Your Marriage’s Unexpected Enemy: Familial and Social Expectations
August 8, 2022
7 Lessons on the Dangers of Familial and Social Expectations
When I got married, one of the first things my mother told me was that I was lucky to start my marriage in a different country. Yes, it’s hard to live far from your support system, but being alone with your spouse limits the influence of society and family on your relationship.
I learnt very quickly that my mother was, in fact, correct and that familial and social expectations can quickly poison a marriage.
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Here are some lessons I learned:
1) People like to talk a lot about their spouse- and not in a good way
For some reason, criticising your spouse has become quite a popular recreational activity in large social gatherings. I remember coming home from these, full of negativity and ready to snap at my husband for whatever imagined offence some lady had planted in my mind.
Eventually it became a joke between us that we’d only fight after travelling back home and mingling with family and friends. Once we were alone again, it was as if a curse had been lifted. It’s insane how other people’s negative marital experiences can influence your thinking and behaviour on a subliminal level. So be careful to not confuse other couples’ problems with your own because:
2) Other people’s experiences will not necessarily match your own
Just because Sara’s husband is comfortable with public displays of affection and your husband isn’t, doesn’t mean something is wrong. And don’t let other people make you feel that there’s a problem with your marriage because your experiences differ from theirs.
3) Be wary of social/gender expectations
“Wait…your wife doesn’t cook for you?”
“Your husband doesn’t have a pet name for you?”
Some of these expectations feel very trivial but they can still chip away at the confidence you have in your marriage. Suddenly petty details feel like they mean something, and you find yourself second guessing yourself. Which is why it’s crucial that you:
4) NEVER compare
We all do it, but the more we brag about or criticise our relationships, the easier it is to fall into “my spouse is better than yours” territory. Let’s stop with the comparisons people.
5) Your husband is NOT your father
Sounds obvious? Apparently not. Some women crave the same level or type of attention their dads gave them from their husbands. Maybe their fathers showered them with expensive gifts and so when their husbands don’t express their love in that particular way, they immediately see this as a lack of affection.
Men also do this with their wives. For instance, they assume that because their mothers took care of feeding and clearing after them, their wives are under some contractual agreement to do their same. These issues can become explosive when family members or friends confirm these unrealistic expectations by reinforcing stereotypes.
“Yes he should buy you that bag. Your dad would.”
“Your wife should clean after you. If not, come to me and I’ll take care of you if she won’t.”
6) Never involve family in marital disputes
This brings me to the most important lesson of all: NEVER involve family in your problems.
Couples navigate conflict all the time and can easily forgive and forget. Your mum though? She’ll never forget and her judgment of your spouse will be forever poisoned by that time you thought it was wise to tell her that your husband hurt your feelings.
Sometimes you need a third party when problems escalate dangerously in a marriage, but this should be an objective person who was preferably agreed upon by you and your spouse. This brings me to the final lesson:
7) Family is a red line- do not go there
Family can be your greatest support system or greatest challenge. Either way, family is a sensitive subject that needs to be approached delicately.
Nosy in-laws? Put some space between you without hurting your spouse’s feelings. Moreover, always remember to stay polite and respectful.
What I’ve realised over several years of marriage, is that family and society have the potential to bring couples together or pull them apart. It’s difficult to drown all the conflicting messages you receive from others.
But this is an important skill you must learn in order to build a strong marriage while maintaining a healthy relationship with your family and community. Remember to be respectful to others but always stay authentic in your relationship.
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/