Blinded by Expectations

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.

no one else 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.

[Tweet “Our marriage and our family are as holy and Christ-like as we allow.”]

photo by Corynne Olivia

Brooke Garibaldi is a Catholic wife and mama loving the small town life in gorgeous wine country, discovering His blessings in every day life!

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  • Reply
    September 15, 2015 at 8:29 am

    This is one of those posts that I needed so badly and I didn’t even realize it until I was reading it. Holy Spirit for the win! My husband and I got married the week before you (10/5/13) and we have a 7 month old now. There’s so much that you have said here that I need to take to prayer and reflect on for a while. Thank you SO MUCH for this wonderful reminder of what we signed up for as a married couple, and that marriage (and motherhood) are helping me learn to love like Christ and hopefully, some day, become a saint 🙂

    Prayers for you and your husband as you prepare to celebrate your second anniversary! 🙂

    • Reply
      September 15, 2015 at 10:27 am

      Hi Deanna,

      Congratulations on your 7 month old!! And on celebrating almost 2 years of marriage this year 🙂

      Praise God…I am so happy that this blessed you. That’s what it’s there for. God is good and is absolutely holding your hand as you journey together in the crazy adventures of marriage & parenthood.

      Count on my prayers for you, your husband and your little one. Please keep us in yours.

      God bless you!

  • Reply
    megan w
    September 15, 2015 at 1:56 pm

    This is exactly what my soul needed to hear. Thank you do much for sharing!

    • Reply
      September 16, 2015 at 4:57 pm

      Praise God! So happy you came across this blog. I’ll be praying for you. God bless!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2015 at 6:06 pm

    Just beautiful and a lovely reminder that marriage and parenthood are both ministries and ways that we can be more like our own servant leader Jesus. After 10 wonderful and happy years of marriage (and two amazing kids) with my beautiful husband, I can tell you that us serving each other with love, compassion and kindness has been the secret to our marriage being so happy and I pray for the blessing of growing old with this man that I love.

    God bless you and your own marriage.

  • Reply
    September 15, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Thank you for the great article! My husband and I are newlyweds, and even though we’ve been together for three years, lately we’ve been struggling to adjust to the seemingly new demands of home and family. Even though not much has changed, in some ways it feels everything has. Thank you for this reminder to put him first and not get caught in a selfish mode. This is exactly what I needed today as well. Blessings to you and your family!

  • Reply
    September 15, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    My fiancé and I are struggling with this right now and we aren’t even married yet! I’m so thankful for your insightful and encouraging words. It is my prayer that I am further along this right track as we say I do in a few short months. Thank you so much for sharing your heart, Brooke!

  • Reply
    Miranda Miller
    September 16, 2015 at 12:14 am

    Oh sister, I feel like the Holy Spirit just picked up a megaphone and doused me with truth. My husband and I are mere newborns, just three months into marriage, and navigating similar late work hours, exhaustion, and unmet expectations. I recently hit my worst bout of resentment and hardness of heart, driving a lingering wedge against the intimacy I’ve been so hungry for! It’s so difficult to accept that I have no control over the circumstances. And yet I’ve never known a sweeter, more holy joy than when I am serving him that hot meal at 10pm. It’s time to go to confession and say “fiat” to the Voice over the megaphone. Thank you, thank you, thank you for your honest story! (PS did we meet at Kirby’s house? I’m the Maggie’s place alumna who knows Mary P!)

  • Reply
    September 16, 2015 at 6:37 am

    Oh this was so good. My husband is also juggling a full-time job on top of finishing paramedic school (lots of class time and clinical hours), and we are expecting our first baby any day. I saw so much of myself in your words, and really loved the challenge to ask God to fulfill my needs so I’m not constantly making my husband feel less than enough, or like he isn’t loving me well. Thank you for this!!

