In marriage, there is often a gap between expectations and reality. This week, in part 2 of "The Unexpected Realities in Marriage", we talk about some things that you can do to overcome these breakdowns and improve the quality of your relationship. We would love to hear from you on this topic. Leave us a comment below or send us a private message. Let's get started:
Wife: Will you wash the dishes?
Husband: I mowed the lawn and washed the cars today...
Wife: Honey, I can't cook, do the laundry, take care of the kids, do all the shopping, and everything else around here! I need some help!
Husband: I do help out around here. I work hard every day to provide for our family.
Wife: I didn't say that you don't "provide for our family". I said I need help around the home. I work too you know.
Husband: I fixed the broken sink the other day. I do help around here. You act like I don't do anything.
Wife: Oh I know you do stuff around here. You watch a lot of TV, leave your laundry on the floor, leave your dishes on the table, and...
And there we go, the fight just launched into orbit. Does this conversation sound familiar to you? If you have been married more than a week, then you have most likely experienced this type of conversation or something similar. Each one of us has an expectation of how the relationship and shared responsibility is supposed to go. However, we generally do not take the time to relay those expectations, in such a way, that our spouse can produce that reality. Heck, we cannot even tell if that reality is within our spouse's ability to create. Heather calls this the "Reality Clash".
There are times that I (Tim) am cruising through life all fat, dumb, and happy when I notice that Heather is somewhat distanced and quiet. I press in to figure out what she is upset about and, after a few "I'm fine" or "don't worry about it" statements, she will say "reality clash". At that moment, I know exactly what's going on. I have missed something that was important to her. I have missed her expectation and created an unpleasant reality for both of us. Don't get me wrong, this works in both directions. We have been married more than 26 years and there are times that we still let the reality violate the expectation. So, what is the solution? Here are a couple of thoughts on overcoming this dilemma and keeping the expectations in check so that the reality can be peaceful.
Perhaps the most effective tool you can put into your relationship toolbox is good communication skills.
This was a foundation stone in our relationship. Throughout every struggle that we have found ourselves to be engaged in, we can talk our way through it and get back to living our lives. Our brief but successful dating relationship that lasted a mere 6 months from our first date to the altar of marriage was filled with great conversation. Somehow, we lost this ability in the first 7 years of marriage. Then, through a conversation, we made this connection again. We love talking to each other! Since then, we have found great solstice in communication and problem solving.
There is a very good reason that you fell in love with your spouse. Sometimes, we lose sight of that reason and it becomes very difficult to find a reason to stay the course. Sometimes you have to hit the pause button and reconnect with the reason that you committed to spending your lives together. No married couple can deny that there was a time that they were connected on some level of commitment. You need to find that connection point and focus on it. Make it a primary point of your relationship.
Never allow your words to degrade into hurtful rants that you will regret later.
Maintain enough self-control to ensure that you never lose sight of respect for each other. It is okay to disagree and you will argue from time to time. Learn how to do these things in love. Compromise is not always win-win. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles and surrender other times. Trusting your mate and putting those times in God's hands for guidance. Some battles are worth winning, other things are menial and not worthy of fighting over. Choose wisely but never lose respect.
Whatever you do, do it with the compassion and love of Christ.
We love our spouse and, therefore, our hearts should seek to be compassionate when we are challenged. The truth of the matter is that we, as a couple, are rarely on the same page throughout life. Typically, one in the relationship will move beyond the other on a certain subject matter. In our relationship, Heather is a genius when it comes to our finances. She is an accounting/finance major. It isn't that I don't understand accounting and finances; it is that I don't care about that level of detail in the same way that she does. It is in my best interest to surrender to her authority on all things related to finances. I have not put in the time and effort to override her expertise. Also, she has never given me any reason to believe that my thoughts on the matter are greater than hers.
It reciprocates, there are other important areas of life that I am the expert and she willfully surrenders to my expertise on those matters. We balance each other. We recognize our own areas of weakness and allow the other to excel in their own gifts. We do not judge the others weakness but work through it with compassion, respect, and good communication.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
1 Corintians 13:13 NIV
No matter what challenge you are faced with in your relationship, you should always reflect in the mirror and ensure that you remain focused with love in your heart. It is when we derail to something outside of love that we enter the destructive zone. Check your motives before you respond to your spouse. A momentary personal reflection on your motivation could save you from saying things that you will regret tomorrow. Love is the greatest tool to have in your relationship toolbox. If you do not have love, your relationship will not survive.
In summary, ensure that you are communicating in such a way that you remain respectful of your mate. Have compassion on the weakness in your partner and recognize that you may have strengths that they do not possess. You are not intended to complete each other but to balance and complement each other. But most of all, ensure that you heart is filled with love in all that you do. You are Life Travelers together.
If you missed part 1 in this series, you can find it here: The Unexpected Realities in Marriage: Part 1