Communication in Marriage: Expectations
Before Darnelh and Kim got married, they were in a long distance relationship. Was the topic of expectations something they discussed while they were dating, and how do they express their expectations of each other now that they’re married? More importantly what are God’s expectations of husband and wife?
Myrtle Alegado (host): Okay, newlyweds. After the wedding, many of you expect wedded bliss to be automatic. You’ve married the person of your dreams right, so they should be able to anticipate every thought, wish, and need. But even after decades of marriage, I can tell you, this is not the case. So, all you newlyweds out there stay tuned as we continue our series on effective communication in marriage.
Welcome to Happy Life, the newest podcast brought to you by INCMedia that aims to help newlyweds navigate through the first years of marriage. I’m Myrtle Alegado and I’ve been married to my husband, Paul, for over 21 years.
Inspiration to make your marriage thrive, you’re listening to Happy Life
Myrtle Alegado: All right, so in this episode of our effective communication in marriage series, we’ll be focusing on expectations. Is it relevant to a successful marriage that expectations are clear between the husband and wife? Sure, it is. In the same way that having unclear expectations contribute to an unsuccessful marriage. Consider for a moment this quote from an article entitled The Psychology Of Expectations, and I quote: Without actually verbalizing expectations about give and take in a relationship, people construct stories in their heads about legitimate expectations of each other, and unspoken expectations are almost guaranteed to go unfulfilled. In an article we found on psychologytoday.com, Dr. John Johnson, a psychology professor at Pennsylvania State University, explored how unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments. Now what exactly does that mean?
To get this discussion underway, I’d like to introduce today’s guests, Darnelh and Kim from Fremont, California, and they’ve been married since August of 2019. Welcome to Happy Life, Kim and Darnelh.
Kim: Hi, everyone.
Myrtle: How are you today?
Kim: Oh, we’re doing great. It’s really nice to be here, so thank you.
Myrtle: Oh, we’re happy to have you. Okay, so newlyweds. Going back to that saying “unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.” Well, simply put, it means we feel happy when expectations are met but disappointed when they aren’t, even though other expectations we have are actually without good reason. And to break it down further the example they used in the article was a cup of coffee. Okay, so now you’re probably wondering, “Myrtle, what does a cup of coffee have to do with expectations in marriage?”
So, just bear with me for a second as I share with you my take on this. I was able to relate to the article’s cup of coffee example, because when I wake up in the morning having a cup of coffee makes me happy. Darnelh and Kim, do you two look forward to your first cup of coffee in the morning too?
Kim: I do. I think I’m a big(ger) coffee drinker than Darnelh, but I always, it’s like the first thing that I have to have in the morning.
Myrtle: Okay, so maybe Darnelh can relate to the article’s cup of coffee example with maybe his morning cereal, or his pancakes, or what have you.
Obviously I know that I have to carry out steps to produce that cup of coffee, and that it just doesn’t appear out of thin air on my counter waiting to greet me. But there have been times when my husband makes it to the kitchen before me, and in my head I’m like, “Oh, this is awesome. He’ll probably have my coffee waiting for me when I get downstairs.” But, I never actually articulated or expressed to him before he went downstairs that I’d like him to make me a cup of coffee. So, why is it then that I feel disappointed when I don’t actually see that coffee waiting for me on the counter? I mean after all, he isn’t a mind reader. Right, Darnelh, Kim?
Kim: We can agree on, like, so many levels with that. I think I’m the same way. Like, “Oh I hear someone in the kitchen. Someone’s making coffee. By the time I get out of the room I’m pretty sure I’ll have a coffee. So that’s, you know, I can totally agree with that and relate.
Darnelh: She was giving me a look the whole time you were talking.
Myrtle: It’s so funny how that works. Now after several instances similar to this, for example, like if, you know, every day I’m kind of expecting him to make me a cup of coffee and it doesn’t happen, for some couples, could that disappointment start building into resentment? You know, Darnelh and Kim, you’ve been married for what is it? Almost two years now or a year and a half?
