My Expectation-Free Marriage

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a group of women about expectations in marriage. Some were married, a few were engaged, but most were single.

I had to admit to them that I had very few expectations when I got married. I had never been the girl who dreamed about being a wife or having a husband. I knew what marriage looked like when I was growing up and was certain I wanted no part.

So, I imagine that when it came time for me to say “I do,” I had been so set free by God from my former ideas about matrimony that I was essentially a clean slate. Can you imagine? A bride with no expectations?

Well, it should go without saying that being an expectation-free wife had a huge impact on my marriage and not in the way you might think.

I knew I had married a good man, but I could never have known how good until I was forced to spend every waking minute with him. Marriage suddenly strips away distance, time, and a fair amount of infatuation.

Whereas I once saw Jonathan through the filter of dating, which only allows us to view a person through snippets and carved out chunks of time, now I was living alongside of him day-in and day-out. Nothing allows you to see a person for who they really are…or are not, like marriage can.

Picture me as a brand new bride, in love and bursting with the promises of a new life together completely expectation-less. And let me tell ya, it was awesome.

My lack of expectations allowed me to enjoy my husband (and thus my marriage) for who he is and not who I think he should have been. I didn’t wake each morning grumbling under my breath because he didn’t wash the dishes the night before or make me breakfast in bed (I mean, I know there are some women who daydream about eggs Benedict in bed).

Instead, I awoke each morning filled with gratitude for the man that I had right in front of me–imperfect and yet perfect for me. Expectation-free. Able to enjoy and give thanks, appreciate and just be.

And this is what I shared with the group of women I speaking to–how letting go of expectations allows room for another, critical and vital attitude to take shape, gratitude.

When our expectations, however small, are not met, we will inevitably feel disappointed. But, when we surrender those expectations, we are automatically in a place to give thanks instead. Gratitude has room to grow when expectations are put aside.

Because if I expected my husband to call me every afternoon, write me love notes, wine and dine me well then, I’d be less apt to feel thankful for when he did. If I expected nothing less than for him to love me then I’d pretty much always be satisfied.

Whereas I once saw the institution of marriage as a sham, a piece of paper that hold no significance. Now, I was watching the love God has for me lived out wach day by my husband–Jonathan, my proof of God’s love.

And it was in true I’m-going-to-change-your-mind-fashion, God showed me the picture of His love for the Bride, represented when two people say they will sacrificially love one another forever. And I’m thankful that I entered into with no expectations, making room for the Holy Spirit to bring me to a place of thankfulness–where the little things matter almost more than the big.

Did you get married with expectations? Are you single, yet still hold a few expectations about marriage? In what area of life, has God most had to adjust your expectations?

18 thoughts on “My Expectation-Free Marriage”

  1. That actually was what I was expecting you to say! I’m single so haven’t learned this in the context of marriage, but I have learned to adjust my expectations of friends.

    Sometimes I feel like people should act a certain way (ex: following through with what they say) and I get disappointed when they don’t. I’ve learned that I can’t change anyone; I can only change my own attitude. Sure, it would be nice if they let me know ahead of time that they couldn’t make something, but if I let myself get too disappointed then I don’t see the person’s other good points.
    Basically I need to appreciate people for who they are, not who I want them to be.

  2. Nicole,

    What a great article. As I read this piece, all I could think about is how applicable to church life this is as well. I have heard it said that being built together with believers in a New Testament community is like marriage, only magnified a thousand times. When we drop our expectations (wish dreams) then we can truly see and appreciate the gift that has been given to us.

    1. Jamal,
      You are so right! I have written about wish dreams before and the same idea applies here. Expectation-free living allows more room for the Holy Spirit to invade our desires. Such a great comparison, thank you for sharing.

  3. I entered my marriage with tons of expectations. Once I gave them up and asked for what I wanted instead of expected specific behaviors, marriage got so much better. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing this truth! I completely agree. I feel so blessed in my marriage because we entered into it without expectations. We try to plan for the same thing in having children. I hope that is possible!

  5. My husband and I started dating my junior year of college and his first year of graduate school. This really gave me the opportunity to give up many of my expectations. My then boyfriend didn’t have extra time, so I learned to be thankful for the time he did make for us. Our actions during dating look pretty similar to our now married actions. Makes it easier on the expectations.

  6. Wonderful!

    The only expectation that I have is that he love God above anything else. Having had a father that was not Christian definitely impacted me. No to an unequal yoke!


  7. Good column, Nicole. My wife always loved me, but she finally began appreciating me after 27 years of marriage. What a difference it has made in both our lives.

  8. “Expectation is the root of all heartache.” Shakespeare, or somebody.

    Anyways when we “live with” expectations we are doomed for heartache.

    Married with someone is entirely different, we walk along side of ‘one another’ treasure ‘one another’, and see the love of God expressed in our mate.

    Your post has got me thinking about the value of expectation -free living. Could this be what Jesus intended all along?

    “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

    1. So be it. I’d rather have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. I know cliche but expectations in marriage are necessary and healthy for you, your spouse and your marriage.

  9. I expect the man I’m dating to be almost like the man I married. Everyone puts their best foot forward in the beginning.

    1. Monica,
      I’m not an expert by any means, but I think the one thing we can expect from marriage is change. Spouses rarely keep doing what they did when courting, and even if they do, the way we see it changes over time. That’s been my observation, anyway. But fortunately if we change together, we can still find plenty of reasons to “keep” each other.

  10. I disagree with this post. You HAVE to have expectationa of your spouse. I expect my spouse to be a spouse. To be parent to our children. To be my co creator of love in marriage. Niw there are healthy and unhealthy expectations. Healthy. I expect my spouse to be faithful, present, and available to our marriage and family. I expect, call me traditional, this typically through being sexually available, recreationally engaged with me, physically fit and attractive, domestic support and I expect her to be my greatest fan. Now I don’t expect perfection but I do expect her best effort most of the time. If she was a derelict mom and homekeeper, if she completely refused sex though able, if she constantly attacked me with verbal jabs or never did anything fun together of she become a slob and never tried to stay beautiful woman physically it puts a strain on the marriage. I don’t expect heidi klum the porn star who is super mom and homemaker. That’s an unhealthy expectation. But to give your best effort most of the time. To be 100% committed to our marriage, our family and to God. That’s a healthy expectation and I hope she has expectations of me, healthy one. Its through healthy expectations that growth in marriage occurs. Without expectations how would we know how and what to give to someone so close to us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *