Have you ever been in a rut in your marriage? There isn’t one big issue to pinpoint, but you notice a lingering fog of inadequacy and disappointment in your relationship? No matter how hard you try to be positive, your husband can get under your skin? We have been there, and it is a draining season. By the grace of God, we have learned from mentors, speakers, pastors, and authors wiser than us on this issue. The issue of unmet expectations in your marriage. Expectations that you might not even realize you have but are creating feelings and perceptions of disappointment in your spouse. If this is your season, you are far from alone; we have been there.
This is a difficult post to write. I’ve hesitated to address the subject of marriage for several reasons. The first and foremost being that I would never want to come across as sitting in an ivory tower of my perfect marriage, telling everyone else how to fix their marriages. This picture would be far from the truth. My husband and I are happily married, but like all married couples, we have disagreements and rough patches.
I married my high-school / college sweetheart in June of 2012. He is my best friend, my inspiration, the father of my children, and so many other things. Most importantly, he is who God intended for me to go through life with, as my committed partner.
We have a committed relationship that has seen all different kinds of seasons (light and heavy) and, God-willing, we will see much more. It was about 2 years into our marriage that someone pointed out to me a major source of contention with my husband. Summed up in a word: expectations. Expectations for his speech, actions, values and even his habits. Without giving it much thought, I would have an expectation for how my husband should speak or act in a certain situation. In turn, when he didn’t meet my expectations, I would be disappointed. How dare he not read my mind and comply?! 😉
I’m a muscle-up and make-it-happen kind of person, but this approach did not work for trying to kick the habit of having expectations. Thankfully, someone shared some wisdom in regards to this. The key to this bad habit: grace. Replacing my expectations with grace was a turning point for me.
The Source of Grace
I tend to run head first into things, determined to get the job done. I’m laughing now, thinking of myself approaching grace with this mindset; needless to say, it doesn’t work. I can’t summon and create grace to give. Grace comes first from Christ; He gives it liberally to all who believe in him. Accepting that I am a broken person, in desperate need of God’s grace is one of the best things I can do for my marriage. When I am acutely aware of the grace God has extended to me, it is all too easy to extend it to others.
Something I’ve been guilty of is stuffing my feelings and calling it grace, but it definitely is not. Grace doesn’t allow me to have a victim mentality. Extending God’s grace to my husband doesn’t put him in a position of owing me for being gracious; as funny as that sounds. Extending grace to my husband begins with owning my own need for it.
“Every disciple of Christ (when self-righteously comparing the sin of another to his/her own) should rather be cultivating a sense of “That’s me!,” different in specifics, the same in principle. All are fallen, all are in need of grace, and all have forgiveness in Jesus Christ.” James MacDonald
Partners for Life
At the Family Life weekend getaway conference, they begin by having each couple look at each other and say, “My spouse is not my enemy.” It sounds like a humorous practice, of course, he’s not my enemy, I married him! But when I approach conflict with my spouse, am I coming from a place of beating my agenda into him, or coming together to find the best solution? Do I approach conflict with the mentality that this is my ultimate team-mate?
I like sports metaphors, and it’s such a great opportunity to use one. You’re wearing the same color jersey and you have to do what’s best for the team. Resolving conflict shouldn’t be about what is best for me, or best for him, but what is best for our “team.” When we extend grace to our partner, it’s for the good of our team. It sounds super obvious, but remembering that we are on the same team can quickly change how I approach conflict.
Assume the Best
“If you don’t like someone, the way he holds his spoon will make you furious. If you do like him, he can turn his plate over into your lap and you won’t mind.” – Oscar Wilde
I first read this quote in one of Ruth Soukop’s books and it kind of blew my mind. My preconceived notions about a person will heavily taint the way I view them and their actions. A comment from my husband that might have been meant as a compliment can easily be taken as an insult if I’ve already determined in my head that he has ill intent towards me. Despite his best effort to show me love; I will never feel loved by my husband if I filter his words and actions with the determination that he is against me.
Grace allows us to assume the best in people. Most of the time, when I say something snarky, I’m feeling hurt, fearful or insecure. Extending grace means that instead of taking a sour word personally, I can see that he might be feeling some of those things.
Grace comes first from God and is extended to others through us. It allows us to see our weaknesses in others and empathize. When I can replace expectations for my husband with this mentality, that we are both flawed and saved by the same God, it gives our relationship a deep sigh of relief. He doesn’t have to meet any standards for me to love him and vice versa because we didn’t have to meet any standards to receive the love of Christ.