Kim: Yeah, about a year and a half, yes. Almost two years, yes.
Myrtle: Yeah, time’s flying huh? In that time, can you maybe give us an example of when unfulfilled expectations was an issue for you in your marriage?
Kim: I think one of the biggest things though, as a newly married couple, is when it comes to responsibilities at home. I think it was something that we never saw coming, but a lot of the expectations really weigh on the responsibilities that we both have at home.
Myrtle: You’re not the first couple who have mentioned that, so it’s really funny how even just, you know, dividing chores and daily responsibilities can become, you know, a bone of contention in a way.
Kim: Yes, I agree. I think, like a big factor with it too is we both came from, we came from different families. So with him he only has, like, one brother and then meanwhile I have two sisters, a brother. So our family’s a lot bigger. So, that to like, you know, coming from two different families and then now you’re starting a new family and life together, I think, the way you used to do things when you were with your own family before is like quite different when you live together as a newly married couple.
Myrtle: Right, so you’re adjusting to not only, you know, your other half now that you’re married but even the type of upbringing that they had, the different routines that were normal for them in their homes aren’t necessarily, you know, the same as what you’re expecting now that you’re married, you know, as newlyweds. So, Darnelh, can you talk a little bit about that? Were there misunderstandings because of, you know, expectations you had of each other?
Darnelh: Yeah, there was a lot of learning that was done, that is still being done. We’re learning a lot about each other. Going back to what she said, you know, we come from different backgrounds and different approaches of how we live in our homes and all that. Yeah, my family like when we grew up, like me, my brother and my parents, and everyone had such different schedules. So it was kind of like every man for themselves, type of thing. I know we always, like for instance dishes, we made a rule early on when I was a kid. I guess it was an issue, I don’t remember too much. But whatever is in the sink, you wash it. So it never really stacked up, so I guess we just took on the responsibility.
Myrtle: I see.
Darnelh: There was a bit of an integrity there, I guess.
Kim: Which is funny because, I just wanted to add, which was totally different from how it is in our household. Because there’s four siblings, and we always have to make sure that everyone gets to do chores. So for us after dinner, when you eat together, one person takes care of the dishes.
Myrtle: So it’s assigned.
Kim: Yeah, so I think that’s one of the main differences we actually noticed when we were, you know, when we just started being together.
Myrtle: In this situation where, you know, in your minds your expectations versus the reality that you faced when you finally moved in together they were different, right? So how did you get on the same page?
Darnelh: We definitely sat down every time there [were] misunderstandings. We would talk it out, we would, you know, speak our minds, say what we felt and try to understand, like, where the other is coming from, why are they approaching it this way, and all that. So we try to help each other out and to understand.
Myrtle: When we talk about, you know, the topic of expectations, it’s not really something that a lot of newlyweds or even engaged to be wed couples really think about, or even take the time to discuss prior to marriage. I know, I didn’t. I didn’t think about, you know, managing what my expectations of my husband were going to be, or future husband. So is the topic of expectations in your marriage something you both discussed prior to getting married, or did you think about it at all?
Darnelh: No. [laughs]
Kim: Yeah, I don’t think we actually, because we…. I think it’s different because I think in my opinion if we were closer, because we were in a long distance relationship for a long time, like we started our relationship with long distance, and really like the expectations you have when you have a long distance relationship is totally different when you’re dating someone who’s just there, right. But when it comes to long distance, I think you make an extra effort to make everything so special that you really don’t think of expectations. Like, what do you expect this person to do? I feel like I’m always surprised by all the gestures that he’s done for me when we were dating. Like he would send me a care package out of nowhere, or like text me good morning everyday, like those little things I think I’ve never had those expectations of him when we were dating. But I think it’s because also, like with the long distance, everything seems extra special too.
Myrtle: Aww. So, when you finally did, you know, live together, I think in the first few months of your marriage you were also a little bit long distance because, you know, like you were mentioning earlier, Kim, it was like work responsibilities or something so you couldn’t move right away. But because of your long distance relationship did that help you in your communication to be, you know, a little bit more direct with each other, to really explain what you were expecting or feeling?
