“Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” Proverbs 16:32 (NLT)
I will probably never send my husband to the store for snacks again.
(Well…not without a list, at least!)
We had plans to hang out with some friends at our house one evening, and I realized that although I had told them we would have snacks, all we had was popcorn. I asked Daniel to grab a few things from the store, assuming he would come home with cookies or chips and dip. Or you know…NORMAL snack food. Our company arrived and I told them Daniel should be home any minute with food.
The front door opened and Daniel walked in…….holding a 10-POUND BOX of frozen spare ribs, and a 12-pack of Coke.
My friend Jessica instantly made eye contact with me and choked back a laugh. As I went from stunned silence to hysterical laughter, Jessica’s husband Cliff slapped Daniel on the back, exclaiming, “That is THE manliest thing I have ever seen!!”
It’s a silly story that we still laugh about, but this is just a small example of a huge lesson you learn in marriage: EVERYTHING comes down to expectations.
For example – hold on, now, because it’s about to get real – before I got married, my expectations about sex were incredibly skewed. I’m willing to bet a lot of you guys can relate. Culture portrays it terribly: either it doesn’t matter at all, or it’s the only thing that matters. Either way, according to our confused world, sex has been heralded as this unbelievably perfect and euphoric experience, and if it’s awkward or weird or not exciting, it’s because you’re with the wrong person and you just need to keep looking for the right one.
If you grew up in church like I did, you probably did True Love Waits or something similar. As the years went by, you heard over and over to save sex for marriage, save sex for marriage, SAVE IT FOR MARRIAGE ALREADY. But they never really told you why to save it for marriage, so you spend your teenage and early-twenties life wondering and waiting. You guard your virginity (which is different from purity, but that’s for another Monday), just KNOWING that God will surely reward you for holding onto it for so long. After all, that’s like the biggest sin you could commit, right?? And you didn’t do it, so OF COURSE God will be so proud of you and give you the best wedding night ever.
But then, you get married and go on a honeymoon, after all those years of wondering and waiting…and you finally realize why you wait.
You wait because it isn’t a perfect euphoric experience.
But when you marry the right person, it’s okay that it isn’t.
It’s okay that it’s awkward and funny, because you know that when you wake up the next morning, they will still be there.
It’s okay that it’s NOTHING like it seems on TV or in movies, because you know that no matter what, they love you and you have plenty of time to figure it out.
It’s okay that it’s not *completely magical*, because you know that they aren’t selfishly using you. They care more about you than they care about themselves.
And it’s okay that you have a powerfully complex bond with that person now, because you know that you made powerfully complex promises to each other at the ceremony. Vows to each other and to the Lord that serve as a steady foundation and can handle the weight of that kind of bond.
(Let me stop for a minute and say something important. If you had sex before getting married, I’m not judging you. Not even a little. Sex outside of marriage may have bigger earthly consequences than other sin, but it doesn’t make you damaged goods. God doesn’t love virgins any more than He loves non-virgins, and He definitely doesn’t think sex is bad. He CREATED it, which means it is good, in the correct context. At the end of the day, all sins, from the tiniest white lie all the way up to things we consider pure evil, equally separate us from God unless Jesus is standing in the gap for us. Without Jesus, there is no hope. I’m so thankful God gave us Jesus, His gracious way of wiping the slate clean and inviting us to be reconciled back to Him.)
Sex is just one example of many, but my point is that expectations affect everything. I had no idea how many expectations I had for Daniel until we got married and started sharing space. But the bigger surprise was that he had expectations for me. We both came in with ideas about what marriage would look like and how we expected the other person to act and think. The problem is that I was frustrated when Daniel didn’t live up to my expectations for him, but I wanted grace from him when I didn’t live up to his expectations for me. It’s an enormous double standard to expect your spouse to bend for you when you won’t bend for them at all.
If you’re married or engaged, talk about your expectations with your spouse or spouse-to-be. How often should the laundry be done? What kinds of things should you buy together and what things are a waste of money? Not everyone has the same opinion or upbringing as you. If you don’t talk about them, at least one of you will spend a good part of your marriage either frustrated or disappointed because something didn’t live up to your expectations. Make sure that your own assumptions – about kids, about the future, about who is ‘supposed’ to take out the trash – are realistic. Sometimes it’s better to let go of too-high expectations and compromise together. And of course, talking to God is the absolute best thing you can do. When we center our marriages around Him, He has this neat way of giving us patience, changing our priorities, and helping us see what’s really important.
This post is part of “Married Monday,” a new series I’ve started in order to expose myths and lies we’ve been told about married life, celebrate moments of joy and growth, chew on hard truths and sprinkle them with grace, and remind others (and myself!) that marriage doesn’t work without Christ in it. I have lots of ideas, but I’d love your input too! What topics would you like to see covered?