Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations

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Aaron and I will be celebrating our fourth anniversary this May, and I believe my love for him has grown twice as much in the last six months as it did in the previous 3 1/2 years. How could it possibly have flourished so significantly in such a short time? It is because God has been teaching me two huge important lessons…let go of the unrealistic expectations and focus on the positives.

It must be a feminine trait connected with our emotional inclinations for love and romance that would incline me as a woman to expect that my husband should surprise me with occasional gifting of flowers, mushy cards, arranging surprise special dates and outings. I desperately wanted him to demonstrate love to me in this practical way. I just wanted him to know what I wanted without even communicating my desires. Have you ever had those moments when he asked you what you wanted to do and you did not respond? You just wanted him to know? How silly of me to expect him to know my every whim and fancy. He is a man. He thinks differently than a woman. I was holding unrealistic expectations over his head that he ought to be creative, only to be disappointed.

Expectations creeped in for him to play his part around the house, to take out the garbage for me, or help with the dishes occasionally. I was focusing on all that I was contributing without considering all the laborious hours of work that he was offering up on my behalf that we might be well provided for. There was a deeper issue in my heart that the Lord had to weed out. I was so desirous of this practical service that I became bitter towards my husband time and time again. It was becoming idolatrous. Ultimately, deep down I wanted him to be consumed with me and my needs. I would hold these little oversights in my heart until they would come out like a floodgate of tears and frustration. I was focusing on the shortcomings.

Did I ever take thought to his needs? He had to do one thing for 8 hours in the day, while I was able to chose a variety of activities to do around my home. Have I ever been thankful for that?

In preparation for my birthday this past year, I originally hoped he would plan this wonderful surprise outing for me. But God began to show me my foolish expectations. Instead, I simply shared what I would enjoy doing for the day. I delight in exploring new places, walking, and enjoying the blessings of nature. I wanted to take the day and enjoy downtown Portland. Walking around, having coffee, touring used book stores, and enjoying a local new restaurant was my ideal. My birthday ended up being one of the best days of my life. Why? Because we were together, enjoying life. I let go of the expectations.

Over these last six months, thanks in part to Revive Our Hearts 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge, I have learned and continue to grow in my appreciation for the way God designed my man to be. My husband is amazingly steady, devoted to providing for our family, and that is the way that he naturally shows love to me. I know without a shadow of a doubt that he would rather die that stop providing for me. He is so devoted and loyal. He loves the Lord and delights to serve His church.

Once I started to change my focus away from his shortcomings, I began to see more and more of the beautiful gifts he has. I started praising him more for those qualities. I started cheering him on. When he did take out the trash without my nagging, I would give him a big huge and express my love and appreciation. I learned that even if I had to pick up after him occasionally, this was a way that I was being his helper. God fashioned and designed me for my man and he needs me. Yes, he can pick up after himself, but this is not worth holding over him. I changed my focus to see this as an opportunity to serve and help my husband.

What has been the result? Focusing on the good qualities has caused our love to blossom. Not only that, but my husband started taking more initiative. Just this past week, he totally surprised me with a beautiful boutique of flowers! He started serving me in so many practical ways around house, and caring for the children. It has been so awesome! When I thank him and praise him more for these actions, our love continues to grow.

This is our story…your story will likely look different…but might there be some unrealistic expectations that you are harboring?

We cannot change our man, but we can influence him for the better. We can take the plank out of our own eye first, and then, by God’s grace and wisdom, we will be able to see and help assist removing the plank in our husband’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5). Many times we will see that it is only a small stone that may in fact vanish when we focus first on our own hearts and actions.

In a nutshell…

  • Keep your trust first and foremost in the Lord.
  • Communication is key.
  • Don’t harbor bitter thoughts. See them for what they really are. Idols!
  • Write out your expectations. Lay them out before the Lord. Some expectations are certainly biblical (that he is to be faithful, provide, etc), while others (as witnessed above) are not. Prayerfully evaluate them.
  • Start praying for your man. Pray that He might grow into the man God would have him be, and not the way you would have him be.
  • Communicate with your husband. Share your desires and leave it at that. Let the Lord work in his heart.
  • Focus on his quality character traits. Take 30 days and each day try to express vocally one thing you admire about your husband to him and others.
  • True joy comes in the service of others, especially your husband. (Matthew 23:11)

Get behind your man, dear sisters. He needs you! He is so much more productive when you get behind him, trust him, and believe in him. But ultimately, keep your trust in the Lord first and foremost, as the holy women of old…

This is how the holy women of old made themselves beautiful. They trusted in God and accepted the authority of their husbands. For instance, Sarah obeyed her husband, Abraham, and called him her master. You are her daughters when you do what is right without fear of what your husbands might do.” (1 Peter 3:5-6).


Praying for Your Man – 31 Days of Prayer – a free helpful tool for praying for your husband.
30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge - take the challenge! It’s worth it. God can transform your marriage too!

NOTE: My husband has reviewed and approved this post. ;)

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of four, homemaker, and writer. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

91 Responses to Letting Go of Unrealistic Expectations

  1. Janelle October 17, 2012 at 4:28 pm #

    I find that this is an area that I struggle with from time to time. Thank you for the encouragement and the conviction!

  2. billie gram February 24, 2011 at 6:38 pm #

    “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. mmmm hunh. ;)

  3. Annelise March 17, 2010 at 5:27 am #

    Hi! Even though I’m not a religious person, this is something I try to focus on all the time. I will have been married three months next week. I had to leave my family (including a brother that I’d never been apart from for more than two weeks since he’s been born, even though I’m 21) and the place I’d lived my entire life to move to the other side of the country. It was also the first time I’ve lived on my own. Even though I was responsible and frugal before, suddenly I was plunged into this world where it actually mattered, and if I screwed up, it could have seriously implications.

    I was stressed, homesick, and hating the cold weather that I’d not been accustomed to before. I was mad at myself for being like this, because I thought I was a horrible wife (later, talking to other married women, I find this is pretty common in the first, especially when a big move is involved.) All these reasons led to me taking out my frustration on my husband for a few weeks. Fortunately, he knew that the root reason was me being terribly homesick and lonely, and didn’t take it personally.

    Things are much better now! I’ve learned (remembered, really) to love him for the person he is. Every time I find myself getting annoyed because he doesn’t do something, I take time to think about all the wonderful things he does do for me. Also, I’ve accepted that he is not a mind reader, and take the time to express my needs to him. That sometimes after dinner, I don’t have the energy to put up dinner and hand-wash all the dishes. Once I told him areas that I needed his help, he jumped right in, and does such things without asking. I also let him know daily that I love and appreciate him. It makes things so much nicer!

  4. Mindee February 11, 2010 at 9:38 am #

    Wow. I could not have read this at a better time. I love how God provides answers even when I don’t know I need one. This struck a chord deep in my heart. Thank you for sharing.

  5. Michelle Y February 3, 2010 at 7:34 pm #

    What a nice post, Lindsay.

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time…I live in the Vancouver area, so it’s always nice to see your local tips :)

    I have to admit, I’m not much into religion, but I thought you may like to know that often times your posts like this reach across faiths. I think I’m going to go give my husband a hug (he’s in the bathroom, bathing our kids b/c I smashed my finger…timely reading, huh?!).

  6. Jane February 3, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    So fun to find another who has found Revive Our Hearts’ downloads! There are a few great, ones, eh? I found and printed those off about a year ago. I like the prayer one as a reference…there’s also one for kiddos, too, if you haven’t seen!

    My husband and I are just finishing Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs. Great. Humbling, but great. Best thing he said in there (for me) was that God COMMANDS wives to respect their husbands…period. His commands are not dependant on what another person’s heart/attitude is like – He’s commanding US to do it(whatever “it” may be). Sometimes simply obeying God and choosing to believe that His word is TRUE – when it doesn’t seem like it’ll help anything in our eyes – takes faith. God is true to His word! Lord, increase our faith, that we wives might obey in ALL things!

