How Expectations Are Killing Your Marriage

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So many relationships in your life probably work very nicely and follow what we like to call a manual. A manual is an unspoken set of instructions you have for a relationship. For example, you may have a manual that your boss may tell you what to do and in return he or she pays you a salary. It is a simple transaction that works for both of you. If you have problems with your boss it may be because he or she does not follow your manual. Perhaps your boss asks you to work late too often or does not speak respectfully when your manual states bosses may ask you to work overtime occasionally and always speak respectfully.

 

Fortunately or unfortunately our intimate and family relationships do not work in such a transactional way and so often our loved ones do not live according to our manuals. We often get very upset when they do not follow our manuals which are often an unspoken set of expectations.

 

Here’s an example dealing with a faith transition.

 

Your spouse a member of the church, married you in the temple and spoke fervently and frequently about their love for the gospel. Years later they changed their mind and now have decided to no longer attend church.

 

This is very upsetting to you and one reason is because you have a manual for how your spouse should behave. For example, a spouse always stays true to the church, attends church every week, magnifies his/her calling, teaches the children the doctrine and never entertains doubt. When your spouse was following the manual, great. When your spouse no longer follows this manual, you suffer.

 

You may be thinking, “Yes exactly! Why did they have to go and mess things up? This is clearly their problem.”

 

You are in effect wanting to control your spouse’s thoughts, behavior and choices. Again, you are may be thinking, “Yes, that is exactly what I want!”. But is it really? Do you want to deny them their agency? In Mormon theology even God does not presume to exercise another’s agency. How would you feel if your spouse is trying to control your thoughts, behavior and choices? Stifled? Not trusted? Is that really going to result in a loving, respectful relationship?

 

Here is another example:

 

Your spouse is a believing member of the church and you have decided to no longer attend. You are upset that your spouse does not support your choice and even judges you as unfaithful and dishonest.

 

Your manual for your spouse says a spouse should love and support each other no matter what. A spouse should honor your thoughtful decisions and even be persuaded by them.

 

Like the above example, you are also trying to control your spouse’s thoughts, actions and behavior and like the above example this is not a healthy way to engage in a relationship.

 

Putting situations of abuse aside, are you willing to abandon your manual and love and accept your spouse for who they actually are and as opposed to who you wish they would be?
Recognizing and abandoning manuals can have some of the most profound impacts on healing strained relationships and strengthening healthy relationships.

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Lots of Love,

Brooke and Daniel Booth

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