Last night, my husband did the dishes.
That’s usually a chore I take care of. It was a small, simple gesture that spoke such love to my heart. I was halfway through writing this post and it was the sweetest reminder of how he quietly and gently pursues me. We’ve been married for 17 months now. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we have much to learn. I’ve heard that the first year of marriage can be the hardest. It wasn’t for us. Most of it was really quite easy and oh, so sweet. but there were those couple of months when the honeymoon phase had worn off. Normal life had set in, and I started to struggle…
and by no ones fault but my own i felt lonely.
maybe more lonely than ever before. You see, I had begun to let these nasty things into my thoughts and heart and if i had let them fester and get too far they could have stolen the joy and peace right out of our marriage. Those things were,
unrealistic and uncommunicated expectations.
The kind that can put a vice grip on a relationship and just tear it apart. How had I let these into our dear, newly fragile life together?
When marriage is done well, each spouse thinks of the others needs before their own.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3
This was how we had pledged to live before God in that lovely, intimate little ceremony surrounded by our dearest friends and family a year and a half ago… But in the midst of the monotonous routine of life-the laundry, the cleaning, his long hours at work, and the winter blues, it can be easy to forget sometimes.
When expectations are left uncommunicated, or worse yet, become unrealistic, I immediately set my heart up to be disappointed. And slowly those disappointed days can build up, and resentment will grow, and suddenly there will be no peace.
Really, the root of my unrealistic expectations was selfishness.
When I started thinking my needs/wants were more important than that of my husband, selfishness had weaseled its way in to my heart and started whispering lies. “He should be doing more/doing ____ differently in our marriage”. The lies kept me looking anywhere else to blame except myself.
And the root of those uncommunicated expectations was pride.
“Let him figure out what’s bothering me” I would tell myself as I banged the dinner dishes in the soapy water a bit more forcefully than needed. Then I would let the words “I’m fine” escape from my lips. Oh, that nasty manipulative little phrase. Or as we would brush our teeth before bed and I couldn’t say the words to talk about intimacy. And all he wanted to know was how to better pursue me as a husband and lover. And really my silence wasn’t about being embarrassed. It was about being willing to be vulnerable and to let him know my heart fully.
I pridefully held onto those pieces of my heart when I had pledged to give him everything. Maybe because I was scared. Scared of being hurt. When really, I just hurt myself and left him feeling confused and helpless.
And maybe this whole thing was less about unhealthy expectations and more about who I was finding my worth and value in.
Instead of resting in the love and security of my almighty father, perhaps I was trying to put my husband on this pedestal to meet my needs. And here’s the thing, though my husband loves me so well, I will never experience fullness just from his love. The only one who can truly meet that is God, the anchor of our soul.
“At the core of who we are, we crave the acceptance that comes from being loved. To satisfy this longing we will either be graspers of God’s love or grabbers for people’s love.” Lysa Terkeurst, Uninvited
I don’t quite know how I realized that I had let these unhealthy expectations settle in. I just remember feeling lonely and was rather disgusted with myself and how i was acting. Finally, (after too long) I ran to the Lord. Through quiet, slow, tearful mornings of abiding in His Word and in prayer, he started to heal my heart and fill me. How faithful is our Savior.
And so, I started to deny my mind to thoughts of those unrealistic expectations…
Instead of resenting the fact that he didn’t complete that weekend project or left the dirty laundry around the house, I made the choice to daily reminded my heart of the 55 hour work week he put in and the way he changed my oil in the car. How he patiently and attentively listened to my unimportant little stories from the day about diaper blowouts, baby giggles, and how nap time went.
And with the uncommunicated expectations,
I (painfully) started to do the hard thing of opening up and communicating my desires and needs for our relationship. I started admitting that yes, I would like some help cleaning up tonight. And no, I don’t have it all together at the moment (because I’m not wonder woman and i don’t have to try to prove it to him or myself).
When expectations are clearly communicated, and are set to be realistic and full of grace, I immediately set my heart up for joy. And slowly those joyful days build up, and thankfulness grows, and suddenly there is an abundance of peace.
“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Important side note on what i did NOT do–
I did not go complaining to my mom or sisters or friends about Ryan in this time. My Sister had warned me how important it is to never complain and rant about your spouse to other people. Because eventually, you and your spouse will work through whatever issue you’re going through. And because you love each other, you will forgive and move on. However, the friends and family that heard all of those complaints could have a much more difficult time moving on. Because they (obviously) don’t share the same relationship and aren’t present in your daily life. This can cause a lot of hard feelings and tension.
Ryan and I made a commitment not to put each other and our loved ones in a position like that. And oh how relieved I was that I didn’t besmirch him in the midst of that lonely season. After I had worked things out with the Lord and with my husband, I was able to then share the full picture of God’s grace and mercy in that little season of our marriage.