What’s reasonable to expect from a husband? Or a wife? I had an interesting discussion recently with two single women. I told them I believe one of the keys to a great marriage is to expect only love.
Well, of course they both expect love. But only love? Shouldn’t we expect fairness? If one cooks, the other cleans up? Unless there are kids at home to care for, both work? If she does the laundry, he mows the lawn — before it’s knee-deep?
Shouldn’t we expect shared activities, shared hobbies, shared visits to the relatives, shared dinnertimes, a shared bedroom?
Shouldn’t we expect date nights? Back rubs? Sex? Flowers? Jewelry? I love yous? Trust?
In my experience, the more expectations we can let go of, the more delightful marriage becomes. But they were skeptical. Is love enough?
I understood the question. After a failed relationship, it’s very hard to imagine there’s any point to marrying just for love.
But in my experience, love’s the thing almost all of us crave. Even folks who enter arranged marriages enter them hoping to fall in love. These days, unlike the past, both men and women can put a roof over their heads, food in their bellies, and money in the bank without a mate, even care for children on their own. But most keep looking for someone to love them.
Then they find someone and throw a heap of other expectations on the pile.
“I want him to love me and put his shoes and coat away.”
“I want her to love me and go camping with me.”
“I want him to love me and tell me so at least twice a day.”
“How can she say she loves me when she doesn’t think I earn enough?”
“Would someone who loves me leave me to clean up after him?”
And that’s the heart of it. All of those expectations are really about assessing whether we’re loved. The more we come up with, the less able we are to receive the love offered to us. It’s not fair you should have fewer chores than you did living alone and love. It’s a blessing. It’s a blessing even if your spouse got more of this particular blessing than you did.
It’s not right you should have a husband to join you for some of your family functions. It’s a blessing. If he chooses to join you for all of them, it’s more of a blessing.
It’s not a given you’ll get love and a partner for dinner. It’s a blessing, a double delight.
You can buy yourself flowers or jewelry. Love is special. It must come from another person. It doesn’t always come with flowers or jewelry, but it’s a blessing with or without
The terrific thing about letting go of all the other expectations we got from watching our parents, our friends, or the movies is that we can then appreciate all these blessings. And, as almost always happens, when we appreciate blessings, lots more come our way.
My own second marriage isn’t anything like I expected. I’ve had to remind myself a few times just how valuable and special love is, when I’m not getting something I always thought should come as a package deal with a husband. But when I remember to pay attention to the love, it comes in ways I never imagined. There’s so much more fun in my life now, so much more playfulness. I’m encouraged to take risks to go after my dreams, and I know it’s OK to try, because there’s someone ready to catch me if I fall. I’m less afraid, because I’m married to someone so brave. And I’m learning new ways of approaching work from this man who treats even programming as a craft.
The more I welcome love the ways he shows it, the more love he shows. Instead of wasting any energy trying to change him to show me love and respect in the ways I expected them, I’m changing. It’s like I’m a plant getting different nutrients, a different quality of light, and I’m growing in ways I never imagined.
It’s not at all what I expected. It’s so much better.
Expect love. Let the rest just happen.