When I look back on October 12, 2013, the day the love of my life and I became one, I chuckle to myself… we had NO clue what we were saying yes to that day! And I thank God for that, because had we known, we honestly might have been too afraid or selfish to say yes. But we did say yes, albeit a bit blindly.
What a glorious day our wedding was! Surrounded by such support, love and prayers from the people we hold most dear. Everything was incredible and perfect and lived up to my expectations. “Yep, marriage is going to be a piece of cake,” I thought to myself as my hubby whisked me away to our idyllic honeymoon.
Upon returning home, I had big expectations for my marriage and my husband. Oh man, did I have expectations. The funny thing is, I didn’t see these expectations as being unrealistic….until they weren’t being met.
I would complain to myself, “Matt has to work late…again?” “He didn’t think to plan a date night every Friday and Saturday night?” “He didn’t think to bring me home flowers just because?” And then, naturally, I would act cold and harsh towards him because he wasn’t performing the way I thought husbands should perform.
God bless him and his patient heart.
Unrealistic expectations (whether we acknowledge them or not) will suffocate a marriage to death. They are a real temptation that the sneaky Devil places in our minds and hearts. He makes us feel absolutely justified for having them. Unrealistic expectations put spouses at odds against each other. They turn a spouse inward to distract from serving the other, and instead they serve the self. Both men and women are guilty of this, but I can only give you my perspective as a wife.
Then, God gave us our sweet baby girl, Gianna Grace, just one week before we were to celebrate our first anniversary. We were elated and overwhelmed, excited and terrified. My husband had just begun his Masters program, we moved into a new house in a small town with NO family or friends, and he had an hour commute to and from work. We decided that the best thing for our family was for me to stay home with our girl. It’s a gift that I am forever grateful for, but oh man, no one ever warned me about the HARD work that motherhood entails. The sleepless nights, being on constant demand, no breaks, and don’t get me started on the pile of dishes and never ending laundry.
In addition to what felt like an endless list of tasks as a new mother, I was starting to feel alone. Matt would leave in the mornings around 6am and not get home until 10pm. When he was home, he had to work on school work until 1am, crash for a couple of hours, and get up the next morning to do it all over again. Instead of seeing his hard work and long hours as his part in providing for our family and allowing me the gift of staying home with our daughter, I only saw the ways he was not assisting my needs and expectations. I started asking myself questions like, “Do I really have to do all the night feedings?” “Does he need me to make dinner every night?” and “When do I get to take a shower?”
Right on cue, the resentment started to build. FAST.
Until one night we found ourselves arguing over whose responsibility it was to replace the empty toilet paper roll! We had hit an all-time low.
He looked at me with his exhausted eyes and said, “Honey, I can’t do this. I can’t be the husband and father that you have created in your mind. I am trying my hardest and I need your support. It won’t always be like this, but I need you to please see the bigger picture.” SILENCE. Lump in throat. Head down. Oh Lord, who have I become? How did I get here?
So I got to praying and God got to mending my heart and filling my soul. He quickly helped me see that I had very unrealistic expectations for my husband, our marriage and our role as parents. And they had to be readjusted quickly! God had revealed that my thinking came from my naïve, immature ideals. I begged Him to give me a servant’s heart for my husband. I wanted to see past my own needs, and instead look for ways to take care of my husband’s. Rather than expecting my husband to fulfill all of my heart’s longing and desires, I begged God to fill them. Because really, He is the only one who ever could.
With this new realization, I felt empowered and reenergized. One night I received a text from Matt. He would be getting home late because of work. I did something I had never done before. My usual response would have been to make him feel guilty for staying late.
However this time, I put his needs before mine and I thought to myself, “Poor guy doesn’t want to be at work until 9pm with an hour long commute, only to then come home and do school work!”
I replied, “I’m so sorry honey. I love you and can’t wait to see you when you get home. I’ll have dinner ready for you.” When he got home, I greeted him with a big kiss, a warm smile and a hot meal. You should have seen the look on his face. It makes my eyes swell with tears even thinking about. He was so grateful. And he held onto me, and we embraced for a long time.
Slowly, and I mean sloooowly, I am learning that marriage is NOT about my husband meeting my ideals and expectations. I mean, I always knew that. But knowing something and living it out are very different things. Rather, I have a new understanding that we are to serve one another as Christ serves His church. Our marriage, our home and our family are as holy and Christ-like as we allow. Each time I refuse to give in to a selfish expectation, it strengthens our foundation and shows my husband that I am in this journey with him and that we’re a team.
Admittedly, some days are better than others, and God knows I stumble and fall, but with His grace, the good days are starting to outweigh the bad ones. My husband is doing his part, which requires hard work, long hours, and late nights. And I am doing my part, which requires taking care of our daughter and our little home. Letting go of my unrealistic expectations has freed me to love and serve my husband in a new way.
It’s this real love–love without expectations or demands–which makes our marriage come alive.
Brooke Garibaldi is a Catholic wife and mama loving the small town life in gorgeous wine country, discovering His blessings in every day life!