Reflecting on my first year of marriage, I began to think about how different the reality of marriage is compared to what I expected of it. The world showed me a picture of happily ever after, the likes of a romance novel or romantic comedy, with marriage being the fairytale ending. The Word, however, paints a quite different picture of marriage. One that involves trust, respect, intention, and work. Yes, I said it, work. Love, according to the world, is something that we feel. Love, according to the Word, is something that is an action. The world might tell us marriage is the happy ending, but scripture tells us it is simply the beginning of a lifetime of serving one another as husband and wife.
Before marriage, I did take the time to study what God says about marriage and do my best to prepare to be a wife who honors Him and my husband. I also must admit that I have read every Nicholas Sparks romance novel that has ever been written. The man who stands out in the pouring rain to prove his love may very well exist, but that is not my husband. I don’t know why this was ever an expectation that I had, but I thought after marriage my husband would suddenly become a hopeless romantic. I expected random flowers brought home to me, greater gestures of affection, and intimacy like you see in the movies. This was not who my husband was before marriage, so why did I expect his personality to change? Not to mention, my expectations came from the world, not the Word. I absolutely set myself, and him, up for failure.
My husband has always shown affection through words and acts of service. Gifts, like bringing flowers home, is not his style. He will offer to do the dishes after I cook or tell me how much he appreciates me, both ways to show his love that are no less affectionate than flowers. How many times has your husband shown you love in the way he best knows how, and instead of appreciating it, you’ve simply daydreamed about those “other” ways he could have done it? Me, too. How many times have you compared your marriage to someone else’s, expecting the same from your own? Me, too.
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2
We can easily set ourselves up for failure if we assess our marriage based on worldly expectations. The world wants you to be independent, outspoken, opinionated, heard, and free. The Word reminds us that we are meant to “become one” in marriage, gentle, understanding, listen, and serve. We might be chasing that “happily ever after” feeling, but what we should be chasing is joy. Joy that can only come from God being the center of our marriages and lives. The world gives us cultural roles in marriage and tells us that if it doesn’t work to give up. The Word gives us Godly roles to live up to and holds us to a standard that love never gives up. The world tells us “love if”, but the Word tells us “love because”.
“It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:7-8.
God wants me to love my husband because I committed to that by marrying him. I made a covenant. I am certain I don’t live up to every expectation my husband had of his wife, but Lord knows he loves me anyway. God does not tell me to love my husband if he does what I want, how I want it. I love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19), because God taught me to love unconditionally in the way He loves me. But unconditional love is not a feeling, it is an intentional action. It is a choice. If I place expectations on my husband and marriage, and those expectations aren’t met, the world tells me to withhold my love. God tells me, love him anyway. We might not meet each other’s every need, but that has never been what God has asked of us. He asks us to love each other even when our needs are not met. That should be my only expectation in marriage, that we love each other the way God commands.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8
So, if you’re feeling like your marriage doesn’t quite measure up to what you had hoped it would be, I’ve been there. It might be time to ask yourself what your expectations were and if they were ever realistic in the first place? Maybe they were, maybe they weren’t. Did you marry your husband expecting him to change who he is? Did you expect the romance and intimacy to be what the movies show? Did you expect your every need to be met in the exact way you wanted? Did you expect a fairy tale but got reality TV? I know I am guilty of some of those. But the space between my expectations and reality is where God has done some of His greatest work in my marriage.
Reality will never meet those kinds of worldly expectations. The only expectation that will ever be met by reality is that God will always love us and provide for us perfectly, even when our husbands do not. It is not our job to change our husbands or to set impossible standards for our marriages. It is our job to love our husbands, no matter what season our marriage is in or what expectations go unmet. God expects that of us, but it takes intention to make that our reality. It’s time as wives we choose to intentionally let go of our expectations and find joy in our realities. This one small change in perspective has given me so much joy in my marriage. I know it can do the same for you.
“If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:10-12.