  7. Morgan February 3, 2010 at 1:16 pm #

    I just want to say thank you for this post. It definitely ministered to me. I could completely relate. I quoted you in a post that I’m writing, I just put it up.

  8. paigeu February 2, 2010 at 9:24 am #

    I think you have some things right here.

    But I think it needs to be said that it is good to *ask* for what you want. If you need help with housework there is nothing wrong with asking for it. If you do so in a non-demanding tone then he will have the freedom to say “no” if he simply can’t handle the request in that moment. Sometimes spouses would be willing to help if they just knew that it was needed.

    My husband rarely helps on his own accord, but I frequently ask him if he could help with homework or baths or dishes as they often need to be done at the same time. 95% of the time he comes through and takes on a task. Because he does say “yes” so often, it is much easier to be respectful during those times when he says he is too tired/etc.

  9. Missy February 1, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    Great post, and I whole-heartedly agree. :) Even if it doesn’t lead to bouquets of flowers, it can still lead to a greater friendship and appreciation of one another. But flowers are great! My husband and I have been married for over 20 years now, but I remember well those early years and my unrealistic expectations. He had some as well. ;) I’m thankful God has seen us this far and I am truly thankful for my man. :)

  10. Ann February 1, 2010 at 7:47 am #

    Thanks for the post, Lindsay – just need to remind myself of it every time that I see some clothes on the floor or the toilet seat open. I tend to take those kind of things as personal disrespect to me and forgetting about all the times he is helping with the dishes etc.

  11. Janelle January 31, 2010 at 8:56 pm #

    Thank-you so much for sharing! I so appreciate learning from Godly woman who have so much wisdom to share. I am getting married in seven weeks – the end of March! My desire is to be a real blessing to my husband, to stand by him and build him up. It seems so daunting at times when I realize the responsibility I have toward him and yet I know that God will give me the strength and wisdom to be the kind of wife He has called me to be. I am so looking forward to it!! God bless you so much as you continue being an encouragement to so many woman.

  12. mama January 31, 2010 at 2:00 pm #

    lindsey, i am blow away at how practical your blog is, without idolizing home making and organic eating. and if you do, you are good at being transparent and confessing it. i pray that God blesses you through your efforts to serve other women. thank you for your hard work. wish we could be buddies, but we’re not in the same state :) this will do though.

  13. Ashley Lanea January 31, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    Thank you for being so honest and real! I have not been blessed with marriage yet, but I can imagine myself having those same expectations. I’ll definitely be printing this out as a reminder and keeping this wisdom near my heart.

  14. Sherrin January 31, 2010 at 1:23 am #

    Thanks for this! I’ve been reminded to be continually thankful for my husband. It is so easy to allow wrong expectations to built up and steal the joy we should have in the blessing God has given. It is good to be reminded, and I’ve often thought of your post in the last few days.

  15. Kitty Hurdle January 30, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    The 30-day-challenge is my fave!!!

  16. Marci January 29, 2010 at 11:31 pm #

    Very, very timely post. Jesse and I have been married 5 1/2 years now and struggling through the same things. We just had a big discussion about this. I was harboring a lot of resentment for him not knowing how I felt or what I was thinking. I felt like we were keeping track of all the things each other did around the house and if one person was doing more, the next blow up we would bring all the things up that each other had done the last few weeks. We used the terms “always” and “never” (“You always throw your clothes on the floor!” or “You never make the bed!”) The other day, I was so fed up that I just decided to google “respect your husband”. Wow, what a God-send. I found that same 30 day husband encouragement that Lindsay talks about in this post. I prayed and wrote my husband a long letter apologizing for not respecting him. He fully appreciated it and I think with God’s help, we are on the path to a healthier and HAPPIER marriage. Thanks for the encouraging words, Lindsay!

    • Jane February 3, 2010 at 6:21 pm #

      Wonderful google search! My husband and I both are finishing up Love & Respect by Emerson Eggerichs – you might check it out! Life changing for our marriage.

  17. Heidi January 29, 2010 at 8:14 pm #

    Just what I needed to hear. Thanks for the post!

  18. Beth January 29, 2010 at 5:01 pm #

    Thank you for the post. I have been struggling with the very same thing. It has been hard after a frustrating day with the baby, not to hand him off to the hubby, instead of letting my hubby to relax after his long day and commute. I did the 30 days of encouragement my last month of pregnancy, but realized in the past couple days, that I need a refresher.

  19. Heather H. January 29, 2010 at 2:44 pm #

    Great post! I would highly recommend Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas. It was a marriage changing book. I have a whole new attitude about the purpose of my marriage, it is actually designed by God to bring us closer to God! (not to make us happy, but to make us HOLY) way cool.

  20. Kristy Howard January 29, 2010 at 1:28 pm #

    The Lord has been dealing with me about this very thing, Lindsay. Thank you for sharing your heart and being open about what God is doing in your life and marriage. This was a blessing to me. Kristy @ Homemaker’s Cottage

  21. Amanda January 29, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Thank you for this post. I think unrealistic expectations can be the undoing of a marriage, and have been the biggest challenge to me in these first 3 years! Thank you for the reminder, and for the challenge to encourage and compliment our husbands. It’s so easy to fall into complacency, but so essential to work hard at loving our husbands. I think part of this is also realizing my motives for serving my husband. Am I truly cleaning/cooking/working/giving affection out of LOVE, or am I really just serving my own desires? This also ties into your post about natural living being an idol. I realized that it had become a selfish pursuit for me (causing undue stress on me and my family), and am trying make it a labor of love! Thank you for your ministry in my life… as so many others have said, you are an inspiration and encouragement to me!

  22. Jennifer January 29, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    Thanks for the encouraging post. Very challenging!

  23. Natalie January 29, 2010 at 10:03 am #

    I had prayed for years that the Lord would make my husband a better leader, and he has granted that desire more than I could have imagined. Little did I know that what I should have been praying more faithfully was that I would be a better follower! And, as many have said already, thank you for your transparancy in this blog. It is very encouraging for other wives/mothers to see a godly example of how to deal with struggles we ALL face! :) Bless you and your ministry here.
    ~Natalie C

  24. Jenna January 29, 2010 at 8:23 am #

    Thank you for this… that was really a blessing to me. I’ve tried to take that 30-day challenge a few times before, but since part of the challenge is not saying anything negative to or about your husband for the entire 30 days, i felt the need to start over once i failed that part of it… you encouraged me to take it again! I am definitely guilty of having unrealistic expectations and failing to acknowledge the very many ways my husband is a blessing to our family.

    thank you!

  25. [email protected] After The Alter January 29, 2010 at 7:08 am #

    Good post! It is amazing how when you just let go how you are so much more able to focus on the good. I liked your story about the birthday outting you wanted. I do that alot..think my husband is a mind reader and that he will just KNOW what I want…but if you just say it you will be much less dissapointed. Men and women are just so different. Communication is key

  26. Jessica Brammer | Losing the World January 29, 2010 at 5:00 am #

    Thanks for the post, I felt like I could have written it myself!I totally hold unrealistic expectations and am working on changing them, but it is hard work! We always end up fighting over the stupid little things that I have held onto and how he is oblivious to needs and desires that I feel should be screaming out to him. I will definitely try ot be a better helper and help us to have a more enjoyable time together.

  27. Charity January 28, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    Hi Lindsey!

    Thanks for your post. It’s interesting how we wives often start to believe that our husbands should help us more and forget that in the beginning when God created Eve, he made her to be a help fit for Adam, her husband. God gave Adam a work and then gave him Eve to help him with his work- not the other way around!

