Q. My husband and I are in marriage counseling and recently learned that after eight years of marriage we NEVER talked about our EXPECTATIONS for each other. How did we manage to overlook this?
A. There are some couples who are required to take pre-marital counseling before getting married by some ministers and/or churches. A discount can be obtained on the marriage license if counseling is received. These are situations that push people into an opportunity for some much needed “getting to really know you” counseling before the I DO’S.
Otherwise people generally find counseling on their own when they just can’t take it any more.
One of the biggest culprits of marital strife is unfulfilled expectations.Many couples never define their expectations before marriage. This is an interesting fact. Would you buy a car and not have some clear expectations for what you want it to do. Would you apply for a job without having some exceptions for what you will be doing.
Recently Donna and Brian came in for marriage counseling. Brian was frustrated with Donna’s tight hold on the finances. He said he worked hard and when he wanted to buy something Donna had to approve it. He felt like Donna was his mother.
Donna said she never wanted to manage the finances. It just kind of fell into her lap. Brian did not want to do it. And she was concerned with the way Brian would spend fun money first and then focus on the bills. She wanted the bills paid first.
Their expectations about managing the finances had never been discussed. Both resented the other. So for the first time in their eight year marriage they were actually discussing their expectations about several things.
Expectations need to be stated. They can not always be met. But two people who are planning a life together need to have this discussion. Many of the resentments and discord are directly related to not having a clear understanding of the expectations.
Mind reading 101 is not offered in most college curriculum’s. Wives say, “Why do I need to tell him how he can help me, can’t he see it?” Husbands say, “She knows I love her, why do I have to always say it?”
What screws us up in life is the picture in our head of how it is supposed to be.
Vicki L Mayfield, M.Ed., R.N., LMFT Marriage and Family Therapy Oklahoma City
If you would like to send a question to Vicki, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org