One of the most significant sources of stress in marriage is tied to expectations. When expectations are unclear, unhealthy, unspoken or unmet, one or both spouses can start to feel neglected, inadequate and/or frustrated with the marriage. I’m convinced many (if not most) divorces come back to expectations.
When a man and woman first start out together in marriage, both of them are carrying unspoken expectations. They each have a vision of what the home life will be. They have separate ideas of what their sex life will be. They have different dreams for what their future family will be. They also have different expectations for what the each of their responsibilities should be.
These different expectations are rarely communicated out loud because most newlyweds naively believe that they are so in sync with their spouse that the unspoken expectations are exactly the same. This is never the case. Two different individuals with two different personalities coming from two different family backgrounds will ALWAYS have some different expectations.
Different expectations aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Like most aspects of marriage, this is just another opportunity to communicate and serve each other’s needs. It’s not a matter of one spouse having the “right” perspective and the other being “wrong.” It’s about both spouses willingly laying down their own preferences for the sake of serving each other and demonstrating love to each other.
Marriages get in trouble when expectations become a kind of “scorecard” where both spouses grade each other based on how the other spouse is measuring up to the expectations. There can also be conflicts when a spouse communicates his or her expectations, but the expectations are unfair or comparative in nature. Hurtful comments like:
“My dad could always fix stuff around the house, why can’t you?”
“The neighbor’s wife sure is in good shape. You should work out more like her.”
“The neighbor’s husband just took his wife to Europe. If you’d just work harder, you could afford to take me there.”
These kinds of comments and millions of others like them can create hurt feelings and broken trust in marriage. These expectations are unfair, BUT there are some realistic expectations in marriage that are important. There are some basic needs of husbands and wives that the other spouse is uniquely qualified to meet and when these basic needs are unmet, it can harm the marriage.
I’m going to list out the five most significant expectations men have of their wives in marriage. Another way to say this is that these are most men’s five biggest needs in marriage and whether the husband clearly communicates them or not, these represent what he needs, wants, and yes, expects most of his wife. My fantastic wife Ashley is going to write a companion piece to this article detailing women’s greatest needs and expectations of their husbands.
The 5 things most men need, want and expect from their wives are (in no particular order):