Expectations in marriage is one of the things we didn’t learn about until somewhere between our second and third year of marriage.
And when we did learn about our marriage expectations, it was hard to believe no one had told us, or that it wasn’t plastered in every marriage or pre-marriage book!
Shouldn’t expectations in marriage be part of the marriage preparation process? Of course!
That’s why in this article we will show you how to identify, have better conversations, deal, and manage the expectations you have for each other.
We’ve also included a free marriage expectations worksheet you can use with your spouse.
Why you need to know your spouse’s marriage expectations.
As an engaged couple or newlywed, it’s a big plus knowing the expectations your spouse has for your marriage.
Because it will help you communicate effectively with each other, merge your lives as a married couple, and learn how to meet each other’s needs.
Also, it will show you things you have different mindsets, perspectives, or views about.
A real-life example of expectations in marriage.
We all grow up in homes that will be different from our spouse’s. For us, it was entirely different cultures as well.
In Ash’s family, the men are the ones who take care of the car stuff, oil changes, car repairs, tire changes, etc. They usually fix things and do stereotypical “masculine” jobs. (An exception to this is her mother who does absolutely everything she can because she’s had to).
So during the beginning of our first year of marriage, something in Ash’s brain clicked…
“Yay! I don’t have to worry about changing the oil or tires anymore!”
Ash quickly got aggravated that Marcus didn’t know the first thing about cars. He came from a family that did not own a car, in fact, a lot of people in his country don’t. They are too expensive and a hassle.
Ash had to teach Marcus how to drive, change a tire, check the oil and explained when we needed oil changes. But now that she has explained she really was looking forward to this being his responsibility, Marcus looks forward to taking care of it for her.
We had so many other unconscious marriage expectations that we didn’t even realize; specifically role expectations.
How your family upbringing shapes your marriage expectations.
Our parents or caretakers, whether present or absent played a certain role in our lives and shaped our expectations for marriage. And you might not even know you have these role expectations to be played by your spouse.
Had we known each other’s marriage expectations during our first year of marriage, we would have learned how to communicate better and reduced the number of arguments we had. Also, we wouldn’t have even expected changing Ashley’s last name after marriage to be as much of a hassle.
Marcus had role expectations of Ash too, like cooking meals, washing the dishes, laying the bed each morning, laundry, etc.
In fact, he knew how to do all of these things but in his culture women handle all of those tasks. He was happy to help, but he had expected that Ash would be taking on most of these responsibilities.
…Boy was he wrong!
After writing these expectations down, we can see how they resemble a couple from the 1950s. So let’s take a moment to clear things up.
You are both EQUAL partners!
Ash had a deal-breaker that any man she would marry HAD to view men and women EQUALLY! And share the house responsibilities—equally.
When Ash was working and Marcus was waiting on his status change with immigration, he did almost all the cooking and cleaning.
When Ash became a stat at home mother and Marcus worked outside the home, she did end up doing about 80% of household duties. But as soon as Marcus was home, he’d help do whatever else was needed to be done.
Now that we both work from home, we’ve created a system that works for us and take turns with the rest of the chores.
Marcus generally does the dishes, while Ash cooks. Marcus does the laundry, while Ash helps fold and put away. Marcus helps our daughters clean their playroom and Ash stays on top of sweeping.
The key is figuring out what works for you, your lifestyle, and agreeing to a compromise that works for both of you.
Expectations in marriage list for couples.
In our experience, most couples expectations for marriage relate to:
⇒ Family goals. E.g. How many kids do you want to have? What about adoption or fostering?
How often will you be spending time with your in-laws?
⇒ Emotional expectations E.g. Can you be vulnerable with each other?
⇒ Sex. E.g. How often do you want to have sex each week?
⇒ Finances. E.g. Should we live in debt or be debt-free? How to spend hard-earned income? Do we need a monthly budget?
Should we invest for retirement? How much should we save each month? How to talk about money?
⇒ Physical activities E.g. Do you expect your spouse to exercise with you?
⇒ Social life expectations E.g. How to have fun as a married couple?
What about fun with your friends?
⇒ Career expectations. Do you want to pursue a career in a different location?
⇒ Faith E.g. Do you share the same fundamental belief systems?
⇒ Communication E.g. How do you expect your spouse to communicate with you on the various issues like conflicts, sex, money, disagreements, etc.?
⇒ Selfishness. What does selfishness mean to you? What about your spouse?
⇒ Priorities. What are your first priorities in life, and marriage? Who, or what activities come first?
Did we miss something?
Talking about your marriage expectations together.
Schedule time to sit down and have a heart to heart discussion about the marriage expectations you have for each other today.
Your main goal is to identify, communicate, and discuss your marriage expectations for each other. A good place to start is to think about what your parents or the role models in your life did/do that you get aggravated that your spouse doesn’t do.
Does your spouse miss the mark in some areas? Do they know what you expect them to do?
Why do you expect them to do XYZ? Does it really matter who does it in the long run? Is he/she expecting something of you that you don’t understand?
