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Grate Expectations

  • Dave Meurer
  • 2003 29 Mar
Grate Expectations
Let us now turn to the powerful, compelling tale of a married couple whom we shall refer to as “Carl and Mary” — mostly because those are their real names and this is a Christian book, so we are certainly not going to lie about their identities.

We believe in standards here at Bethany House Publishers, and if that means Carl and Mary happen to be scanning this chapter one day and are mortified to discover that their innermost marital trials and tribulations are plastered all over the page, and they stare at each other in shock and say, “How could Dave DO THIS to us?” I merely remind them that humility is a virtue. So really, this is for their own good. I think they should be grateful.

The tale begins back before Carl and Mary were dating, before they fell in love, before they said “I do” in front of God and the assembled witnesses, and definitely before the subsequent memorable moment when Carl, inexperienced young newlywed that he was, felt his pulse racing as he stared in slack-jawed wonder at their first VISA bill, and squawked, “You spent $489.27 for clothes in one day?”

And Mary burst into tears and said, “I just want to look nice for you!”

And Carl said, “But you already look great! You don’t need all those clothes! In fact, the less clothes the better! Hey, that’s an idea ...”

And then he was in the mood for love, and she was in the mood to take a self-guided tour of Boise (and they lived in Sheboygan, so we aren’t talking about a mere afternoon outing).

Clearly, it did not take long for the “great expectations” of marriage to become the “grate expectations” of reality. In the first twelve months of marriage, Carl and Mary were doing more grating than an industrial-sized cheese shredder.

Like all clueless young romantic people, Carl and Mary held certain expectations of what wedded bliss would be like long before anyone tossed rice at them. They came from very different family histories, with different socio-economic levels, different spending habits, different temperaments, different understandings of what “normal life” was all about, and to top it all off they had completely different genders.

So it is not terribly surprising that they had wildly different expectations about married life. With all the aforementioned differences, one of the few things they actually had in common, going in, was that they at least came from the same continent.

It is at this point I would like to say that premarital counseling can fully resolve most of these differences and create harmony in the home. It is at this point that I would also like to hear Regis Philbin shout, “Congratulations, Dave! You are our newest millionaire!” But it is at this point that I also have to admit that neither of these things is likely.

Not that I am pooh-poohing premarital counseling. In fact, I think it is an outstanding idea. In our church, the pastoral staff will not marry a couple until they complete a prenuptial counseling course. I wish more churches would do this.

But even with some very open and informative counseling, where nitty-gritty issues like conflict resolution, budgets, in-laws, holidays, dirty socks he will leave by the bed, and various expectations are explored and discussed, these sessions only go so far because, deep down, she is lost in a romantic fog about the wedding ceremony and he is thinking about sex. So only about five or six words actually get through. That’s why post-marriage counseling is a booming business.

Even if the engaged couple really does focus on the big issues, and even if they go into marriage with fairly realistic expectations about each other and general agreement about what roles they are going to be playing, the harsh reality is that men are men and women are women, and despite all the shrill rhetoric ever emitted by various feminist groups, there are profound differences between the genders, and these differences are deeper than who experiences water retention and terrible monthly mood swings.

EXAMPLE #1: My wife, Dale, and I were visiting my brother, Jim, and his wife, Beth, recently, and Beth used the term “adorable” about some little craft item she was showing my wife, and Dale agreed that it was, indeed, adorable, and they quickly scampered off to a store that sells cards and candles and little craft things, all of which they think are adorable.

Jim and I never used the word “adorable” the entire weekend we were together. We simply do not think in those terms. In fact, the same store that our wives could browse through for HOURS would put either of us in a coma after about fifteen minutes. That’s why we are elated when they go to that store without us, even though it may very well mean some serious cardiac distress when the VISA bill comes.

EXAMPLE #2: When a woman is showing her husband an adorable little craft item she just purchased, and he is nodding when she asks if he thinks it would look good on a wall in their bedroom, the split second she says the word “bed” he is thinking about being in it.

They have different reactions and different expectations and different desires, not just because of backgrounds and families and economics, but because GOD MADE THEM THAT WAY.

But why?

My theory is—and I always get raised eyebrows when I say this—God is trying to manipulate us. But it is manipulation in a good way. He is trying to change us into something better than what we are. He wants us to grow—to learn to give and sacrifice and share and even suffer for the sake of someone else. And He knows that, if left to ourselves, we will not choose to do this. So He uses sex to get what He wants. Make no mistake, we guys would NOT be getting married if sex were not a big part of the package deal. We are not attracted to marriage because it increases our opportunity to view adorable craft items.

Hordes of words have already been penned about the different romantic expectations men and women hold, so I certainly do not need to dive into the subject yet again. But I am going to anyway. Hey, it’s my book so I might just as well talk about something that interests me. If you don’t like it, go get in line behind Carl and Mary.

Because I already said it so brilliantly in my previous book Daze of Our Wives (available at all Christian bookstores that have lowered their standards), I will quote myself here:

One common stereotype women have about men is that we are obsessed with sex. For example, just because [Daze of Our Wives] featured three chapters about sex, and because I tried to get away with two additional chapters about sex before my unamused editor began yelling at me, many women, such as my wife, are thinking, Good grief! Is he obsessed with sex, or what?

