I walked into my marriage with the expectations I’d leaned from the pages of romance novels and movies. I’d bought into the fairytale. Everything was fine in the beginning but then the reality began to settle in.
My husband wasn’t perfect. He didn’t do the things I thought he should. He didn’t get that he had a role to play in the script I’d written in my mind and heart. He didn’t even know his lines!
How dare he let me down like that? How dare he not do the things around the house that seemed so obvious to me? How dare he not pull his weight in the relationship?
So what else could I do? I jumped in and did it. After all, these are things that have to be done and done right. You know the saying, if you want it done right, you have to do it yourself. So I did!
I did everything. I had to. No one else would. I took care of the kids, the house—everything. And I worked so hard to get things just right and either he didn’t notice or the kids just undid it all so that I had to do all over again.
Life wasn’t fair. Why didn’t he get that if he would just do things the way I wanted and was there when I needed him, life would be so much easier.
Let’s fast forward to a little ways into my marriage. We’d moved to Switzerland because of a work opportunity for my husband. Things started out great, then went from bad to worse. The weight of the world on my shoulders effectively doubled.
I walked into my new church one day and was approached by a soft-spoken woman. She handed me a piece of paper about a group called 1Peter3, a group for women married to unbelievers. I joined immediately and we studied the book Beloved Unbeliever together.
God began to open my eyes through this and another Bible study, Experiencing God. Not to see my husband’s faults and lack, but to see my own. I began to see how much I pressure I had put upon my marriage and my husband through my expectations. I backed off, reassessed, and started to painfully change the way I talked to my husband. I became aware of my words. My marriage began to improve greatly as God taught me to respect my husband.
Still, there was this pattern that seemed to show up. Things would go great for a while and then go down the drain again. Why? Why did this keep coming back? Why did we keep getting stuck in this place? I’d done pretty well in communicating my needs and helping to understand what I was saying without being condemning, so why did the same issues keep cropping up?
One day I was walking into my kitchen. Maybe I was praying, I don’t clearly remember. What I do remember was a very clear and sudden thought.
“It’s not him who has to change, it’s me. It’s not his perceptions that need adjustment, it’s mine.”
Like a light bulb bursting with light, this truth exploded in my head and did a number on my heart. I realized I had let go of my expectations of what I wanted and had replaced them with negative expectations. The kind where you expect your spouse to do what he’s always done, to disappoint you the way he always done, to let you down the way he’s always done.
I’d placed these negative expectations on my husband, ones he could actually meet, but never gave him a chance to do anything else. The problem was, each one added a brick to that wall around me, the one I thought would keep me from feeling the hurt of being let down. And my poor guy kept bouncing into it, feeling as if he could never do anything right.
It’s a vicious cycle. It destroys marriages. It destroys people.
I had to tear down the bricks and it would take a while. First, I had to break this habit of negative expectations that I’d developed and see in my husband the potential God had created in him. Until I did, my husband would never become the man God had fashioned him to be. And two, I had to rebuild trust in our marriage. I had to show my husband I believed in him, that I truly supported him, and trusted him. Respected him.
My desire to change my husband shifted to a desire to change me. I wanted to change. I needed to change. I was desperate for freedom! I prayed for God to change me, to change my heart, to change my thinking, and to help me love my husband the way Jesus loves him.
God took my pain and desire and used it to tear down the walls I had built around my emotions. He freed me from lies and bad habits and showed me how to affirm, appreciate and out-love my husband.
Friends, this is not easy to share with you. I have no shame admitting my path because I know God has forgiven and redeemed me and my past. But to write this out brings me tears. It’s not been an easy journey. It’s been painful but so worth it!
God is gracious, kind and faithful. I shared in our Weekend Devo what my husband did for me last week. That is not how it’s always been. It has taken work and time to reach this place of where I can love him without expectation and the more I do—the more I love my husband through Jesus—the more our marriage has healed and thrived.
For so many years I wanted my guy to fit a mold that I had created for the perfect husband. To finally release him from that and to just love and appreciate the man he is, and then to out-love him as we’ve been doing here, brought something from his mouth I thought I would never hear. He actually referred to a task that needed to be done in our home as a “job for him, a husband’s job.” Something I never would have imagined I’d hear him say.
I still stumble at times and God is quick to show me and pick me up so I can apologize to my husband. The results of this journey are still coming in. I’ve changed dramatically and my husband has responded in so many unexpected ways. Now he’s starting to out-love me. That was never my motivation for out-loving him. I wanted only to be obedient to God for the sake of my husband’s future salvation, to show him Jesus.
The world will tell you that your perfect mate will meet your every need. God will tell you that He is all that you need and will show that He’s already met your every need in His Son Jesus. When we live in this truth, we are free to love Jesus and everyone He puts in our path. We truly love because He first loved us.
God sees your desires and efforts, your pain and struggles in your marriage. He wants to show you a better way. Ask him. He’s just waiting for you to make the first move.
Praying and believing,