Whether you only just got engaged or are mere weeks away from walking down the altar, you’re probably over-the-moon excited to begin this next chapter with the love of your life. While it’s unavoidable that you likely have some marriage expectations of how your life will change once you both say “I do,” relationship experts warn that, if not totally understood by both partners, expectations can create a division, or wedge, between a couple—even a newly married couple. In fact, Whitney Goodman, licensed marriage and family therapist, psychotherapist and owner of The Collaborative Counseling Center in Miami, Florida, recommends that couples get real about what they expect from each other and make these expectations known. “If you don’t verbalize it or ask for it, you can’t be mad when you don’t get it!” she says. “What you want your marriage to look like will likely change over time, so this is a conversation you should be having throughout your life together.”
While certain marriage expectations—such as that your partner will be there to listen to you and care for you and will be open to trying new things with you—are perfectly harmless and beneficial for your relationship, other unrealistic expectations can cause serious issues in the relationship, warns Carissa Coulston, Psy.D., clinical psychologist. ”Holding onto the belief that every element of your marriage will be perfect is just going to detract from any joy your relationship can bring.”
To set yourselves up for marital bliss, here are some marriage expectations that relationship experts recommend letting go of when heading into marriage.
That your partner will change
You’ve probably heard the old saying “people never change.” Whether or not you believe this to be true, you should go into your marriage truly loving the person who your partner is, not who you think he or she might become. “Your partner will remain the person they’ve always been, so if you fail to recognize this when going into a marriage, you’re destined for disappointment,” says Dr. Coulston. “It’s therefore wise to look more closely at the traits you dislike and question if they truly are detrimental to a future with someone.”
That your partner will know what you need at all times
“No matter what your spouse’s talents are, one of them is not going to be mind-reading,” says Dr. Coulston. “You may think that the perfect husband or wife will always know exactly what you need at any given time, however, this isn’t a realistic marriage expectation—nobody can know what you’re thinking without you voicing it, and failing to communicate effectively could even eventually cause a breakdown in your marriage.” Instead, she urges partners to ask for whatever it is they need from the other partner. “It’s only by being clear about your feelings, needs and desires that your loved one has any chance to give you what you want,” she adds.
That your partner will share all or most of your interests
There’s a good chance that you and your partner share at least some interests, seeing as you got together in the first place. But you are, at the end of the day, two completely different people who likely have a unique set of interests. And it’s actually more healthy to have different interests, according to Dr. Coulston. “It’s good for your relationship to each spend some time doing your own thing,” she says. “Taking the time to be independent of your spouse allows you to reconnect later with greater positivity, to share your solo experiences.”
That your partner will choose you over his friends and family
While this marriage expectation might sound nice in theory, Dr. Coulston warns that expecting your partner to give up his or her friends and family is not only unrealistic, but also unhealthy. “We all need a wider circle around us, as one individual cannot serve all the needs we have, and often if we are going through something difficult, it is helpful to gain various perspectives of others and not just lean on just one person,” she says. “Of course no married couple should spend all their time apart with their own families and friends, but finding a balance and sharing your time between the different people who you love in your life will allow you both to feel satisfied and happy.”
That your marriage to flourish without your involvement
Just because you finally said "I do" doesn’t mean it’s all sunshine and roses from here on out. In fact, marriage is often when the going gets tough—when the real life issues that need to be worked out settle in. “The work of a relationship means saying the things you are afraid to say, making the time to hear what is going on with your spouse, dedicating your time and energy to examining the patterns in your relationship and changing the ones that don't work for you, having the guts to put up boundaries against inappropriate behavior and creating the space to go back and try a difficult conversation again,” says Laura F. Dabney, M.D., relationship psychiatrist in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “To work on a marriage does not mean it's a bad or failing. To work on a relationship means you take it seriously and it means you are dedicated enough to keep at it. It's like any other worthwhile job, it needs attention, tweaking, creativity and love to evolve into something better.