What an unfair stereotype! But even as women are unfairly caricaturing us guys as having the sex drive of hyperactive weasels, we men are quietly going about the daily business of doing our jobs, taking care of the lawn, paying bills, getting the tires rotated, and engaging in a host of other productive activities, in many cases going an entire five minutes without thinking about sex, which proves we are not obsessed with this topic, but merely very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, interested in it. (That’s “very” to the twenty-fourth power.)

Besides, for the record, the Journal of the American Medical Association has documented that men have the sex drive of hyperactive ferrets, not weasels. So there.

This high level of interest in sex is largely due to biological factors, and thus we guys could not change our colossal fascination with sex even if we wanted to, which we most certainly don’t, because we really like being this way. It’s fun! Just ask us! (If you happen to be married to us, that is!)

So we guys enter marriage with sex looming large in our minds. I am not saying that sex is not important for women as well. But let me illustrate the different expectations for intimacy.

EXAMPLE A: Carl and Mary have a nice evening out together at their favorite restaurant, and have arranged to have the kids spend the night with the grandparents. Carl and Mary have a chance to really talk, and they discuss their life, their faith, their hopes and dreams for their family—all over a fine dinner accented by soft candlelight and soothing music. Mary is fully prepared for a romantic interlude.

EXAMPLE B: Carl and Mary are watching the annual rerun of The Ten Commandments on TV. Carl is fully prepared for a romantic interlude between commercial breaks.

EXAMPLE C: Carl and Mary are just getting into bed when the radio, which is tuned to an “easy-listening station,” interrupts with that irritating Emergency Broadcast System warning and the radio guy announces that the dam has burst and the city will be flooded within fifteen minutes. Carl says, “We still have time.”

Clearly, with these radically different thresholds for intimate involvement, both Carl and Mary must learn to adapt to each other’s needs and desires. In practical terms, he is going to have to learn to often s-l-o-w down and learn to proceed at a romantic pace that works for her. Conversely, she needs to learn that in many cases he is going to be feeling way more amorous than she is, and she needs to learn to “speed up” to meet his needs and time constraints even though it is not going to be the same memorable experience outlined in Example A.

In short, they need to adapt to each other. And that adaptation spills into every facet of life.

He may think a dream vacation means elk hunting. She may think it means traveling to Chicago for a big family get-together. Obviously, these are mutually incompatible goals (unless the Windy City has seen a recent intrusion of large game animals).

It may be that they do one thing one year, and another thing the next. It may mean that he occasionally does a “solo” vacation, or goes off with a bunch of his hunting buddies. It may mean that they find a third alternative.

But it had better mean that they are talking and giving and working it out and putting each other first. Because no matter what expectations they brought into their union, they need to realize that God has His own expectations of marriage.

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25 NASB).

Guys, Christ put the church, His “bride,” first. He gave, and sacrificed, and willingly took death before He would allow harm to come to her. He put her first. And He expects us to put our wives first too.

And ladies, God has some expectations for you as well—expectations like “respectful behavior” and a “gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:2–4 NASB).

Talk about “great expectations!” These are HUGE expectations!

Clearly, putting others first does not mean “let them have or do whatever they want.” Jesus does not let us have or do whatever we want. He puts us first by acting in our best interests. Many times, this means a firm but loving “no.” Wisdom and sensitivity need to permeate all our decisions as married couples.

But there are lots of gray areas, when the issue is not a “yes or no” matter.

For instance, there is no single “correct” decision on how to spend the family income, or where to spend Christmas, or what car to buy (unless you are considering the same kind of lemon of a station wagon that I bought, in which case the answer is a resounding “no!”).

But if husbands are truly loving their wives with the same fervor and sacrifice and commitment that Christ lavished on the church, then it should not be a huge stretch for wives to meet God’s expectation for them to respect and love and accept the leadership of their mates.

I love to look at successful marriages that have made it forty or fifty years. Not that all long marriages are, by definition, successful. There are long marriages that seem more like a prison sentence than a blessed union. But when I find an aging couple who are still crazy about each other, who still date, who sit close together in church, and who still kiss (not during the sermon), I spy on them so I can learn something for my own marriage.

And what I am learning is that God does not intend marriage to meet our expectations. He intends marriage to exceed our wildest dreams.


“What are some of the differing expectations you brought into marriage? Would you be willing to share with an engaged couple the secrets you learned regarding how to resolve these issues?”


“Miss, can you put down that copy of Bridal Shopping & Spending Extravaganza magazine for just a moment while I direct your attention to the kind offer by an experienced married couple? Yes, I know the article about cummerbunds is fascinating, but if you could just focus for a moment on the big picture ... Miss?”

“OK, young engaged guy, since she is now absorbed in the article titled ‘Choose the Right Cake Frosting or You’ll RUIN the Most Important Day of Your Mortal Existence!’ perhaps we can have a man-to-man talk about conflict resolution. Young man? Hello? Anyone home behind those glazed eyes? I’M TALKING TO YOU!!!”

3. Does this prove my point, or what?

Excerpted from:
Out on a Whim: A Somewhat Useful Guide to Marriage, Family, Culture, God and Flammable Household Appliances by Dave Meurer
Copyright © 2001, Dave Meurer
ISBN: 0764225456
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.

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