Most newlyweds view their marriage as an empty canvas. It’s a perfectly clean, white surface where a beautiful portrait of their marriage will appear.
The reality is usually quite different. Each of us enters into marriage with color already splashed across our canvas, colors that reflect a set of expectations we may not even realize we have. The influences on our marriage begin not during the dating phase or at the wedding, but with assumptions about relationships that are formed from childhood.
Those assumptions could be anything from expectations about romance and intimacy to how clean the house will be kept to the number of times each day the two of you will talk on the phone.
The trouble is, these assumptions don’t always reveal themselves in healthy ways, primarily because we are all naturally driven by self-interest. And selfish people don’t miraculously become selfless the moment they say, “I do.”
Many couples don’t realize that they have certain expectations until a need goes unmet, and feelings of hurt and anger crop up. Then, instead of owning their feelings, they blame their spouse for being so rude and uncaring. In turn, the spouse feels attacked because they had no idea there was a line to be crossed. And on it goes.
So how does a couple deal with this problem?
Part of God’s design for marriage is to help us become more Christ-like by putting us together with someone who will smooth our sharp edges. In Ephesians 4:2, the apostle Paul encourages us to bear with one another in love, with patience, humility, and gentleness.
On our Focus on the Family Broadcast “Thriving in the Early Years in Marriage,” marriage experts Bill and Pam Farrel are guiding newlyweds through the marriage learning curve – the first five years together – sharing what causes newlywed conflict and how to smooth out the rough patches.
An important first step is to recognize your expectations. After that, discuss them openly, so you understand each other’s needs. You may discover that some of your assumptions aren’t reasonable and should be adjusted. For everything else, be willing to dialogue, compromise, and agree about how to meet each other’s needs, so you’ll both feel loved and cherished.
While you’re online, why not take a few moments to try our free Marriage Assessment online tool? It will help you quickly determine what’s working well in your relationship and identify areas where you may need some improvement.
I’d also like to extend an invitation for you to become a special partner with us through our monthly “Friends of Focus on the Family” program. When you do, I’ll send you a copy of Bill and Pam’s book called The First Five Years: Make the Love Investment that Lasts a Lifetime as a way of saying thank you for touching others with the love of Christ. You’ll also receive member-exclusive benefits. To make your pledge, or for more information, visit our website or call 1-800-A-FAMILY (232-6459).