Is Your Spouse A Prisoner Of Your Expectations?

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Imagine you’re having a conversation with your spouse when something doesn’t quite sit right with you. You ask your spouse a question to clarify what you heard them say. They don’t respond right away. There is, what we call, a “pregnant silence.” That’s when you know there are lots of things your spouse is wanting to say, but they’re holding their tongue until they figure out how to say it. Or your spouse may blurt out a defensive response that you didn’t expect.

Either way, what do you do in that moment? Here are your choices:

  • Bark back allowing a huge argument to ensue.
  • Cross your arms, close your heart and refuse to talk about it anymore.
  • Wait until your spouse says what they have to say. And then ask more questions until you’re sure you completely understand how they got to this conclusion.

So often we judge our spouse based on the past, or based on what we think they mean.

Both of these are unfair treatments. It leaves no room for growth or change. If we always expect our spouse to be the same way in certain situations, it pretty much chains them to it. We make them a prisoner of our expectations whether good or bad. Where is the grace in that? Is this how Christ treats us when we’ve failed, yet again, in a certain area? Or is He patient, allowing us room to grow through our failures?

We know the answer. Christ was patient unto death. He willingly took what our sins deserved in order to make a way for us to change. God wants us to do the same for our spouse. He wants us to die to our own expectations and trust Him to work in our spouse for their good and His glory. Sometimes the best thing we can give our spouse is patient silence, rather than picking away at the lack we see.

But then, this isn’t easy, is it? We’re all sinners at heart and doing the right thing, thinking the right way, and responding with grace towards those we love takes diligent effort. We get tired. We grow weary. And we just want to be happy and have peace.

Times like these can reveal idols in our heart.

What is it you’re craving in a moment like this? Is it peace? Is it understanding? Or is it to glorify God. The last answer is the right one. God doesn’t promise us a conflict-free marriage. No, He uses the conflicts we face to challenge false gods we may be worshiping.  Of course, most of us don’t set up an Asherah pole in our living room, or wield golden calves in our garage, but we do set up idols.

An idol can be anything we desire or long for more than glorifying God.

It could be financial freedom, job security, a new car, or even respectful children.

There is a fine line in our heart between genuine love for God’s creation and sinful worship of the same. Only He knows when we’ve crossed the line, and He’s faithful to let us know that is, IF we’re paying attention. Our conflicts often help us see what’s in our own hearts.

If we want our marriage to grow, then we must seize moments like these and ask God to show us the bigger picture of what He’s after in our heart. This isn’t easy, but it’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit dwells inside of us, and He will help us hear God in the midst of the trouble.

What conflict are you facing in your marriage? How can we pray for you?

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8 Responses to Is Your Spouse A Prisoner Of Your Expectations?

  1. Sheree says:

    Excellent! I have so often made Benny my prisoner! Asking myself what is going on in my heart and what I was craving but not getting is something I need to more consistently do. Thanks for the reminder and for always pointing us to Christ is doing through both the joys and challenges of marriage.


  2. Fawn Weaver says:

    Love this, Debi! Fortunately, we aren’t facing any conflicts in our marriage. It’s all about teamwork here in the Weaver household and we sort of look at conflict as the “person” we join together to beat. Right now, we’re kicking his butt ;).


    • Debi Walter says:

      Good for you! You know there will be days ahead where you will be challenged in this area again. That’s the way life goes. But we’re so glad you’re enjoying the teamwork and seeing much victory right now! We love seasons like those.
      Blessings to you,


  3. Sharon says:

    I am sick right now and hubby is home but annoyed that I’m not up supervising the kids. I guess I expected kindness and sympathy but got none. I’m rarely sick and hardly ever spend a day in bed! He doesn’t have to take a day off since he was already home anyway. Trying hard not to feel upset. Prayers appreciated. Thanks!


    • Debi Walter says:

      We are praying for you as you awake this morning that you’ll sense God’s mercies which are new everyday! The fact that you noticed your expectations not being met and didn’t feel license to sin back is a huge evidence of grace at work in you.

      There should be a time where you talk to your husband about what happened, but without accusing or judging his motives. Let the Holy Spirit bring the conviction using you as the one who has made an observation. I’ll preface talks like these by saying:
      “Can I talk to you about something? Yesterday when I was sick I felt like you we’re upset with me for being laid up in bed. Were you?”
      And then listen. So often what I think is going on in Tom’s mind isn’t. Talking it out brings greater clarity and keeps old wounds from festering.
      I’m praying this helps!


  4. Adam's Eve says:

    I never thought of it this way – imprisoning spouses by impossible standards. It makes perfect sense though. If I hold my husband to a ridiculously high standard and he fails (which he inevitably will), he becomes stuck because we can’t progress forward in our relationship, we can’t grow in our marriage if we hit a wall because I can’t let go of this ideal of perfection I have cooked up in my mind. In essence, he’s imprisoned since a marriage is a two-way street: we can only go as far as either of us allows.

    I think some of this is the fault of the media blasting messages about what they think we need and want. The other problem is plain human selfishness. I can’t tell you the number of times I bought the lie from the media that my husband had to be a certain way to be in order to be sexier, more romantic, and more exciting, or that I had to buy certain products or act a certain way in order to be sexier, more beautiful, engaging, etc. From this I formed ideals in my mind that were too high for me to attain or my husband for that matter. Then I selfishly assumed my husband was here to serve my needs all the time. I’m so grateful God gave me a wake up call. Periodically, I find it really helps to write out my expectations for myself, my husband, and my marriage and also to talk with my husband about expectations regularly so as to avoid impossible standards and unattainable goals and to keep us accountable to each other.


    • Debi Walter says:

      I love the idea of writing out your expectations. I think many of us do it without realizing we are. Doing this simple act of asking God to help us write them down could diffuse lots of conflict in the future. And it would be an excellent facilitator of deeper conversation too.
      Love it!


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