Common Marriage Problems Series: Expectations

by Gideon Hanekom
September 2, 2019

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Too frequently we enter into marriage with unrealistic expectations.

For example, we watch the happily-ever-after television shows and romantic comedies where couples don’t get into fights over shit on the floor, never checking the door’s locked before getting in bed, blowing the weekly budget in a weekend, helping with chores around the house or unpacking the dishwasher.

But the reality is that real-life relationships work differently.

And unless we learn to bridge the gap between our expectations and reality, we might find ourselves with marriage problems aplenty.


This whole post can be summarised in one idea:

Becoming disappointed over and over again in your love life over unmet expectations, WILL set up your marriage for failure.

Read that again. I’m serious.

So many couples I work with in coaching struggle with this ONE common issue – unknown, different, unrealistic, or unmet expectations of their partner and/or marriage.

And it’s killing them.

If you want to start fixing your marriage problems, you need to get a grip on your expectations.

But where do our expectations come from in the first place?

Well, as I’ve already mentioned, one such place is the media.

However, what we expect from marriage comes from a number of different places – the media is not all to blame!

While you may want your life modelled after the newest romantic movie, full of comedic interludes and sex in the afternoon, the reality is probably much, much different.

Most of us were exposed to some kind of marital construct or framework modelled by either our parents, caregivers, grandparents, and so on.

And because we experienced their marriage or relationship 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, we most likely adopted and started carrying some expectations from what we observed – the good and the bad.

Also, if you spent hours and hours at a friend’s house, the same can be said of that marriage as well and what you observed of their parents.

That stuff sinks in. Trust me.

So, understanding that we ALL walk around with some kind of marriage blueprint in our minds which feeds the expectations we have of a love relationship is crucial for creating and sustaining a happy, healthy, and intimate marriage that lasts.

Let me repeat that …

Understanding that we ALL walk around with some kind of marriage-blueprint in our minds which feeds the expectations we have of a love relationship, is crucial for creating and sustaining a happy, healthy, and intimate marriage that lasts.

And, while you might have a good handle on what YOU expect from marriage, your partner still can’t read your mind so it’s just as likely that they have no idea at all of what your expectations are.

Or where they come from.

And, if that’s the case, how can your spouse meet expectations that they have no idea exist?

Listen, contrary to popular belief, your partner can’t read your mind!

And furthermore, your spouse should not be expected to fulfil all your expectations – even though they should be aware of them.

Just in case you misread that,

Your spouse should not be expected to fulfil all your expectations!

I mean, it would be nice, but that’s not life.

Your job is NOT to get your spouse with the programme so that they can jump through all your hoops in the way you want.

No, your responsibility in a mature marriage is to simply be aware of your expectations in your relationship and SHARE those with your partner.

Sharing is caring for sure – but it’s doesn’t demand compliance.

If it does, then you haven’t shared for the right reasons – only selfish ones.

Now, to piss some of you off even further, let me also say this:

It is YOUR responsibility to meet your own expectations and bring a WHOLE and HEALED person to the relationship.

Do you expect him to take out the rubbish each week because your father did?

Do you expect her to cook a meal every night because your mother did?

It will be nice if that’s how you decide to do things, but understand a very important truth and reality my friend,

Your relationship is YOUR relationship. It is separate and distinct from your parents.

As partners, all we need to do is share our expectations with each other BUT then commit to our own relationships in a way that works for both of US.

That might mean that if he works on Sunday night and rubbish-collection day is Monday morning, it becomes your job to put out the bins.

And if she works Saturdays, then it’s the man’s job to learn how to cook something and take feed the kids.

There is NO right or wrong.

Just wrong expectations for YOU and your situation.

Except, however, that your negotiations stay civil, kind, loving and without anger or abuse.

But, in the end, how you negotiate the issues and what you expect in your marriage is completely 100% up to you as a couple.

About the author 

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of, a renowned relationship blog that ranked among the top 50 relationship blogs and top 100 marriage blogs in 2021. The blog is dedicated to providing valuable insights on cultivating healthy relationships and love in daily life. Gideon holds a Master's degree in theological studies and transitioned into professional counseling almost a decade ago. In addition, he completed graduate and post-graduate studies in Psychology at Massey University. With over seventeen years of marriage to his wife and two children, Gideon brings both professional and personal experience to his relationship advice. His articles have been featured on respected platforms such as and The Good Men Project.

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