Growing up, it was Bob’s job to set the table. He was required to put a fork, knife, spoon, and glass at each person’s place at the table. My family set only the utensils we anticipated using. When we got married, Bob expected a full place setting at every meal. I resisted this frivolous waste of energy. I had some expectations too. I expected a husband who would work from 9 to 5. And, if he was going to be late, he should TELL ME he would be late. Making the bed was another issue. What is the correct number of inches the top edge of the sheet should be from the head of the bed? Another way of asking this question is: How much sheet gets tucked under the mattress at the bottom to ensure it won’t come untucked? It’s amazing how little it takes to throw a kink into a relationship.
Some expectations go deeper. Not having grown up with much personal space or respect for my belongings, I tend to mark off and protect my territory and woe be to the husband who encroaches on it. For example, there is one chair in our bedroom. MY chair. Bob better not drape his pjs over MY chair. Does that seem a bit selfish to you? It is selfish and I’m not justifying the behavior—only observing that some of our more irrational attitudes may be deep-seated.
We also have expectations that arise from our differences in gender or personality. When you think about having a romantic evening, what comes to mind? Let’s just say one spouse may be focused on how fast both of you can get naked while the other spouse (Let’s call her “the wife.”) may expect to be “romanced.”
We’ve given you several examples. What expectations did you bring to marriage? And while expectations are normal, there’s a more troubling issue. You enter marriage assuming things will be done a certain way and SURPRISE! They’re not. The problem comes when one party or the other or both begin claiming those expectations as rights. And when our rights get violated, we get angry. We defend, blame, or hold the anger in. Therein lies the problem. We enter in trying to achieve “what’s best for me” when what God wants us to aim for is a modicum of humility—being Christ-like—giving others preference.
James 4:1-3 tells us: “What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.” Perhaps one of the secrets of an extraordinary marriage is the realization that you must change.
Other than purposing to be humbler, how do you get past the feeling that your mate is taking advantage of you? That will be the subject of next week’s blog post.
In case you’re wondering how we resolved the issue of which utensils get set for a meal: I often get extravagant and set more utensils than what I believe will be required—and Bob volunteers to set the table a lot. 😊