Kim: I think it did because, also with long distance, communication is the foundation of everything. Like it was really hard for us to be far away, and we’re already married, and it’s like the first year of our marriage, and the only way for us to be able to feel like, you know, we’re trying our best to be husband and wife, even despite the distance is to be able to communicate well with each other. So one of the things that we’ve talked about was that we always have to be honest and direct with each other, like no sugarcoating. Like it’s one of the things that we promised each other ever since we were dating that, you know, we just really have to be honest. You just (have) to tell me what you’re feeling, I’ll tell you what I’m feeling. And then we just kind of like, figure out how to I guess react to those feelings, instead of waiting until everything piles up later on.
Myrtle: For sure, yeah. I’m going to backtrack a little bit, and I know that we were talking about chores earlier and that you had, you know, specific expectations. How did you iron out who was going to do what? I know you both have busy jobs so, you know, how did you decide who was going to take care of what, or do you take turns or, you know, how do you communicate that with each other?
Darnelh: It was really rough in the beginning. You know, and especially the circumstances now, like, we went from LDR, long distance, to when she moved it was the beginning of the pandemic.
Myrtle: So being together 24/7 from not.
Darnelh: Yeah, so there’s so many things we had to adjust, and we had the time to do it so. It was like little things like laundry, dishes like we discussed earlier,-
Kim: Cooking is big.
Darnelh: -groceries. So we kind of, I guess we kind of sized each other up over the first few months, then we learned what each other is good at.
Myrtle: Yeah, there’s definitely that kind of adapting phase where you’re just, kind of, learning really about each other right and then learning to adjust. So, how did you ensure that both of you were aware of the other’s expectations?
Kim: Like what we mentioned earlier, honestly, because there’s no way that your spouse can read your mind.
Myrtle: Right, sadly.
Kim: It would be nice if they could, right?
Darhelh: I try my best sometimes.
Kim: But, like you know, like special times where, “Oh, you made breakfast for me. That’s so nice!” But I think to ensure that we meet each other’s needs, I would say, instead of expectations. We just really tell… like for me I’m teaching. Because of the pandemic I’m doing distance learning. So, I’m literally like on the screen most of the time, and with the kids having a hard time I just tell him, I was like, “I can’t make lunch today, what do we do?” So he’ll be the one, maybe he’ll make something or like he’ll buy something. So just kind of like laying it out that this is my workload, this is what I can and cannot do today, and then I think we’ve learned to pick it up from there. Like, “It’s okay I got it.” That’s kind of like our game plan like each day.
Darnelh: She does the same thing for me. And there’s days where I have off days or days where I’m super swamped, and she’ll notice that and then she’ll try her best to help make my day better. Like, she’ll see that I’m hungry and she’ll go out of her way to grab some food. So we try to just be there for each other, be aware of each other, of how each other is feeling.
Myrtle: But here now is the question. When it comes to expectations in marriage, whose expectations should be prioritized? Let’s direct that question to Brother Felmar Serreno, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ.
Hi, Brother Felmar! Welcome back to Happy Life.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Hello, Sister Myrtle, and the newlyweds, Brother Darnelh and Sister Kim who are our guests for today. Hello to all our listeners. It’s great to be here again with you all on Happy Life, to discuss another interesting aspect of effective communication in marriage. So today, it’s about expectations right?
Myrtle: Yes that’s right Brother Felmar, and you get to have the most significant question for today’s discussion.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Of course! That’s exactly why I keep coming back to Happy Life, for all the awesome questions. Even better, are the enlightening answers based on the Holy Scriptures, so yes please ask away.
Myrtle: The question is: When it comes to expectations in married life, whose expectations should be prioritized?
