satisfaction goes, but I also feel that beginning a union from which you don’t expect much comes with its share of problems as well. And also, exactly what constitutes “high” expectations?

According to McNulty, it’s all about balance. The best approach is to be honest with yourself regarding spouse’s character and capabilities. In other words, match your expectations with your spouse’s ability to deliver. Expecting a lot from your marriage can have its perks, but when those expectations are not met, well, that’s when problems ensue.

While I may not expect my partner to become a multi-billionaire in our lifetime (billionaire maybe, lol), I do expect common courtesy, love, monogamy, and I expect him to continue to be the hardworking and ambitious dude that I’ve always known him to be. To me, those are necessary, realistic, and practical expectations, but I’m sure that most married folks think that their demands are within reason as well.

Do you believe you approached your marriage with high or low expectations? Are those expectations being met?

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