    Recently I was impressed with the thought that I was unhappy because my husband just wasn’t meeting my love needs. He’s a wonderful provider, husband and father, but like you said, he just wasn’t reading my mind about little romantic things I wished he would do for me, or helping around the house as much as I wished he would.

    Then it hit me: If we both selfishly demand from the other what we need, we won’t be happy, because often neither of us understands the others’ wishes about showing love. BUT if we both turn our full attention to seeking the others’ happiness and meeting their love/respect needs, we can find fulfillment in forgetting ourselves and making our loved one happy.

    Love is a verb. “For God so loved, He gave…” God loved us so much that He chose to look for a way to supply what we needed (redemption), and did not just demand that we fulfill what He needed. When I am selfishly looking for what my husband can do for me, I am miserable, even when he does help, because I wish he would do more. But when I’m unselfishly looking for ways to fill his needs and wants, I get joy from seeing his delighted reaction to something special I thought up to do to please him. : )

    It’s fun to:
    1. Make your husband’s favorite meal
    2. Make Daddy’s homecoming a big deal and get the kids to run and greet him when he comes home.
    3. Make home a retreat for Dad- play relaxing music, light scented candles, give him a shoulder rub and bring him his slippers.
    4. Leave him love notes in his clothing drawers.
    5. Stick yellow post it notes all over the house listing why you respect him for him to find when he gets up in the morning.
    6. Make a poster telling how great dad is listing tons of positive adjectives that remind you of him. Post it on the main entrance of your home.
    7. Buy him his favorite magazine and read it together.
    8. Collect jokes to tell at meal times to him. I love my husband’s laugh! : )
    9. Post a list of the top 10 reasons you respect your husband on your closet door. He’ll love it!

    I think you would enjoy the book I recently read that has been very eye opening on the subject of love and respect in marriage. It’s titled: Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires and the Respect He Desperately Needs, by Emmerson Eggerichs

    Thanks again for your thought provoking post. : )

    • Jane February 3, 2010 at 6:23 pm #

      Yes! Great book!

  28. Karilee January 28, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    Hello Lindsay, I was blessed by your post on so many levels. First of all because it really spoke to my heart. Even after 20 years of marriage (coming up in May), I regularly struggle with my own selfishness and expectations and when I focus on me, it always makes things worse. It also blessed me because of your transparency, which shows how tender your heart is toward the Lord. And finally, I am blessed because the gracious way you post things and the sweetness of your spirit reaches so many women. What an honor our Savior has bestowed on you to be His instrument to women that you may never meet on this earth, but whose lives you touch because you allow His Spirit to speak through you and your life.


  29. Nina Nelson January 28, 2010 at 8:54 pm #

    It’s interesting that I’ve been pondering what to blog about all day long and the word marriage keeps popping into my head. Specifically, the changes that my husband and I have experienced in the past 7 months. We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary in November and welcomed our 4th child in December. Our relationship has been a crazy roller coaster, but in the past 7 months it has turned into something that I never thought possible. It started with me realizing that nagging him wasn’t working (only took 6 1/2 years to realize) and that I needed to change my heart and the way I treated him if I expected him to treat me the way I wanted to be treated. And the Lord has worked an amazing change in both of us since then.
    One part of your post really made me think -”Did I ever take thought to his needs? He had to do one thing for 8 hours in the day, while I was able to chose a variety of activities to do around my home. Have I ever been thankful for that?” My husband works two jobs – one as a fire/medic that has him on for 48-hour shifts and one as an E.R. tech that has him on 12-hour shifts. I would complain that he got a “break” from everything while at the fire station and that he just got to sit around at work and do nothing, but I never looked at it from this perspective. Thank you! I truly needed to look at it differently as this has been one thing that I’ve really struggled with. I am so encouraged by your ministry! :)

  30. Carre January 28, 2010 at 8:43 pm #

    Awesome, thanks SO much for this post! I should probably be reading this post every day!!