One of the most significant sources of stress in marriage is tied to expectations. When expectations are unclear, unhealthy, unspoken or unmet, one or both spouses can start to feel neglected, inadequate and/or frustrated with the marriage. I’m convinced many (if not most) divorces come back to expectations.
When a man and woman first start out together in marriage, both of them are carrying unspoken expectations. They each have a vision of what the home life will be. They have separate ideas of what their sex life will be. They have different dreams for what their future family will be. They also have different expectations for what the each of their responsibilities should be.
These different expectations are rarely communicated out loud because most newlyweds naively believe that they are so in sync with their spouse that the unspoken expectations are exactly the same. This is never the case. Two different individuals with two different personalities coming from two different family backgrounds will ALWAYS have some different expectations.
Different expectations aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Like most aspects of marriage, this is just another opportunity to communicate and serve each other’s needs. It’s not a matter of one spouse having the “right” perspective and the other being “wrong.” It’s about both spouses willingly laying down their own preferences for the sake of serving each other and demonstrating love to each other.
Marriages get in trouble when expectations become a kind of “scorecard” where both spouses grade each other based on how the other spouse is measuring up to the expectations. There can also be conflicts when a spouse communicates his or her expectations, but the expectations are unfair or comparative in nature. Hurtful comments like:
“I wish you could cook like my mom.”
“My dad could always fix stuff around the house, why can’t you?”
“The neighbor’s wife sure is in good shape. You should work out more like her.”
“The neighbor’s husband just took his wife to Europe. If you’d just work harder, you could afford to take me there.”
These kinds of comments and millions of others like them can create hurt feelings and broken trust in marriage. These expectations are unfair, BUT there are some realistic expectations in marriage that are important. There are some basic needs of husbands and wives that the other spouse is uniquely qualified to meet and when these basic needs are unmet, it can harm the marriage.
I’m going to list out the five most significant expectations men have of their wives in marriage. Another way to say this is that these are most men’s five biggest needs in marriage and whether the husband clearly communicates them or not, these represent what he needs, wants, and yes, expects most of his wife. My fantastic wife Ashley is going to write a companion piece to this article detailing women’s greatest needs and expectations of their husbands.
The 5 things most men need, want, and expect from their wives are (in no particular order):
He wants you to be his best friend. He wants to have fun with you. He wants to explore with you and create new adventures with you. He doesn’t want you to treat him like you’re his mom (even when he’s acting like a kid). He wants to be your friend.
A man’s need for respect is a deep, soul-level need that’s surprising to most women. Research has found most men would rather feel respected by their wives than feel loved. When you affirm him and believe in him, he’ll feel like he can take on the world. When you nag him or constantly correct him or insult him, it will crush his soul.
Your husband most likely has a strong physical desire for frequent sex, but sex isn’t just physical for him. He feels connected to you when you make love. He feels rejected by you when you deny his advances or when you never seem to be the one to initiate sex. Make your sex life a priority, and you’ll be simultaneously encouraging your husband and growing closer to him in the process.
4. Domestic Support
Men should definitely do their part at home and with the kids in an equal way (especially when both spouses work outside the home), but most men want their wives to take the lead on making the house into a home. You shouldn’t feel the pressure to have a constantly-clean, HGTV-looking, magazine cover, dream house. That’s not what he should expect. What he wants most is a home where there is peace. He wants the home to be a refuge, and YOU are the thermostat of the home. You determine much more than simple décor, you have the power to determine the “climate” of the home, so do your part to make it warm, loving and joyful.
This is a HUGE expectation of both husbands and wives. It’s what a marriage is built on. When you threaten divorce or when you look for opportunities to escape from him, he’ll feel the lack of love and commitment and the marriage won’t ever be all it could be. Above all, make sure he knows you love him, you believe in him, and you’re committed to him no matter what. The strength of your commitment will determine the strength of your marriage.
If you’ll start by prioritizing these five needs of your husband, I believe you’ll see lasting growth in your marriage. He’ll probably be much more motivated and equipped to meet YOUR needs and expectations. Keep serving each other. Keep loving each other. Keep investing in your marriage and you’ll keep growing closer through every season of life.