I was interested in Laura’s last post since she is saying what I say to most of the couples I prepare for marriage: Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.
“What’s that?” You say. Well, think about it. Have you every been told by a friend that a certain movie is the best thing they have ever seen and that you have not truly lived until you see it? They built the movie up into a life changing event. And then you go and see the movie and it’s OK, you like it, but there is a certain disappointment when it doesn’t live up to all your expectations. Part of the problem was the sky-high expectations. Had you gone to the movie without them you might have enjoyed the movie more! At least it wouldn’t have had to live up to the “better than the second-coming” expectations.
This is often what happens with marriage. Despite all our cynicism about so many things today, many people still have powerful notions of the perfect marriage, the perfect mate, the “happily ever after” scenario. When marriage fails to live up to these sky-high expectations, there is disappointment and resentment. This is what I mean by the expression “Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.”
What if marriage was a more normal thing? Rather than being an epic drama or romance, what if it was a normal way of living in a less than perfect world? What marriage had ups and downs like everything else in life? What if spouses didn’t have to be perfect but could be like everyone else, having good points and things we wish were different? What if our expectations of marriage were more down to earth and accepting of the human condition?
Sadly though, many people want their marriage to be an ideal, and if there’s any ordeal, they want a new deal!
Almost every couple I have ever talked to who had what I’d call a “good marriage” admit that there are difficulties and challenges in their marriage. Most speak of difficult periods in their marriage, times of transition and adjustments, times of financial difficulties, struggles related to the kids and so forth. Yet also there were great blessings, shared love, support, encouragement. The secret seems to have been that they were willing to take the bad with the good and accept that marriage is good but not perfect. At some point the perfect can become the enemy of the good. That is, the insistence on the perfect blinds one towhat is good and adequate.
A few thoughts to conclude:
- Be careful who you marry. But sure that you share fundamental values and faith. Being “in love” isn’t usually enough. We all have certain “non-negotiables” and we need to honest with ourselves about what they are.
- But don’t wait for the perfect spouse to come along, as Laura said in her post. Our insistence upon the perfect candidate will leave us frustrated, resentful and alone. Somewhere we have to accept the fact that we going to marry a sinner, and that we ourselves are also sinners.
- Once you are married, ask God for the grace to continue to see the good things in your spouse. Thank God every day for your spouse and express that gratitude to your spouse.
- When you experience the imperfection of your marriage say this before you say anything else, “My marriage is not perfect because I am in it.” Begin with your own “stuff” and realize that you aren’t always easy to live with either.
- Realize that even difficult things in a marriage are often times “gifts in strange packages.” Spouses do not only bless each other with the good things, but even the bad things can help us grow in holiness. Spouses give each other plenty of opportunities to learn to forgive, be patient, be kind, be understanding, be slow to anger, be merciful. Last time I checked these are basic virtues we must grow in if we ever hope to enter heaven.
- Get over the fairytale stuff and live in the real world. You married a sinner and you are a sinner. Unrealistic expectations are premeditated resentments.
- Baby steps. Organic growth. Your marriage can and will get better and better if both of you cooperate with God. But grace builds on nature and it is our human nature to change slowly, almost imperceptibly. Forgive, be patient, keep praying, keep loving, and did I say forgive? Yes I think I did say that.
Here’s a video of a couple who have fallen out of love, are resentful and know each other’s bad habits a little too well. They both want a better spouse, a perfect spouse. You might say they have unrealistic expectations. Once upon a time they were in love but the “I Do” became “You’d Better!” and they grew apart. Can this marriage be saved? Buy the movie FIREPROOF and see.