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The Poison of Expectations

By Dr. Don Dunlap
Pastoral Counselor
If we place unrealistic expectations on our mates, we will be unable to love them unconditionally.

Family Counseling Ministries -

Before marriage, men and women usually put their best foot forward and they see very few negative qualities in one another’s lives. Many women enter marriage thinking,

I know there are some things about him that I don’t like, but when I get through with him he’ll be a different person.

Men, on the other hand, generally think,

When I’m with this woman I feel great. She is wonderful and I hope she never changes. I always want to feel this way.

We will be unable to love our mates unconditionally if we place expectations on him or her.

Unrealistic expectations drain the life out of a marriage relationship. The average man can never live up to his wife’s expectations. Her expectations invariably result in wrong attitudes and an unforgiving spirit toward her husband.

When a woman does not give her expectations to God in a marriage, she damages the spirit of the relationship. Whereas she once focused on the positive qualities that she saw in her husband before marriage, she now criticizes him for not measuring up to her standards. If before marriage she saw him, for example, as a man of confidence and strength, she now considers him arrogant and harsh.

The qualities that she once admired in her husband soon become sources of irritation.

If she previously thought of him as soft spoken and mellow, she now views him as timid and weak, or passive and boring. Whereas she once considered him affectionate and witty, she now thinks of him as oversexed and sarcastic. If she formerly admired him for his convictions and ambition, she now believes he is a know-it-all and a workaholic.


It is only after the wedding that her husband reveals his “other side” in dramatic fashion. At first, people who seem to be opposites are attracted to each other. Then they often begin to frustrate and irritate one another. Finally, they ignite a fiery anger in each other that consumes the joy of their marriage relationship.


Women who express genuine gratitude are very appealing to men.

Men are attracted to women who have a grateful spirit. A wife who places demands and expectations on her husband cannot possibly express gratitude to him. Wives must give their expectations to God. The writer of Psalm 62:5 demonstrates how we are to do that. “My soul, wait in silence for God only, for my hope is from Him.” A grateful, happy wife is a tribute to her husband, but an unhappy wife is a public rebuke to him.

A wife must not seek her happiness in her relationship with her husband. The only way that she will be truly happy is to obey the command of Colossians 3:1,

Set your affections on things above.

The “things above” that the writer of this verse refers to include the Lord Jesus Christ, heaven, God’s Word, the souls of other people and true wisdom.


A wife should seek to learn godly contentment. She will never find happiness in material possessions. When a woman comes to understand that “things” compete with Christ, she will be willing to offer all of her earthly expectations and comforts in exchange for knowing Christ more fully.


A wife’s sincere praise is a powerful motivation for her husband.

A wife should remember that when she praises her husband she increases his sense of self-worth. She can praise her husband for the wise choices that he makes, for the security that he provides for the family and for the achievements that he has accomplished.

She must acknowledge the truth that God uses tribulations to produce the character of Christ in her life. Then she should express to her husband, the specific character qualities that she believes God is building into her life as a result of the problems that she is facing in marriage.

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