Give Grace: The Reality of Unrealistic Expectations

Guest post by Katie M. Reid

Jen told me the other day, “Valentine’s Day is the holiday of unrealistic expectations.” Ain’t that the truth?

Do you have secret hopes that your husband will show up with two dozen long stem roses, luscious hand-dipped strawberries in silky chocolate, and a handwritten card that expresses his sincerest appreciation and deepest attraction for you?

Movies, ads, and that one guy on Facebook (who actually does this kind of stuff for his wife) have set the bar so high that we end up disappointed when February 14th doesn’t deliver a fairy tale.

I’ve always been one to have high expectations of myself and others. The ugly truth is that I expect darn near perfection and when I don’t give it or get it, I’m frustrated.

When I got married, I brought starry eyes and sky-high ideals into our relationship. As a Christian couple, I expected that we’d get up in the morning, do a devotional together and pray, while holding hands. P.S. I expected my husband to lead this spiritual ritual.

I also expected that he would do X, Y, and Z because isn’t that what marital bliss is all about (having my needs and wants met by a dashing man for the rest of my life)?

As you can see, I needed a reality check.

A demanding spirit doesn’t motivate most people nor is it fun to be around.

I was baffled that my husband couldn’t read my mind, especially when it came to the gift giving department. We were in sync about many things, so I was surprised when he didn’t automatically know my hopes surrounding Valentine’s Day, birthdays, date nights, etc. 

Over the past fifteen years, Adam and I have learned how to communicate better, rather than assume what the other person is thinking, needing or wanting.

It might see unromantic, but instead of silently hoping my husband buys me flowers, I might suggest, “Hey Honey, I’d love flowers sometime this week.” Adam appreciates this, because although he loves me, he isn’t always thinking about flowers. When he knows the expectation, a lot of times he can easily meet it.

It goes both ways. If Adam is in the mood for some lovin’, I appreciate it when he lets me know, because although I love him, I’m not always thinking about sex. :-) 

It is difficult to meet an expectation that has not been expressed. In the same breath, it is hard to express expectations when you aren’t sure how they will be perceived or received.

Giving grace is a key ingredient to a healthy marriage.

Here are 5 life-giving reality checks to help produce reasonable expectations in your marriage:

1.     Your spouse is not Jesus. They are not perfect nor are they able to meet all your needs and wants.

2.     Don’t assume your spouse knows what you expect. Be vulnerable and communicate what your hopes and desires are. Listen to your spouse’s hopes and desires as well.  

3.     Ask if it’s reasonable for an expectation to be met and, if so, when it might be met.

4.     Extend grace when an expectation isn’t met. Believe the best about each other.

5.     Realize that you come from a family culture that differs from that of your spouse. Decide together what your own family culture will look like.

Here are 5 questions to ask in order to get a better handle on each other’s desires:

1.     What would your ideal Valentine’s date look like?

2.     What is one thing I could do this week to relieve some of your stress?

3.     Is there an expectation I have that is unreasonable?

4.     Is there something that I told you I would do that I have not yet done?

5.     What is one of your favorite things that we do together? Then schedule a time within the month to do that thing. :-)

Dear God:

Thank You for the gift of marriage and of one other. Thank You also for the extravagant gift of grace that is freely available to us because of Christ’s costly sacrifice (John 3:16). Help us to receive and extend grace to ourselves and each other.

Would You help us to be kind, honest, and gentle as we communicate expectations to one another? Help us to have the courage to be vulnerable and the wisdom to be responsive as we talk about areas of hurt and the need for improvement.

Show us simple yet special ways that we can celebrate our spouse. Help us not to hold back when it comes to encouraging, complimenting, and showing appreciation to our spouse.

Thank You God that You love us perfectly and You don’t let us down.

In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Katie M. Reid and her husband, Adam, host the quirky and fun, "Stop! Hammock Time" videos each week on Facebook Live as they encourage couples to connect, grow, and laugh together. They have five children and delight in their full and crazy life in the middle of Michigan. Asking other couples awkwardly hard questions is one of their favorite things. Adam is a youth pastor and Katie is a writer and speaker. Connect with Katie at and on Facebook and Twitter.



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