  • Reply
    Rosanna Mairena
    September 16, 2015 at 7:33 am

    *HUGS* well thought out and written. Yes I remind myself daily how blessed I am that God gave me the wonderful man I have by my side. And in the tough times, when we are exhausted and might react with our head and not our heart, i remind myself that I know my hubby would never do anything to intentionally dishonor, hurt or insult me. To take that precious second or two to step back and breathe before I react or say something to dig deeper rather than help us rise above.

  • Reply
    Kathy Attwood
    September 16, 2015 at 8:16 am

    Brooke – What a wonderful message this conveys to women of all ages. You clearly have the light of Christ shining in you. I have known you since you were 13, and I can attest to how God has worked in your life, molding you into a beautiful woman, wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. You are a beautiful Godly woman, Brooke. Hugs to you, Matt and Gianna. Kathy.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    “Knowing something and living it out are two different things.”
    Yes. You’ve got me in tears here. We, too, got married in October 2013, and our sweet Maria Grace was born two weeks before our first anniversary. The growing pains of any relationship can be excruciating, but I think especially so when we trust God and get married when He tells us to, instead of when all our ducks are in a row for an easy life. It reminds me of how Marian Consecration is often referred to as the Quick and Easy Way to Become a Saint…which, being translated, means not the Comfortable way, but rather that we will not have to seek out our means of sanctification, because it will be brought to us, thick and juicy on a platter. Many of the bad habits formed early in marriage come sharply into our view when the trials of unemployment, continuing education, infertility, sharing a dwelling, demanding jobs, lack of community, parenthood, illness, etc hit us, which means we have the arduous duty of rooting them up and planting better ones immediately, and sometimes it seems like our lives are just gardens of pulled weeds, and the fruitful plants are taking so long to grow. It’s so encouraging to hear others say, “Oh, yeah, us too. We have a beautiful marriage, but we’re both so flawed and sanctification is such hard work,” to be reminded that these growing pains are a good thing and will produce fruit in time.

  • Reply
    September 16, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Brook, you have certainly been given the gift of wisdom! We miss you here . Hope you are doing well. May God continue to bless you! PS, I have a difficult time picturing you being selfish; I can only remember you that you have been sweet and giving, a wonderful role model for all girls and women.

  • Reply
    October 8, 2015 at 3:08 pm

    Hi! Thank you so much for sharing this. I read it two days ago. I am 6.5 years, a preschooler, and a toddler into my truly life-fulfilling marriage. We recently moved back to our home state after my husband spent 6 years in graduate school earning his doctorate. Praise God he found a job doing what he was trained to do! We have seized the opportunity for me to stay at home with the kids, and I am adjusting to life here at home in my new role as a full time homemaker. I did not anticipate that this new role would require a mind-shift in EVERY area of my life! Most unanticipated was how it would change my vocation as a wife and provider in the home. I am embracing taking each day and each new challenge as it comes.

    I will revisit your over and over again in the coming days, months, and probably years because it is such a concise reminder that my marital vows did not include “to meet my wife’s every need and want and expectation even when she does not verbalize the aforementioned”. haha 🙂 I think the most profound take-away for me, and one that I am always repeatedly reminding myself, was that shutting down and closing my husband out does neither of us any good. Especially when I am shutting down solely based on the fact that my husband did not magically anticipate my silent expectation. geesh. Reading what I just typed makes me feel so less than holy! Point is…your post is changing my life, and I thought you should know 🙂 Blessings on you and your family!

  • Reply
    May 5, 2017 at 3:11 am

    Thank you! I realized tonight after many hard years that my husband is not blind to our problems by his love for me but that I let my head rule what I think we should be e like instead of my heart- which knows it picked one of the best eggs in the world. I have so many health problems I frequently forget how many and what some of them are, while my husband has severe combat PTSD and some minor physical issues, as well. I’ve believed for years (since we met 14 years ago) that we are soul mates and yet I’ve been so unhappy- my stupid head ran off with my mind and overshadowed what my heart felt for this amazing man of mine! I have never been religious but I have felt something missing & I honestly thought it was from my marriage but I see now it was not able to be fulfilled by my husband at all! Thank you for the eye opening blog!

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