In our experience, most couples are not able to easily identify their marriage expectations at first. But after multiple discussions, they are eventually able to come to a compromise.
However, don’t let that stop you from having this essential conversation with your spouse. Because your spouse has your best interest in mind.
Below are 10 conversation starters you can use:
⇒ In your opinion, what are the husband’s roles in a marriage?
⇒ In your opinion, what are the wife’s roles in a marriage?
⇒ What are some chores you expect your spouse to do around the house?
⇒ When it comes to sex, what are your expectations? What kind of things are you not okay with when it comes to your sex life? How often do you want to be physically intimate with your spouse? What does that mean to you? How much foreplay do you want ideally?
⇒ How should you spend our hard-earned income?
⇒ What are your plans for saving, investing, and early retirement?
⇒ What marriage expectations do you have when it comes to paying the bills, loans, debt, going on fun trips, etc.?
⇒ How did your parents/caretakers/family resolve conflicts when you were growing up? Are you expecting you and your partner to resolve conflicts the same way?
⇒ Do you want to have joint, separate, or a mix of joint and separate bank accounts? Why? And what does that look like exactly to you?
⇒ How do you want to celebrate the Holidays with your spouse? Which Holidays are important for you?
Free expectations in marriage worksheet
We created this worksheet to go along with this article. It includes most of the questions above, and in this article.
Then print 2 copies, follow the guide below, and you will be well on your way to having a wonderful discussion.
A simple guide for discussing your marriage expectations.
Below are steps you and your spouse can take to communicate, better understand, and meet each other’s expectations for marriage.
1. Write your expectations.
Be honest, realistic, and write down what you each expect of your spouse in your marriage (marriage expectations list) on separate sheets of paper. Basically how you view your roles and how you expect your marriage and home to function.
2. Exchange your written answers.
Now look through to see if you are meeting your spouses’ expectations of you.
3. Clarify/explain your marriage expectations to each other.
Are these marriage expectations realistic or unrealistic? In other words are they reasonable expectations for marriage? Can you meet in the middle?
If you were asked to fulfill these expectations, will you be happy to do them?
4. Discuss how you feel when your spouse meets any of your expectations?
Are you excited, do you feel loved? Is there a common theme in your expectations?
5. Discuss how you can both come to a compromise on how to meet each other’s marriage expectations.
Then write down what you each need to do to make your compromise a reality.
6. Put your written words into action.
Then evaluate within a months’ time (a simple marriage check-up) to determine if you are meeting each other’s expectations for marriage.
If you are not, go over the steps again and identify where you went wrong. Are the expectations are unrealistic or need to be lowered?
In addition, if you have unmet expectations in your marriage, what can your spouse do to help you?
Something to keep in mind during your conversation
We know communication is sometimes easier said than done, but always remember to word the things you say in a thoughtful way so it doesn’t sound accusing.
Try using words like, “I’m not saying you are doing X on purpose, but I FEEL X when you do Y.”
If your spouse doesn’t still understand it, try thinking from their point of view and explaining it in a different way. If they still don’t get it, take a break and revisit after you both have time to think about it.
By doing all the 6 Steps above, especially putting your words into action, you will have a better understanding of your spouse. You will also be able to improve your communication with each other.
You might get angry sometimes but try to stay calm. Be patient with your spouse. Marriage is hard work!
Examples of unrealistic marriage expectations
Having unrealistic expectations in marriage could increase the chances of having unmet ones, and could even lead to a divorce.
Below are 4 you should be mindful of.
⇒ Expecting your spouse to become who YOU want them to be.
Look, you can’t force your spouse (or anyone) to change.
⇒ Trying to fulfill the expectations of your parents or extended family.
Your marriage is yours so don’t feel you have to meet other people’s expectations for your marriage. Take what works for you, and say goodbye to what doesn’t.
Because you’ll have a happier marriage when the only expectations you’re living up to are your own as a couple.
⇒ Believing your spouse is responsible for your happiness.
The fact is, you are responsible for your happiness.
So don’t place this responsibility on your spouse because your spouse will never be able to meet all your needs.
Your spouse won’t complete you! Instead, they will complement you.
⇒ Your marriage will always be the same.
Just like the seasons of life, there are seasons in every marriage.
In most happy and healthy marriages, it’s from a period of stability to a period of instability, then back to stability. So plan and be prepared for it.
For example, you could have a period where sex is amazing and hot, and a period where it’s just okay (or non-existent) due to health issues, stress, etc.
Learning about role expectations in marriage was a total paradigm shift for us. Because it positively impacted our marriage by preventing unmet marriage expectations, and some marriage issues from occurring.
Patience, compromise, communication, understanding, listening, and teamwork are the secret ingredients to meeting your spouse’s expectations for marriage.
Now, download the expectations worksheet, fill it out with your spouse (or future spouse), discuss and deal with your marriage expectations.
We hope you found this article useful!
What marriage expectations did/do you have for your spouse during your first year of marriage?
If you are not married, what are some of your expectations for your future spouse?
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P.S. Want to build a strong foundation for your marriage? Read this book today.