4 Rules for Expectations — Awesome Marriage — Marriage, Relationships, and Premarital Counseling with Dr. Kim Kimberling

Expectations are a funny thing. I expected a lot of things to happen in marriage, but I never expected to get in a full-fledged fight with my brand-new husband over where to position the couch. 

How I wish I’d known the 4 rules then! 

When we were engaged, I always thought that Brian’s house, which he shared with three roommates, would look so much better with my decor help. In his bachelor bedroom, he had nothing but a desk and a bed covered in a white duvet insert (no cover), and white walls on which not a single picture hung. It was beyond minimalist. This was clearly a man with zero interest in sprucing up his surroundings. 

I knew then that I’d be taking the reins on decorating when we set up our newlywed apartment. 

I had a more boho-chic sensibility. I’d taken the liberty of painting my rented room in the most soothing shade of spa-like green. I’d hung pictures and curtains and placed lamps to give off the right amount of warm lighting. I loved carefully curating the space to reflect my aesthetic.

We were so excited to create a cozy and inviting space together in our tiny newlywed apartment. We pooled the sparse array of furniture we each owned. As we started setting up the living room, I was shocked – shocked! – to learn that Brian not only had an opinion on where to place furniture, but a strong opinion. Suddenly this man had become an expert in design and feng shui. To top it off, he had the nerve to criticize the beloved hand-me-down orange velvet sofa I’d contributed to our new home. 

I had expected him not to care about how our home looked and that I’d feather our little nest how I saw fit. I expected that he’d be a willing set of muscles to help accomplish my design dreams and that he’d ooh and aah over my decor decisions. Not only did none of those things happen, but in fact, he became a roadblock to my home design plans. 

The now-infamous “Couch Fight” caught us both completely off guard; a wake up call to both of us about how damaging unclear and unmet expectations can be in a marriage. 

Unmet and unclear expectations are a very common pitfall that can do major damage in your marriage. Expectations – and the miscommunication and misunderstanding surrounding them – are a main source of most conflict in most marriages. 

Do you know what makes expectations fair? There are four rules to keep when it comes to expectations, and following these four rules will save you from untold amounts of conflict, pain and disappointment.   

HEALTHY expectations are: 

  • Conscious

  • Realistic

  • Spoken

  • And agreed on. 

Healthy expectations are ALL 4 of those things. So these are great rules for your expectations in marriage. 

Learning this was SO eye opening for me. I wondered why no one had ever taught me this before, and wished someone had. Think of all the arguments that could have been avoided! 

In the “Couch Fight,” I’d derailed at Rule #2. My expectation was conscious, but not realistic, spoken, OR agreed upon. It was not realistic to think my new husband would have no opinions about how our new home was set up, and I certainly hadn’t communicated it to him to find out. 

How about you? Did you know these 4 rules? Do you follow them? If you have any unspoken expectations, get them on the table. Ask your spouse to weigh in on whether they are realistic, then agree on what works for you both. 

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