Expectations vs. Reality in Marriage

I am an optimist through and through. My wife, on the other hand, is somewhat of a pessimist! Together over the past 17 years of married life—and a total of 20 years being together—we’ve seen many dreams come true and many hard realities lived out. I can clearly remember as if it were yesterday, sitting with our premarital counselor, asking questions about what married life would be like. We expressed our fears and laid out our hopes, dreams, and expectations about what life would look like after we said, “I do.” The hard part was that I doubted a portion of the pastor’s advice, discounting his stern warnings and shrugging off his seriousness, thinking that the statistics he shared with us were for other people . . . Priya and I were different. We were committed to the Lord and to each other. Now, as I think back years later, some of his counsel makes me smile, mainly because of my naivety. Some of it still echoes in the halls of my memory, causing me to consider my decisions on a regular basis. He would often call my ideas of marriage unrealistic and try to help me to see the reality. Here are a few of the expectations and realities we’ve personally discovered through the years. Expectation Number One: “I am marrying my spouse; his/her family is not a part of the package!”  My wife and I both have things that we celebrate from our families . . . but there are also some things we did not want to carry in from the homes we grew up in. Somehow in our minds, we bought the idea that we would be marrying each other and devalued the impact of our family, both the positive and the negative. This myth proved to be wrong very quickly. Literally minutes after saying “I do,” the power of a parent’s blessing and the tension of a parent’s desire to control was felt and seen! The words of our counselor rang in our ears: “You are not only marrying each other, you’re merging two families.” And we looked at each other with a look that said, “How did this just happen to us?” Over the years, we’ve had to create some strong boundaries with love and respect, but also embrace the families that God blessed us with! There are times when we do sound like our parents and we no longer let that concept create division. Instead, we address what parts of our behavior, regardless of where they originated, need tweaking or undoing. I realize that every circumstance is different, and your situation may be more intense or less extreme, but do not fail to factor in the impact of your family in your marriage!  Proverbs 13:22 speaks of the inheritance that a good parent leaves, and this inheritance is not just about money, but also testimony. Your parents’ legacy and testimony will impact you, even if they don’t know the Lord. Realize it, prepare for it, embrace it, and allow it to grow your marriage, not erode it! Expectation Number Two: “Past pain will not affect our relationship.” The past is in the past. My wife and I both have extremely opposite stories. We somehow thought that we had processed our past in its entirety and were certain it wouldn’t have any bearing on our present or future. I really wish this were true, but for us it seemed as if our marriage agitated those sensitive areas and unveiled things that had not actually been dealt with. This caused our first year of marriage to be very rocky and unstable. I can still hear the voice of our premarital counselor: “What concerns (irritates) you now will plague you times ten in marriage.”  What a sobering reality to discover! Proverbs 20:5 gives us a wonderful picture of a person of wisdom plunging into the depths of their heart and using skill to draw out the bitterness from pain, replacing it with peace, forgiveness, and true joy. This is a priceless process in marriage that creates deeper intimacy. Expectation Number Three: “Sex will be easy, fun, and an endless, unlimited lifetime supply!” In our minds, this would be the easiest part of marriage! Isn’t it funny the way Satan tempts you with sex before marriage, but after marriage he does everything to sabotage and stop a husband and wife from being intimate? Wow, we had and have so much to learn! The road to sex begins with true intimacy—learning to fill each other’s love tanks, respect one another, to make time for each other, and to selflessly pursue each other beyond the honeymoon and kids. It’s definitely been a journey of discovery. This road has been marked with sweetness, regret, forgiveness, bitterness, renewal, and commitment to see us through to deep intimacy and healthy sexuality. This area requires constant care and understanding. But I can say it is worth the work! Expectation Number Four: “We only need to agree on faith, the rest will work itself out.” I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “Love is blind.” Our premarital counselor used to create these moments where he’d try to spark a debate to help us learn each other’s values, goals, dreams, and positions on roles in the home. I was overwhelmed by my wife’s beauty, and she was duped by my lack of confrontational skills to the point that we completely missed the lesson he was trying to teach us! In our first two years of marriage we moved three times, had our first child, changed careers, and left the church we were raised in! Suddenly, we both had a lot of strong personal opinions that seemed to matter more than it did in the premarital office! We had to quickly learn to express ourselves and make life decisions together. This seemed daunting at the time, but as we grew, made mistakes, forgave each other for times that we did things incorrectly or independently, we began to develop our family identity and emerge stronger together. This identity was based on the Bible, and we took the necessary time to discover that! Now we can truly say that we’re one. Our differences still exist, but our strength is in our unique oneness. Expectation Number Five: “Planning is for old people!” It seemed cool, at least to me, to just let life happen. It seemed rather  “old school” to “plan” date nights, conversations, vacations, life goals, sex, and so much more! I called it, “being spontaneous.” My wife, on other hand, called it wreckless and disorganized. So, she in her gifting began planning. 17 years later, I am the beneficiary of a life with vision and great intentional purpose. The Bible is full of verses that talk about planning and preparing, or how God’s people perished when a vision wasn’t clear (Proverbs 29:18). I laugh when I see fun in red on our calendar, but this has spared us from a lifestyle of mediocrity by balancing our lives. Marriage is still full of unintended surprises and lots of laid back casual time, but embracing the plan and strategy definitely has high future dividends. Priya and I have seen so much together! Miracles, desired change take place, goals accomplished, children growing, friendships established and rooted, spiritual maturity, and numerous other things. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for our future together! Although I may discover more myths along the way, I know that our intimacy with God and each other will help us debunk the unrealistic expectations and live out the truth! Be open to replacing your myths with God’s truth and you’ll be able to enjoy this journey of marriage.

About the Author

Reuben Ramsaran