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Requests vs. Expectations

As you've probably figured out, I write about how to enjoy being married, not how to be a great spouse or how to turn your husband or wife into one.

One of the greatest keys to having a wonderful marriage is to Expect Love and let go of all those other expectations about what it means to be married. When you expect only that you will be loved, and the snow's piled two feet deep in your driveway, you accept that it would be there whether or not you were married, so it has nothing to do with your marriage.

When you don't expect your spouse to shovel the driveway, it's a delight if he or she does. Or it's a delight to sit by your fire drinking hot cocoa while the money your spouse earned helps pay for that nice fellow with the plow. Or it's a delight to be thanked for doing it or paying for it. Or maybe it's even a delight to have the opportunity to delight your spouse.

If you expect your spouse to do any particular thing because you're married, you're disappointed if that doesn't happen and not all that delighted if it does. If you let go of the expectation, there are many more opportunities to be delighted.

But does this mean you'll need to do all the housework and all the yard care and all the child care and all the car maintenance and all the income earning for the two of you? Not usually. And if there is some part of it you don't want to do, I highly recommend asking your mate to do it.

When you make a request, it's easier to show you love, easier to earn your gratitude. What's the difference between a request and an expectation? The difference is that there is no penalty for saying no.

Showing the person you love how much you love them and earning their gratitude is one of the most enjoyable things any of us get to do in life. Watch any couple that has just met. Receiving love is great fun, but being loving is even more gratifying.

If the person who loves you says no to a request, then there is more to doing it than you imagine. Your spouse expects the personal cost to be too high or the reward for doing it to be too low. Nagging or whining won't change either of those. Find another way to get out of doing what you don't want to do and wait to be surprised with some other form of loving you.

I won't pretend this is easy. It's hard to get up and go to work while you're spouse is unemployed or sleeping late. It's hard to come home from work and realize your children really need all that children need. It's hard to finish repairing the broken bathroom light, mowing the lawn, organizing a bake sale, and still need to cook dinner. But these things need to get done whether you're loved or not. When you see an out (if only my spouse did these, if only I got rich quick on the internet, if only my fairy godmother would get some mice and dancing teapots to do them...), it just adds resentment to duty.

And no one can delight you while you're busy nursing resentment.


true for us single folks too - not expecting, but asking. When we own our needs and take care of them without assumptions, expectations or demands, life is always easier! And I certainly love it when anyone does the unexpected for me!

Me, too, Becky!

"Your spouse expects the personal cost to be too high or the reward for doing it to be too low." Very succinctly put. That's one of the main reasons any of us don't want to do certain things. Sometimes it might be worthwhile to look into how you can make doing whatever it is less costly and/or more rewarding for your spouse - or for yourself.

Thanks, Rosemary.

I've been rereading this post, and I'm am especially struck by this phrase: " I write about how to enjoy being married, not how to be a great spouse or how to turn your husband or wife into one." It seems to me that nearly all marriage improvement advice is based on the idea that the only way to have a happy marriage is to be good at it. Maybe that is why it can seem so overwhelming and why people so often just give up. They work and work at it and reach a point where they don't feel capable of getting any better than they already are. And they see that their spouse is not likely to improve very much. But maybe if we stopped believing that we have to be good at it, and just allowed ourselves to have fun, that would be enough. Small children have mastered the art of having great fun doing things for which they have absolutely no skill. A baby who can barely walk will laugh uproariously trying to dance, and everyone in the room has a great time, too. Wouldn't it be fabulous if we could all approach life that same way?

So true, Rosemary! And we don't even need dancing babies to convince us we're just fine as we are. All of us fall in love and instinctively do so many things that work to pull us closer together, to communicate things that really matter, to accept love in its many forms.

All that ever changed in most marriages was that we buried our natural talents under a pile of resentments and frustrations--our own resentments, created from our own expectations, nurtured with our own stories of what we deserve or need. And so we began seeking justice instead of the love we so badly need, and we convince ourselves we ought to start over with someone new who won't frustrate us or fail to do as we expect.

Clear out our resentments, and love is easy again.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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