Happiness is a temporary state that comes and goes as circumstances change – and you can count on the fact that your future spouse will sometimes let you down and make you feel unhappy.  But the joy that God offers you if you invite Him to use your marriage to transform both of you will last through any circumstances. 

Go into marriage committed to learning how to love each other as Christ loves you.  Don’t waste your time and energy looking for fulfillment from any source other than God Himself – your ultimate satisfaction will always come through a love relationship with God.  If you mistakenly look to your future spouse to fulfill you, you place a burden on your future spouse that he or she can’t bear.  So go to God to have your needs met.  Take good care of yourself spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically, so you’ll be in good shape to love your future spouse in healthy ways. 

Evaluate your expectations.  If either you or your future spouse are harboring unrealistic expectations, your relationship can suffer from frustration, disappointment, and conflict.  So decide to claim, feel, recognize, understand, evaluate, and express your expectations clearly – before they lead to significant problems in your relationship.  Discuss each other’s expectations for at least these areas:

  • sexual relationship;
  • handling finances;
  • social life or friends;
  • matters of recreation or how to spend leisure time;
  • household tasks; marital roles;
  • religious matters;
  • demonstration of affection;
  • ways of dealing with in-laws;
  • goals, philosophy of life, careers; and
  • making major decisions. 

For each expectation, ask: “Is this expectation supported by objective reality? Is it objectively true that he or she should act this way?”, “Am I hurt in any way if this expectation is not fulfilled?”, “Is this expectation essential to the attainment of any specific goal I have for my marriage?”, What does this expectation do to my future spouse’s perception of me?”, and “Does this expectation help me achieve the kind of emotional responses I want for my spouse and me in marriage?”  Let go of unrealistic expectations, and approach your future spouse in respectful ways about valid expectations.

Learn about the fear dance you’re doing together.  Recognize that your fears reflect your wants, and when you believe that your desires won’t be fulfilled, you feel fear.  For example: If you fear rejection, you want acceptance, and if your future spouse pushes one of your emotional buttons connected to your desire for acceptance, you’ll feel afraid that he or she may reject you. 

When someone pushes one of your fear buttons, you react either with fight (getting angry, escalating, using sarcasm, throwing tantrums, defending yourself, invalidating the other person, trying to fix the problem, or complaining) or flight (withdrawing, stuffing your feelings, indulging in negative beliefs, denial, passive aggressiveness, manipulation, numbing out, stonewalling, or shutting down). 

Recognize the steps you and your future spouse take in your own fear dance, and how to deal with them in productive ways.  Describe a recent conflict or negative situation with your future spouse that really pushed your buttons.  Identify what buttons got pushed: How did what happened during the conflict make you feel about yourself, and what message did you receive?  What did you do when your buttons got pushed? What coping strategies did you use?

Take personal responsibility.  Don’t blame your future spouse for how you feel or behave.  That would be giving him or her the power to determine your worth and identity.  God will hold each of you individually accountable to Him for what you do and say.  Ask God to help you take full personal responsibility for your feelings, actions, and responses – no matter what choices your future spouse makes.  Pray for the strength you need to respond to your future spouse in healthy ways like being patient, kind, loving, humble, giving, honoring, and tender.