Have you ever said in frustration about your spouse, “We are so incompatible!”? If you have (and most of us have), it is an indication of unrealistic expectations. The truth is, every married couple is wonderfully incompatible! Sure, some of us share more hobbies, interests, beliefs, and perspectives about life with our spouses than other couples do. However, every couple deals with differences in one way or another.

Unrealistic expectations cause incredible stress in a marriage. Adjusting expectations from unrealistic to realistic can produce a sense of contentment and peace in your marriage.

Here are some realistic expectations for marriage:

Expect differences. You are two different people. You have different likes and dislikes. You will see the world in different ways. You will problem solve differently.  This is reality. Differences will exist, and sometimes they will cause conflict.

Expect conflict. Conflict is normal. It does happen. It’s a natural part of blending two lives. The important thing to do is learn to handle conflict well. When  you handle it well, it can actually deepen your intimacy.

Expect your spouse to fail. He/she is human. Humans make mistakes. They aren’t perfect. When you expect your spouse to fail and make mistakes, you are better prepared to respond to their failures with grace and forgiveness.

Expect an ebb and flow of feelings in your marriage. No couple feels “in love” all the time. Feelings breathe, they are fluid, and they don’t always tell us the truth. If you feel that you don’t love your spouse anymore, recognize that true love is a choice, not a feeling. Increase your loving actions, and your feelings will reignite in time.

Expect to ask for help when your relationship is headed in the wrong direction. When our bodies are sick, we go to a doctor. When our marriages are sick, a Christian counselor can be a huge help in communication and digging down to issues at the core of our challenges. If you don’t know where to start, ask for recommendations from your pastor or friends who have found relationship counseling helpful. Don’t hesitate to change counselors if you feel that one or both of you are not connecting with the counselor you’re seeing.

Expect to share your expectations. Your spouse is not a mind reader. He/she doesn’t feel the same way you do. He/she doesn’t think the same way you do. He/she doesn’t make decisions or process hardship the same way you do. If you desire something from him or her, ask. With words. That conversation will either help you get your needs met or help you see that your expectations are out of line.

Unrealistic expectations are preconceived resentments. They begin a downward spiral that is unhealthy for relationships. Unmet expectations turn into resentments, which turn into bitterness that turns into anger, and ultimately becomes conflict that could have actually been avoided if you had internally moved from unrealistic expectations to realistic ones.

What about you? Where have you realized that you have unrealistic expectations that need to change to realistic expectations? 

This article originally appeared at Hearts at Home on April 15, 2013. Used with permission.

Jill Savage is the founder and CEO of Hearts at Home, an organization for moms.  Jill is a sought after speaker and the author of 8 books including Real Moms…Real Jesus and My Heart’s at Home. Jill and her husband Mark are the parents of five children, four biological and one adopted. The Savage’s make their home in Normal, Illinois.

Publication date: May 20, 2013