Brother Felmar Serreno: To answer that, we first need to be reminded about who designed and instituted marriage to begin with. Let’s listen to what the Bible says here in the book of Genesis, chapter 2, verses 18, 21 and 22. And we’ll also read from chapter 1, verse 28 in the New King James Version:
And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” … And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the LORD God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.
[Genesis 2:18, 21-22 New King James Version]
Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply…”
[Genesis 1:28 New King James Version]
Brother Felmar Serreno: Who instituted marriage? The LORD God. When? In the beginning, with the very first man and woman. We should notice that God did not just let the man and woman live together as husband and wife. What did God do to them first? The Bible says, “God BLESSED them.” In other words, He married them.
So, it was God who instituted marriage, which is why marriage is sacred.
How can married couples uphold the sanctity of marriage? According to Romans, chapter 7, verse 2:
“…by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive…”
[Romans 7:2 New International Version]
Brother Felmar Serreno: Therefore, in order to preserve the sacred union between a husband and wife, married couples must allow the laws and commandments of God to rule over them both. So, going back to our original question, “In marriage, whose expectations should be prioritized?” It is neither the husband nor the wife, for it is God’s expectations of a married couple which take top priority. Which is why in the Church Of Christ that we are members of, we accord marriage with due honor and respect. For example, the marriage ceremony—it is not a mere tradition or ritual for us. Rather, it is a holy occasion where the main part is the blessing of the wedded couple and the conveying of the commandments of God that bind a man and a woman to each other for as long as they both shall live. But even prior to the actual marriage ceremony, a minister of the gospel in the Church Of Christ conducts what is called the ‘Seminar For Engaged Couples.’ What is the objective of this six-lesson seminar?
The general objective is to teach how husband and wife can keep or preserve the harmony in their relationship, under the care and blessing of the Lord God.
Now, we won’t go into detail in this one podcast on what is taught in that six-lesson seminar. But suffice it to say the seminar explains from the Bible that there are clear instructions which are particular to the husband; clear instructions which are particular to the wife; and there are also shared responsibilities.
Now, what will happen when husband and wife agree to always prioritize God’s expectations, whatever they may face in life?
The Bible says this in Proverbs, chapter. 14, verse 26 in the Good News Bible, and we’ll go on to read Psalm 5:12 in the New International Version:
Reverence for the LORD gives confidence and security to a man and his family.
[Proverbs 14:26 Good News Bible]
For surely, O LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield.
[Psalm 5:12 New International Version]
Myrtle: As always such wonderful and of course appropriate words of wisdom that we receive from the Bible. Thank you once again, Brother Felmar.
Brother Felmar Serreno: Thank you again for having me, Sister Myrtle. Goodbye for now, to all our listeners. God bless to us all.
Myrtle: So, just curious, Darnelh and Kim, what were the things that you took away from those marriage seminars?
Kim: Actually, one of the things, when we did our marriage seminar, we kept the notes that we had, the verses that we had. We kept that, and it’s actually framed in our room.
Myrtle: Oh wow!
Kim: And we go back to it every time to just really (remember), you know, the blessing of a marriage and what God expects (of) you in a marriage, and putting God in the center of everything. Like we could keep talking all the time to each other but really, for us, just really remembering the teachings and putting that in place with our issues, or expectations, or anything that we’re discussing, really helps us a lot to get to a solution that we need.
Myrtle: So Darnelh, what was it that you took away from those seminars? Was there something that, you know, really stuck with you?
Darnelh: You know, right off the bat when the first lesson started and I was, I was pretty hooked on the lesson.
Myrtle: You were sold, huh?
Darnelh: Yeah, ten out of ten, I highly recommend the seminars. But yeah, the first lesson they talked about the structure of a marriage and the relationship with Christ and the Church and, you know, the emphasis that the minister had on that made me realize, you know, the value that God put into this, His plan of marriage, and His plan of salvation. And it kind of, like, blew my mind a little bit, like I saw marriage and the Church as like from a big picture perspective.
Darnelh: Yeah. It kind of, it solidified my faith even more. And it also made me realize, you know, marriage, we have to take this seriously. It’s holy—God gave this to us. And it’s also being a husband and wife, that’s a duty as well.
