Expectations have a nagging way of causing problems in a marriage relationship, particularly in a newlywed one. Unspoken, they can become destructive and cause fights. And yet even spoken expectations can still become a burden and invite insecurity. So where is the balance? How does a couple define reasonable expectations without setting the bar too high (or too low)?
It actually all starts with your home life, and his, growing up. Often times, without realizing it, one spouse or the other may determine expectations based off of their experience watching their parents. Then they just come to expect those roles from their unsuspecting spouse. Thankfully, most premarital counseling brings this out, but as I mentioned above, just communicating that you expect your husband to take out the trash doesn’t fix the problem.
Healthy expectations should be agreed upon by both parties. It shouldn’t be too burdensome, or too stressful to achieve. So if managing to have a hot meal on the table every night is too much, then speak up. Talk with your guy and brainstorm a solution. Maybe that means he’ll cook two or three nights of the week, maybe it means you’ll get takeout or pizza. Figure out what you can do to make it easier, because a stressed spouse does not make for a happy marriage. Whether you’re frustrated at your spouse or not, sometimes it’s all too easy to take it out on them. I know I’m guilty of this.
Ultimately, you and your husband need to agree upon what works for YOU, and with the exception of God’s Word on certain matters, don’t worry about anyone else’s opinion. This can be so hard because the pressure can be so great but, trust me. If we’re talking about another human being who is NOT your husband, they can take a hike. Who are they to tell you what to do when they don’t walk in your shoes! Sure, our culture has put massive expectations on gender roles. But it’s not as easy as one size fits all.
In our home, we have somewhat traditional gender roles. My husband graciously takes care of bugs (I detest spiders), the trash, the car, and outside responsibilities. I cover the inside ones, the kitchen, bathrooms, kids, etc. That said, we aren’t adamant that the other cannot step into our role every now and then. Sometimes I take the trash out or I have to suck it up and kill that spider lurking around. Sometimes my husband does the dishes, cooks meals, or takes our son. My point is, we’re flexible.
If, on the other hand, you didn’t come to marriage with those kinds of expectations let me approach this topic from a different angle. I have known some women that struggle with knowing what expectations are reasonable to place on a husband or fiance. Now, I cannot define what is or isn’t reasonable for you in your situation. It’s really a topic you need to sit down and, in love, be frank with your husband about. That said, I think it’s fair to expect him to be a spiritual leader and the head of the house- if he is of Christian faith. But anything further should be decided by the two of you.
Discovering what may or may not work for your marriage can be difficult, but I cannot stress enough the importance of communication. Clarify your expectations with one another, be in agreement about the designated tasks for each individual, compromise when necessary, and hold onto a positive mindset. Discuss what it was like for you growing up and ask him to share the same.
My last tip would be to write down (or type up and print) your list of chores and who has agreed to do what and then post it somewhere you both will see it everyday. It’s a great way to remind yourself (and him) of the tasks needing done so that forgetfulness cannot be an excuse. And remember in the first few days to give each other grace as you adjust to the new responsibilities. Change doesn’t happen overnight! It comes with little by little progress.
I caution you, however, to not make the issue personal. His lack of help or your lack of time to clean should not be used as a weapon in conversation. Instead of harboring grudges, seek peace and forgiveness. Look at this conversation as a new chapter and a clean slate for you both. Marriage is a team effort and so is running the household.
Whether you came to marriage with a lot of expectations or you were struggling by trying to do it all, I hope this post has encouraged you. Do you and your husband use traditional gender roles or are you more flexible in your defined roles?