Everything was perfect. You were magnificently beautiful as your father walked you down the aisle. Every eye was cast upon you as you approached your Prince Charming, equally magnificent in his formal attire. Vows were spoken and rings were exchanged as tears of joy filled every eye. Your guests partook in an exquisite feast. You and your beloved danced the night away between joyous accolades from countless friends and family members. You bid farewell to your guests as you and your Prince Charming boarded your carriage, to whisk you away to a life of wedded bliss. Your honeymoon was equally enthralling as you and Prince Charming combed the beaches and imbibed on exotic drinks together. Now, you’ve returned home to begin your lives as husband and wife. You were set to live your lives, happily ever after. Then your fairy tale world came crashing down when you realized that Prince Charming is perfectly happy leaving his dirty socks on the floor as he goes off to slay the dragon. Welcome to reality. Welcome to the world of married life.
Long ago, in a land far, far away, a poet decided it was too difficult to end his story with the truth, so he simply ended with the words, “and they lived happily ever after”. The poet, with the very best of intentions, unwittingly condemned untold millions of lives to the curse of failed expectations. Often, our earliest childhood memories are of our parents reading us bedtime stories and inflicting us with the plague of the malignant verse. Our fantasies are set into motion at that early age, that someday Prince Charming will arrive on his great white horse and rescue the beautiful princess in waiting and we will, indeed, live happily ever after. With such high expectations for marriage, it is no wonder so many people are disillusioned when reality hits them in the face.
The happily ever after plague is what I will refer to as “unrealistic expectations” for marriage. It is critical for every married couple to understand right up front, that they are NOT going to live happily ever after. The sooner you come to terms with that, the better off you will be. Marriage is not a guarantee to happiness, although marriage can certainly give you a lifetime of happiness if you go into it with realistic expectations.
Now that I have you doubting what you have already, or are about to get yourself into, let’s take a deep breath. All is not lost. Let’s try to identify what some of our “unrealistic expectations” about marriage are and then see what we can do to replace them with realistic ones.
First of all, Prince Charming and the Princess are both perfect in every way. They are the epitome of handsome and beautiful. They are dashing and debonair, charming and gracious. They always know just exactly how to fix any problem or quash any threat. They never lose control, display anger, speak unkind words, or leave their dirty socks on the floor. But let’s face it, you and your beloved are not perfect in every way. PC (Prince Charming) may have been the captain of the football team. He may have led the team to the state championship with his daring heroics. He may be flawless in so many ways, but how will you react when he comes home, downtrodden and remiss to inform you that he just got laid off due to downsizing? Will it destroy you to discover that even your heretofore near perfect PC is susceptible to the realities of life? We all fall short of the mark from time to time. Marriage is about how we react to such perils. It’s about knowing beforehand that it is going to happen at some point and being prepared through the commitment of both of you that no matter what, no matter how great the testing becomes, you’re in this thing together and together, you will find the solution.
Another shortcoming of unrealistic expectations is that both you and your mate share the same goals for your marriage. You may want to live in the city, your mate may prefer country living. You may want 2.3 children, your mate may want to wait until your careers are more settled, or may not even want children at all! You may want to stay close to your family and your mate may want you all to him or her self. You may want a dog and your mate wants a cat. This can go on and on, but the point I am making is, you and your mate most likely, DO NOT want the same things out of marriage. That may seem insignificant to you now, but when you want a quiet evening at home and your mate has invited friends over for dinner, it can be a VERY big thing. It’s better to know now, that for all your similarities, you and your mate are two different people with different goals and different plans on how to achieve them.
Unrealistic expectations also bring into a marriage, the roles you expect your mate to play. This has a lot to do with how we were raised and identifying the differences in our families. For example, if PC was raised in a home where the mother did all the cooking and cleaning in the house, chances are pretty good, he’s going to expect you to automatically assume the role of chief cook and bottle washer. And ladies, just because your father was Mr. Fix-it around the house doesn’t mean PC knows the difference between a Phillips head and shower head! If you expect a specific script to be followed in your marriage, get rid of it now! Communicate with your mate what your expectations are, let them communicate their expectations, and then meet somewhere in the middle.
Although most unrealistic expectations of your marriage have to do with your partner, that is not always the case. People often place unrealistic expectations on themselves as well. Expect your mate to do their part and expect the same effort from yourself, but don’t become a door mate. You can’t do it all. You may have the unrealistic expectation of believing it is your duty to perform certain functions within the marriage. In fact, you may discuss and agree that you should be the one responsible for, let’s say, buying the groceries. It is an unrealistic expectation to believe that, at some point, life isn’t going to get in the way! You may have to work late, or may have had the flu for a week, or any number of other things. If you push yourself to meet your own unrealistic expectations of yourself, you will likely develop resentment to the fact that your mate didn’t step up to the plate when they should have.
Couples place a host of unrealistic expectations upon their marriage, and it usually begins with happily ever after. So when you’re in a romantic mood and the unrealistic expectation hits you that your mate just wants to go to sleep, don’t let it kill you, and most of all, don’t let it damage your marriage! Just realize that you had an unrealistic expectation. Readjust your expectations to a more realistic level and move on! She may not always be the Princess you thought you married, but hey, you’re no Prince Charming either!
Monty Rainey is a District Manager with over 14 years in the self storage industry currently overseeing 21 stores in the Austin & San Antonio, TX area. He is also a leadership coach and public speaker. For a free consultation, please contact Monty at 830-743-2139 or visit his website at http://www.montyrainey.com .
- Is “The Disney Myth” to Blame for the Decline of Romance? (psychologytoday.com)
- Prince Charming or a Frog? (housefuloflove.wordpress.com)