Myrtle: So because of those teachings, did that help you in your expectations of each other? Like regarding decision making, specifically, what did you find difficult if anything?
Kim: I think for me, because I’m the eldest in the family, I used to be very strong headed. I always have, like I always make the decisions when it comes to family matters, I take the lead. I think, you know, after doing the seminar, and after really, even like through our marriage, I’ve learned and I guess I absorbed a lot more of what I heard when they said that wives should submit to their husbands. And before I was like, “I don’t know. I’m strong-headed.” You know, as an eldest daughter, like for me I was so used to just making the calls and just kind of like taking (the) lead, this is what we’re going to do.
But, you know, being a wife, I am thankful for how God has designed it. Because really, I learned that when they said that wives should submit to their husbands, it’s me, letting Darnelh lead. Because I also know that if our marriage is blessed, so God is also, you know, blessing the decisions that he’s making, which I should also respect as a wife, and as a child of God. And you know, at first, it was difficult. Like, “Okay, Darnelh can’t just take the lead.” But now being a wife, I truly understand and see why it’s designed that way and how much more you fall in love to being a wife too, when you see the beauty of the design of marriage.
Myrtle: What was it like for you Darnelh?
Darnelh: What I remember also in the seminars, regarding this part like the husband taking the lead. The wife is there to also help. So I’m not, you know, a control freak. I’m not going to be a dictator in this marriage. We were taught that the husband, you know, makes the call, the final decision. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t discuss it with my wife at all.
Myrtle: Right, with input from your wife.
Darhelh: You know, with decision making, we have two different minds so it helps to have different input, different perspective and angles at whatever decision we’re making. So, you know, we’ve learned over the past few, past year and a half, who has better judgment when it comes to certain topics. And, you know, but even when it comes to small decisions or big decisions we have.
Myrtle: Do you approach decision making differently?
Kim: I think a little. I think we give credit to our strength in decision making in different ways. Like, for example, what has to be like a quick decision, I’m not the one to trust on that. Like as simple as the grocery shopping, it’s not something that…like it takes me forever but it’s faster for Darnelh. But when it comes to planning something and the logistics, like sometimes I’m the better planner. So when it comes to, okay, let’s plan it, if we’re going on a trip, I’ll plan it. But then, the other types of decisions that goes with that trip goes to Darnelh. So it’s kind of like a tag team with decision making, but definitely when it comes to life-changing decision making, you know, we both make sure we have input on that. And most especially we take time to pray about it first before we make our final decision. Because at the end of the day, sometimes too when we both are coming from different sides or different perspectives, it’s hard to see where the decision falls until, you know, you start taking the time to pray about it every night, and then keep talking about it, until, you know, God answers our prayers, so.
Myrtle: And that’s really great that you, you know, have found that balance with one another in approaching decision making. And also that you entrust, you know, whatever will happen to God as well, through your prayers.
So learning to adjust and adapt to one another’s methods and decision making styles is something that all married couples learn along the way, for sure, and decision making happens to be our next topic in our series of effective communication in marriage. So please make sure you come back and listen to that episode, but for today, I’d really like to thank you, Darnelh and Kim, for being our guests.
Kim: It was a lot of fun and we’re glad that we were able to share. Thank you.
Darnelh: Yes, thanks for having us.
Myrtle: So I think we learned today that it’s important for husband and wife to understand and agree to each other’s expectations. But more than this, husband and wife should meet God’s expectations by understanding and embracing their respective role and responsibilities in marriage.
Did you enjoy today’s episode? Did it inspire you? If so, please share it with your family and friends and all the newly married couples that you know.
And that’s all we have for you today. To learn more about Christian relationships, please visit, www.incmedia.org, and if you have any questions or just want to say hi to us, please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject, Happy Life. So thank you from all of us here on the Happy Life team. We’re so glad you joined us today and hope we’ve all been reminded about the blessing of marriage.