La La How The Life Goes On

Not-Great Expectations

Posted on: March 17, 2016

That’s an article via NPR that asks, “If you set high expectations for your marriage, is it doomed?” It says, “Expecting a lot can make a marriage more satisfying, the study finds, but if people can’t meet those expectations — whether for lack of time, effort or social skills — the relationship will suffer. The study examines the premise that modern-day couples load too many expectations onto the institution of marriage — that it will meet their needs for intimacy, autonomy and friendship, to name just a few.”

I think we can all learn a little something from this study, whether we are newlyweds just back from Jamaica or old fogies coming up on a golden anniversary.What IS the secret to a happy marriage anyway? This study says it is a match between expectations and reality, even with a negative correlation. So even if your expectations for happiness were low, couples who met those low expectations stayed marginally-happily married.

I have found that one key to staying happily hitched is releasing your partner from the responsibility of being your Everything. Facebook is littered with memes about “I married my best friend” and “My husband is my world” and they always make me cringe a little. It sounds all very romantic, but it’s really actually kind of insane. What an awful burden to place on another human; to be your Everything. Can you imagine having to be the Funniest, Cutest, Hippest, Kindest, Coolest, Best Looking person your wife or husband has ever known? Every damn day? For decades? That’s not love; that’s unbearable, unrealistic  pressure borne of neediness. NO THANK YOU.

News flash: The funniest guy I know is not my husband. The hippest guy I know is not my husband. The coolest girl my husband knows is not me. It’s all good. That’s why God created friends. So your life partner doesn’t have to meet all these ridiculous expectations of being The Best, Most, Greatest At Everything to your spec. If my husband had to meet my every single emotional, social and psychological need he’d have little time for anything else except fighting about how he was falling short. This is why couples need to have and keep friends as a couple and as individuals. It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking you only need each other. But we were individual people before we were a couple. We had friends of the opposite gender before we were a couple. We continue to have those relationships for a reason: because we need them.

We have married friends who take separate trips because they have such divergent interests. Some people raise an eyebrow at it, wondering why they don’t find a way to do things like that together. Well, maybe because doing what they love with others who also love it allows them to return to their home happy and renewed as a wife or husband. Should my husband ever decide to go white water rafting, he will be going without me. Skiing the matterhorn? Without me. Snorkeling? Without me. Listening to jazz for hours on end? Without me.  Should I decide to go shopping in Milan, you can bet the farm that my husband will be AWOL. Making a pilgrimage to the ABBA museum? AWOL. Stalking Duran Duran on a world tour? AWOL. It will indicate nothing about our marriage beyond the fact that we are secure enough to allow the other person the space to have their own interests. My happiness does not depend on my husband liking everything I like. His happiness does not depend on me traipsing along to every event he enjoys but that makes me want to stab myself in the eye. That is a preschool notion of relationships, and every marriage should strive to, at minimum, exceed toddler expectations.

So what does keep us together in the end? He’s my person. The guy I was meant to be with. The guy I want to spend every single day with. And he doesn’t have to be The Funniest, The Smartest, The Coolest, The Everythingest for that to be true. He just has to be who he is.

Although I wouldn’t say no to a little less jazz.





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