The Expectations of Marriage VS. Reality
August 8, 2022
Back when I was growing up, people often worried about the dangers of romanticising marriage. But I think we’re beyond that now. If anything, marriage is quite scary for a lot of people.
Nowadays, if you asked a group of mature adults what their expectations of marriage are, I doubt you’d find many who still hold onto a rosy picture of marital life. Divorce rates and fears surrounding commitment and compatibility have made realists out of the most fervent romantics. Which is kind of good, or would be, if not for one little thing: Bleak expectations can be just as unrealistic as romanticised one.
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For instance, if you’re marrying someone who already has kids, it’s wise to set expectations about the potential challenges this will bring. Whereas expecting that your future spouse will always side with their family against you is an unfair assumption.
Expectations aren’t wishes or fears, they’re educated guesses that are tailored to your particular circumstances. They help you plan ahead and avoid certain pitfalls; whereas unrealistic expectations, whether positive or negative, can make you start your marriage on the wrong foot.
Here are some surprising examples:
Because she loves me, she’ll know how to love me
This is an unrealistic expectation and a dangerous assumption. Everyone expresses love differently and desires to be loved in a particular way. If these specific needs aren’t communicated, it’s unfair to expect your spouse to automatically fulfil them. In reality, most couples need to actively learn their spouse’s language of love.
He's going to leave the toilet seat up
Men and women often have assumptions about each other and carry stereotypes into their marriages. These often relate to expected gender roles or characteristics. For instance, I grew up assuming men were incapable of grooming and was pleasantly surprised. In fact, most stereotypes I expected to come face with didn’t fit my husband. And the reality is, men aren’t all the same and women aren’t all the same.
We will always agree on fundamentals
Some couples assume that because they’ve discussed their futures in depth that this means they’ve somehow exhausted the subject. In reality, life will throw you curveballs and people change their minds all the time. Just because you both agreed to have six children when you were engaged at 25, doesn’t mean you’ll still agree on that number when you’re 35 and had three c-sections.
We won’t be able to travel after kids
It’s true children can put certain limitations on your life and depending on your particular circumstances travelling may be difficult. That being said, I travelled all around the world with my daughter and even went hiking, speed boating and snorkelling with her, and she was only two.
We’re compatible now, so will always be compatible
This one is a sad and scary reality of life. People change and marriage involves adapting to these changes. But sometimes, people do stray away from the person they once were in a drastic way, and in certain cases, there may not be another solution but to separate.
The first year of marriage is the worst
It may be for some. But personally, I felt the initial excitement and infatuation helped to diffuse a lot of tension. When that wore off, that’s when the real conflict began.
Compromise is always fair
Marriage often involves sacrificing something- your needs, his needs. Ideally, you’d always be able to meet the other person half-way. But sometimes, this just isn’t possible and for the person making the bigger compromise, it can feel so unfair. Every relationship involves giving and taking but the thing is, it’ll never be 50-50. Someone is bound to give more affection, more time, more effort than the other person, at certain moments in time.
I’ll never need anyone else
This is a tricky one because if asked, I’d imagine most people would say: ‘Of course you need other people in your life, other than your spouse. Who would have such a ludicrous thought?’ But let’s be real now. In many Muslim communities where youth feel bound by their parents’ expectations or rules, getting married can feel like a ticket to freedom.
You live in your own place with someone you picked, you want. Finally! Sometimes it can seem like you’re independent enough, in love enough to survive on your own, but your spouse will never meet all your needs, whether they’re emotional or tangible. Every married couple needs a support system of friends and family.
What it all boils down to is understanding that expectations are just that: expectations.
They’re not guarantees that your marriage will be a certain way or other. It’s also important to be aware of internalised assumptions and the way our backgrounds influence our perception of the ideal marriage. Once you’re mindful of these things, setting future expectations becomes a matter of being balanced and flexible.
Author: Alwia Al-Hassan
Unlike many authors, my writing journey didn't begin with a fiery love for books at six. I couldn’t read English at six…or seven or eight. When I moved back to the UK after 3 years in Saudi Arabia, I was in year 4 and at the very bottom of the academic food chain.
Back then it would've been impossible for me to imagine that I would ever be fluent in English enough to get my BA in English Literature with Philosophy and MA in Arabic Literature.
I currently live in the Gulf with my husband and two kids where I spend most of my time blogging, writing fiction and working on breaking into the traditional publishing and self-publishing industries.
Be sure to read more of my work here: https://www.alwiaalhassan.com/