Keely is 30 and has been married for about 6 months. Last time we talked, she was expressing dissatisfaction with man she’d married. They had disagreements over political issues that were influencing where they shopped, where he worked, and what TV shows they watched. She was wondering if she should’ve gotten married at all.
“Why did you marry him?” I asked her, and there was a long silence. Finally, “Because I was in love with him?” she replied, and it came out as a question. “I guess I never thought about that,” she added.
Because I coach people, I hear many different reasons why people marry people they do, but it often comes out in terms of unmet expectations. When we aren’t clear about what we want out of marriage, regardless of person involved, and don’t check things our beforehand, it can lead to heartbreak.
What we expect from marriage is deeply ingrained is us, from our families of origin, and from our culture. You may come from a background that assumes man will be provider, and woman will take care of house, and both spouses will take an active part in child-rearing -- not just wiping noses, but training, values and character development. If you marry someone whose expectations are same, things will go fairly smoothly.
But what if you’re a man with above expectations, who marries a woman who comes from a family where women all had active and successful careers, and also took major responsibility for upbringing of children, wanting only for man to provide his portion of their upkeep, but to stay out of training?
There are many expectations we have about marriage, and we might as well call them emotional needs, because if they aren’t met we aren’t going to be very happy. It can destroy love we initially had for person. The better you can define these assumed needs to yourself, and to person you’re considering marrying, better chances of finding someone who feels same way.
Vocabulary is very important here. I hear many men, for instance, saying they want “companionship.” Fred said that in his second wife he wanted “companionship,” and he fell in love with Lisa. Lisa wanted companionship too. The trouble arose when it turned out companionship meant to Lisa someone to talk to, share ideas, feelings and thoughts with, and relate closely intellectually and emotionally, with lots of open conversation, and to Fred, it meant recreational companionship. He wanted someone to sail, bike ride and play tennis with him, and without a lot of talking. Lisa and Fred both wanted someone they could hang out with, but nature of that hanging out was very different, and, ultimately unbridgeable.
In meantime, there can be those stalemate fights that turn into imbroglios, where man yells at woman, “But I want companionship (play golf with me)” and woman yells back, “But I’m giving you companionship. (I love to talk to you)” Or she says, “I wanted you to help raise children” (teach them) and he replies, “Well I earn all money, don’t I?”
Some of things we expect from a marriage include: recreational companionship, intellectual companionship, physical affection, verbal affection, esteem, admiration, respect, financial support, domestic support, intense emotional relating (which is also called “companionship”), sexual fulfillment, working toward idealistic goals (such as political activism), fidelity, one who prefers to lead or to be led, good looks, athletic ability, a genetic parent for your children, and so forth. Define as well how you want these manifested. Admiration can be silent or vocalized. Affection can be physical or verbal.