hidden expectations in marriage

Hidden Expectations in Marriage

Be intentional about sharing your unspoken hopes and desires
My husband, Kim, and I married in our early 20s. Our expectations of each other were few. We were wide-eyed at the wonder and excitement of our brand-new adventure together. Nothing was hidden.

A year later I gave birth to our first baby boy. And with him came responsibilities not fully imagined or talked out beforehand. In those early years, I found it difficult to express how I felt—until resentment poured out of me unexpectedly because of unspoken expectations.

Words not spoken
I still remember our first weeklong vacation at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with our 10-month-old baby in tow. As I thought about the beach, I longed to see the gentle waves and hear seagulls squawking in the distance. I assumed my husband would entertain our busy toddler while I relaxed. It was a heavenly plan, one I’d already worked out in my imagination.

I laugh now as I think about my naivete. I hadn’t relayed my plans to Kim, so our time away turned into a stressful, dreary disappointment. My unmet, hidden expectations led to an ugly exchange of words and hurt feelings. But I learned then, and many times after, that unhealthy expectations often result in frustration and misplaced anger.

A new approach to hidden expectations
Twenty-eight years and seven children later, my husband and I now share our expectations and draw inspiration from Philippians 2:3-4 when opening up about our expectations. Speaking up feels empowering. We’ve learned to listen to what is important to each other.

Doing this takes intentionality as we discuss day-to-day happenings and upcoming events. Then we transition to our expectations of each other in relation to those events. A satisfying give-and-take builds between us. Revealing our thoughts exposes intentions and relieves potential future strife. Our expectations are no longer hidden.

God has done a deep work in my heart. I used to think it was selfish to uncover my feelings, but I’ve come to understand the opposite is true. It’s toxic not to share what’s on my heart in a healthy way. My husband can’t read my thoughts. So saying them out loud helps us assess them together. It requires a continual collaboration of selflessness and teamwork, but the benefit is a shared vision.

© 2021 Mari Jo Mast. Used by permission. All rights reserved. This article first appeared in the August/September 2021 issue of Focus on the Family magazine as “Hidden Expectations.”

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