This year is shaping up to be a big year for the Schupp family. Bethany and Ryan’s wedding will be in July, and Joshua and Courtney’s wedding will be in September. Rick and I are very excited and also a little anxious about these events – a wedding is really a big deal to plan and we have two this year! As the couples have been working on the wedding plans and preparations, I know they have come to realize it’s a big deal logistically, financially, and relationally.
I suppose I am stating the obvious here, but a marriage is an even bigger deal. Your expectations often shape your experience of marriage. If you have unrealistic expectations of what marriage should look like or how your spouse should be, you will be disappointed and dissatisfied with your marriage at times and the quality of your marriage will suffer. If you have realistic expectations for your spouse and your marriage, you may still be disappointed at times, but the quality of your marriage and your experience of it will tend to be much better.
Eli Finkel wrote in the New York Times after extensive research, “The average marriage today is weaker than the average marriage of yore, in terms of both satisfaction and divorce rate, but the best marriages today are much stronger, in terms of both satisfaction and personal well-being, than the best marriages of yore.” My hope and prayer is that my kids’ marriages will be among the best marriages there are.
Please allow me to offer and weigh in on realistic do’s and don’ts for marital expectations based on my 25+ years of experience:
Do expect that this marriage is for life. Do not consider divorce to be an option. Ever. “Til death do you part.”
Don’t expect your spouse to “complete you” and meet all your needs. You will be disappointed if you expect them to. Only God can do that. Even though your spouse will hopefully be your best friend, you still need other friends to talk to, bounce ideas off of, and hang out with. We have been created to function in community, not be an island of two.
Do expect your spouse to be on your team and always believe that they have the best intentions (give them the benefit of the doubt). Have the mindset that you are not in competition against each other, but are working toward the same goal. Each one of you should give 100% to the marriage, regardless of what the other is giving at the time. United you will stand and divided you will fall.
Don’t expect your spouse to read your mind. Communication is very important – do NOT assume that they know what you are thinking or what you might be needing. Just because you have to tell them you need something does not negate the love they demonstrate when they give you what you ask for. Learn to ask good questions. Learn to repeat back what they have said in ways that show you understand and you care.
Do expect that your spouse may not have the same financial priorities you do. You need to communicate well on how you desire to spend your money. You should treat it as “our money”, not “his and hers”. In the beginning, a good rule of thumb is to agree to always ask your spouse before spending more than $50. If you cannot agree about it, then you should wait and commit the decision to discussion and prayer. God will ultimately help you to make a unified decision. Eventually you will both be so like-minded about spending that you won’t have to ask each other about a purchase.
Don’t expect automatic happiness, smooth sailing, and an easy transition. Marriage takes work, sacrifice and effort. The single most accurate word to describe what happens in a new marriage is “change.” Change produces stress. When confronted with change, we need to adapt to that change in some way. Although a lot of changes involved in getting married are positive, they still produce stress. To build a solid relationship we must learn how to adapt to change and cope with stress.
Do expect that conflict is inevitable. Spouses have different viewpoints and different feelings based on their background and previous experiences.These differences do not mean that one is right and the other is wrong. Remember, “there is more than one way to make macaroni and cheese” (a Schupp inside joke). Conflict, when dealt with appropriately, can be healthy. God can use marriage to sand down our rough edges – we start out as selfish, sinful individuals and He can use the crucible of marriage to make us more like Christ. Remember that you can only control the way YOU react and interact – you cannot control your spouse.
Judith Wallerstein, in her book entitled The Good Marriage: How and Why Love Lasts, says that the common thread characterizing good marriages is flexibility. Couples who have the ability to adapt to unexpected change along with a “marvelous facility for looking down the road” and anticipating the potholes and detours of life are more likely to have a strong and lasting relationship.
“Since Adam and Eve, Satan has had the poisonous arrows of hell aimed at the intimate bond of marriage. He is the great confuser and the ultimate liar. He magnifies people’s weaknesses and fears, using them as wedges in their marriage. Peter described Satan as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. And his desire is to take a big bite out of people’s marriages. Couples need to stay focused on the Lord and pray for their marriage. They need not fear Satan, but they do need to understand his tactics and influence. Becoming active members in a healthy and supportive church family is also a great way to remain strong spiritually.” Dr Tim Clinton, The Quick Reference Guide to Marriage and Family Counseling.
9 Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
10 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.
11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
But how can one keep warm alone?
12 Though one may be overpowered,
two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. from Ecclesiastes 4
That third strand, Christ, will keep you strong in the storms of life. They will come – but you can depend on Him to always be there and always be good.