When You Are Disappointed in Your Spouse

couple6[1]As a Philadelphia Eagles fan, disappointment has been a regular occurrence.  Just when my hopes would raise on a great play, someone fumbled or threw an interception.  Real fans remain fans, even in such disappointment.  When there is continual disappointment, however, faith begins to wane and hope becomes hidden in the sea of disappointments .

As a married man, I can say that disappointment occurs on a regular basis.  Sometimes such disappointment is my feelings towards my wife, and other times it is my wife’s feelings towards me (I think even moreso).  It’s an occurrence that happens more frequently than I’d like to admit.  And as a marriage counselor, I can also say that disappointment occurs in every marriage to some extent.

This is not something we want to have inside of us, but we’d like to be happy with our spouses and the choices they make on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, though, this is not the case 100% of the time.  What causes such disappointment in our spouses and what can we do about it?

Disappointment in our spouses (or at any time) is often caused by three things:  Our expectations for them, our expectations for God, and other’s actions.

1) Expectations for Them – If our expectations are high, then chances are others will not meet them and of course, we will be disappointed.  We have set standards for our spouses and they remain unmet.  Sometimes certain standards are high and also appropriate.  For example, it is appropriate to have a standard that you will not be physically hurt by them, that they will remain faithful, that they will treat you with love and respect, etc.  It is inappropriate, however, to expect your spouse to do what you want when you want it.  If you come home and expect the house to be cleaned, laundry done, for them to clean up after themselves at all times, kiss you when you desire, be open to talk when you desire, etc. then you are clearly having inappropriate or high expectations.  You will be disappointed.  Our happiness is never found when others meet our expectations.  A happy marriage is not when others meet your expectations.  A God-honoring marriage is when spouses practice forgiveness, over-look offenses, and they recognize that their spouses are fallible – meaning that they are not designed to measure up to our expectations.  How could they?  They are self-centered sinners, just like us (see #3).

2) Expectations for God – Sometimes we look at God as the cosmic Santa Claus or the Soda/Pop Machine where we give Him our prayer dollars and expect to receive what we want when we want it.  We want God to live for us so that we become happy in this life.  If our spouses make us happy and do not disappoint us, then we are happy.  If there is no suffering, then we will be happy.  If we are disappointed, then we say that God did not hold up His end of the deal.  The death of a loved one, an unfaithful spouse, sickness, loss of job, whatever that may be – we blame God for not meeting our expectations.  Isn’t he a loving God?  Well He allowed this pain and suffering to happen!  If God allowed such pain and the end result of my prayers do not end as I would like, then He failed or God “didn’t work.”  In our marriages, we will be disappointed.  We may also be disappointed that God hasn’t “changed” our spouse or answered our prayers in relation to our spouses.  Perhaps this would be a good time to recognize that “His ways are not our ways,” that He has never promised us that we would not go through suffering, but that He has promised he would be with us always (Mt 28:18), even in our suffering.  The time of never-suffering will come, but not until we are with Him in eternity. (For more on this, read Philip Yancy’s “Disappointment with God“)

3) Spouse’s actions – Truth be told, we will be disappointed in our spouses…and probably many times.  We will be disappointed not only because we have high expectations, but because they are like us; sinners in need of a savior.  Their hearts are like ours, self-centered.  Their loving actions towards us are like ours towards them, tainted.  Some actions are out of pure love, some loving actions appear to be loving, but are self-centered.  And sometimes there’s a mix of both.  They also have expectations for us and when we don’t meet them, they get disappointed and angry, too.  As sinners, they will not only be focused on themselves, but they will intently harm us with hurtful words, by ignoring us, or by doing something they know we will not like .  When they purposely do these things, we are hurt.  We are disappointed.

The one thing we can expect in marriage is that we will be disappointed.  This disappointment is sometimes our fault and it is sometimes our spouse’s fault.  When we are disappointed, first we need to look at ourselves and our standards and expectations for our spouses and also for God.  We must understand that our spouses’ goals, as well as God’s goals, do not surround our expectations as though we are at the center of our lives and others exist to please us or meet our expectations.  On the other hand, we must recalibrate our lives and recognize that God is at the center and then practice forgiveness, adjust our expectations, over-look certain faults in our spouses, and love and honor our spouses.  We must also recognize that we are sinners first and we are in desperate need of a Savior.  If we solely focus on our spouses faults, we will place ourselves above them, judge them, and we will fail to recognize the change we need in ourselves…and we will remain disappointed.

For more in the “When You Are Disappointed…” series, click on the following links:

When You Are Disappointed in God

When You Are Disappointed in Your Life

When You Are Disappointed in Yourself

Dealing With Disappointment

ImageA husband comes home from work hoping to be greeted with a warm kiss, but his presence is barely acknowledged.  A wife comes home from work, hoping her husband started dinner or cleaned before her arrival, but she does not get either wish.  A child opens up a gift on Christmas hoping it is a Nerf gun, only to find socks and underwear.  A Pastor meets with a member hoping to help, only to hear that the member is leaving the church.  A person hoping to accomplish their personal goals falls short…again.

Disappointment.  Being let down.  A familiar feeling for all of us, I’m sure.  As 2012 begins, gym membership rates are reduced, exercise equipment on sale, and new hopes are born as resolutions are made to improve the appearance of self.  Perhaps 2012 will be better than 2011.  Maybe this new year will bring about reduced weight and calories and increased confidence and determination.  I hope that is the case for you…but for many, the valiant efforts in the beginning of the year are overshadowed by giving in to the temptations of chocolate in February.  Disappointment.

As a perfectionist (only in looking at myself and not in cleanliness), I deal with disappointment often.  Too many times it is a disappointment for failing to measure up to my standards for myself.  Other times it is because I have not measured up to the standards of others.  Let’s face it…isn’t this what disappointment is?  It is the inability for ourselves or for others to measure up to the standards (or expectations) we have for them or the standards they have for us.

As I continue to grow in my relationship with the Lord, He has continued to reveal to me that when I am disappointed, it is often because I am living by the law, my law (or standards or expectations), and not by grace.  I need to continuously remind myself that if I live by grace, then I accept the reality that I am a sinner, that I will constantly fail, and that others will fail as well.  Failure to do this is living in pride.  It is prideful because disappointment comes from the expectation that I or others will not fail.  OF COURSE WE ALL FAIL, it is because we are sinners!  Other people will fail us and no one is excluded.  Pastors, friends, spouses, children, bosses, co-workers, postal workers, other drivers, etc., etc.  They will all fail us.  Sometimes their failings come from them falling short of our expectations of them, and sometimes it is because they just screwed up.

How do we deal with disappointments?  We accept that we fail.  We accept that others will fail.  We ask the Lord to search our heart’s expectations and unmet desires, we confess our pride and self-centeredness, and we ask for his help to live by grace.  We remind ourselves that we are sinners saved by grace through faith and we extend this grace to ourselves and others.  As long as there is sin and as long as people sin, we will all deal with disappointment.  But let’s not deal with it alone…but deal with it with Christ, through Christ, and for Christ that he be glorified in our lives. Amen.