How to Adjust Your Expectations in a Difficult Marriage

How to Be a Loving Wife in a Difficult Marriage at

Welcome to part two of my new marriage series, titled How to Be a Loving Wife in a Difficult Marriage. For the next four weeks, I’ll introduce four different ways to put love into action in a difficult marriage. Today’s topic is How to Adjust Your Expectations in a Difficult Marriage.

This week has held some marriage challenges. I have noticed over the years that the lower my expectations, the less hurt I feel in our marriage. When I expect him to give me something he’s either unable or unwilling to give, I set myself up for heartache.

How do you learn what reasonable expectations are? I have found answers in the Bible, online tools, and Christian books.

The lower your expectations, the less hurt you'll feel in a difficult marriage. Click To Tweet

Use God’s Word to Set Expectations

The Bible is full of advice on marriage. Here are a few of my favorite passages for understanding expectations for marriage.

The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:4 NIV

The Bible is clear; God sees us as one flesh when we are married. We cannot be interested only in ourselves. Even though selfishness and withholding love and affection have been problems in my marriage, I know they aren’t God’s design.

However, each one of you [husbands] also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband. Ephesians 5:33 NIV

God gives us a high standard. He says that husbands should love their wives like Christ loved the church, and be willing to give themselves up for their wives. I believe God wants wives to have that same selfless attitude toward their husbands. My call is to give my husband respect, even when we don’t agree.

The Power of 1 Corinthians 13

Love is patient, love is kind.

Love does not envy, does not boast, and is not proud. 

Love does not dishonor others and is not self-seeking.

Love is not easily angered and keeps no record of wrongs.  

Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 

Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails.

1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV (modified by me)

I broke out this passage into several different lines, because it can be so familiar that the meaning gets lost.

I like to put my name into every place where the word “love” is, and ask God to show me areas where I can improve. I challenge you to reread it, placing your name where “love” is, and asking God to show you how you can be more loving today.

Sometimes, one area pops out to me when the other areas are OK. Don’t let the list overwhelm you. Ask God to help you pick one area to work on so you don’t get overwhelmed and discouraged. I also encourage you to pray about any areas in this passage that cause heartache. God is willing to listen to your heart and give you comfort.

This passage also helps me understand that God expects us to strive to this standard. He knows we will fail, but He will empower us to become more loving, even in a difficult marriage.

How God empowers you to be more loving in a difficult marriage. Click To Tweet

Even when my difficult marriage doesn’t meet God’s expectations for love and respect, I am comforted knowing that God set the rules, not me. I believe that God has a holy plan and a beautiful design for my marriage, and simply knowing that brings me peace in the midst of challenges.

How to Adjust Your Expectations in a Difficult Marriage

Use Online Tools to Set Expectations

This week I read a blog post about enneagram types, which led me to some online exploration. I identified my type (Reformer) and my husband’s type (Leader). The link for my type allowed me to check my compatibility with his type. I learned something new about our conflicts through this online tool. The insight gave me perspective so I could take a step back and gain solid ground.

The truth is, I’m married to someone very opposite from me. I must realize that because we are so different, conflicts are inevitable. I can’t allow every conflict to rattle me. Since I have peacemaking tendencies, conflict really bothers me. But I have to adjust to a certain level of conflict as being “normal” in our unique relationship, with our unique personality combination.

Some of the resources below also have online resources. I encourage you to explore your God-given personality with free online tests: here’s my favorite one. You will gain new perspective that will help you adjust your expectations to a healthy level.

Online tools to help you set expectations in your marriage. Click To Tweet

Use Christian Books to Set Expectations

These Christian books have helped me understand my husband, myself, and God’s design for our marriage. When you gain understanding, you can set reasonable expectations. Here are my favorite resources that I hope will encourage you.

L.O.V.E. Putting Your Love Styles to Work for You

L. O. V. E.: Putting Your Love Styles to Work for You

This book has a valuable online test and a discussion of how the styles work together. It helped me adjust my expectations for my husband’s unique love style. I turn to this book again and again to feel grounded when conflicts arise.

Love & Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs 

Love & Respect

Another highly valuable resource that taught me how to love my husband in ways he understands, and to ask him to love me in ways that I need. Smart, well-written, and empowering.

Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas

Sacred Marriage

Excellent book on a heavenly perspective of marriage. This is an in-depth, intelligent, and informative look at God’s design. I also gained encouragement from his statistics on couples who choose to stick it out for the long term–their happiness actually increases. That fact alone revolutionized my expectations.

The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman

The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts

One of my favorite resources to understanding what I need and what he needs. My primary love language is quality time and conversation. His is physical touch. When it’s been too long since either of us have “heard” our favorite love language from each other, conflict is sure to brew. Practical and useful every day of our marriage.

Four Christian books to help you understand your marriage more. Click To Tweet

Expectation Reset

Are you feeling discouraged in your marriage today? Ask God to show you where your expectations are too high, and He will help you adjust them. If your expectations are reasonable and your needs still aren’t getting met, I encourage you to seek God to fill your heart’s needs. 

This beautiful scripture encourages me when my expectations aren’t met:

For your Maker is your husband—
    the Lord Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
    he is called the God of all the earth.

Isaiah 54:5 NIV

Cling to that scripture when you are hurting, friend. God will make up the difference between your expectations and your difficult marriage.

Please join me next time for a discussion on setting boundaries in a difficult marriage.

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Questions for you:

Do you know someone who may benefit from this series? Will you share it with them today?

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