Phebe Brako-Owusu, LMFT
Marriage Monday: Navigating expectations
Take a moment to imagine your parents' marriage or the marriage of some of the adults you grew up around. Now take a look at your marriage. Notice any differences and similarities? Our expectations about marriage are informed by the marriages we see as we grow. We expect to see some of the things we saw such as gender roles, division of domestic labor and ways to show affection. If your parents kissed before heading out for work everyday, that is very likely how you expect to start your day when you get married. We pick up these learned behaviors which eventually form our expectations and worldview.
There are times when this can be a struggle in marriages where there are stark differences in backgrounds, upbringing and therefore expectations. Perhaps you grew up in a home where your parents did not openly argue so you may assume that arguments are a threat in marriages. Or you may have the experience of your mother always having a hot meal ready for your father every evening and expect the same from your partner who is from a home where cooking was a shared task.
These differences do not need to be a dealbreaker. Two words here - curiosity and conversation.
You can approach these differences from a place of curiosity, asking your partner about what they imagined marriage would be like. Here are some examples:
"What did you think marriage would be like?"
"How did your parents communicate in difficult moments?"
"Did you see your parents argue? How was that like for you?"
Curiosity will lead to conversation about how you and your partner see marriage and help you figure out what parts of the marriages you saw throughout your life are worth keeping, and which parts are worth changing. You can learn a lot from your partner by asking questions (open-ended especially). The answers you get can be an eyeopener on their expectations about marriage. These answers can also lead to further conversations about which of these expectations may or may not be realistic.