A wife feels burdened with all the meal-making. A husband feels worn out and used because he is the sole provider of the family. Many marriages run into trouble when the two fail to meet their spouse's expectations. Disappointment and bitterness toward each other sets in, disrupting an otherwise loving marriage. What is the real problem here?
Where do our expectations in marriage come from?
Most of our expectations come from our personal family experience growing up. For example, a woman who grew up with a father who always drove the car on family vacations might expect her husband to always drive the car on family vacations. A man who grew up with a mom who handled all the house cleaning might expect his wife to clean the house without his help.
These expectations shape our thoughts about marriage roles. Do you expect your husband to fill a specific marriage role, and he doesn't? That can lead to some tense moments in your marriage! If your husband doesn't understand where that expectation is coming from, he may feel like you are trying to make him be someone he isn't.
When marriage roles are in conflict
Not only might your spouse feel "boxed in" a role he doesn't fit well, your expectations might actually compete with each other. For example, if you are a husband who firmly believes you should be in charge of the budgeting, and your wife decides to change the budget so she has more money to buy groceries, you might get upset at your wife. On the other side of the coin, your wife may think you're not being fair to her if you don't let her have some say in how the money is budgeted. Your marriage roles are in conflict. What can you do about it without starting WWIII in your own household?
Instead of flying off the handle at your spouse, try thinking of it this way, "My wife is not meeting my expectations; I wonder if I don't meet her expectations? Maybe we can discuss this and work out some sort of compromise." Be realistic about who your spouse is. You husband is not your father, so don't expect him to have the same idea of a husband-role as your father did. Instead, work together to come to an agreeable solution to the problem.
Maybe you can agree to cook every other night. Or your husband can agree to help with the vacuuming. Your compromise might make you both feel uncomfortable at first, but soon it will be a unique aspect of your marriage, not someone else's marriage.
If you would like more help working through your marriage expectations, please consider coming in for marriage counseling. Rescue your most important relationship!