This is what I like…

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Every partner in a marriage has certain expectations on the other, and the first step to fulfilling them is knowing what they are, writes ZAWADI LOMPISHA.

“I cook for him, make sure he has a clean and ironed shirt in the morning,” a woman complained to a counsellor. “He has never made his bed since the day I moved into his house, has never lifted a broom to clean the floor and has had his every whim met. It is room service that is unmatched even in the plushest of hotels.”

The woman had asked for the appointment with the counsellor because she was at her wits end and wanted to end the marriage. She said she could not take it any longer and had only come to see the counsellor for confirmation that her decision to leave was the best.

“So what is the problem?” the counsellor asked.

He is to blame

“The problem is my husband. Despite all I have done for him since we got married, I have never seen him act like he appreciates what I do,” she said.

“Not once has he ever complimented me for the food I have served him; not even on our first day as husband and wife. It is as if he believes it is his right. The only time he will comment on the food is when he does not think it meets his taste.”

She went on: “He will not help around the house and does not seem to hear me when I say I am tired because of carrying out housework. If you asked him where I keep the brooms, he cannot tell you. What’s worse, despite being a lodger in our house with absolutely no responsibility at all, he will expect me to perform my other wifely duties in the bedroom with great willingness. Don’t I have a right to expect better?”

This woman echoes a lot of what spouses go through in marriages. The feeling that one spouse is not pulling their weight in the relationship and that they are getting a raw end.

Are there reasonable and mandatory expectations that a spouse should have of the other? In other words, are there some basic expectations that spouses must meet in a marriage? Could there be realistic and unrealistic expectations in a marriage?

As you grow up, many different things influence your outlook to life. What you see in your parents’ marriage plays a big role in influencing what you would like to see in your own marriage.

If you grew up seeing your mum or dad portraying certain negative qualities that affected not only their spouse but the family in general, you probably expect your spouse not to portray the same negativity in your marriage. If the dad was a lazy bum, the wife will expect her husband to be proactive around the house. If the mother was a terrible nag, the husband will expect his wife to be dove-like in her behaviour.


The converse, however, could hold true as well. If you, as a girl, grew up seeing that the only way your mother got anything from your father was by nagging incessantly, you get into marriage believing that you must nag your husband to achieve your goal. Your expectation is that your husband will behave like your father and so give him similar treatment to the one your mum gave your dad.

This never happened when you were dating, and so he will be a really shocked husband at your newly acquired behaviour upon marriage.

If, as a boy, you saw tyranny from your father as the only way to assert authority, you get into marriage believing that bullying your wife is the only way to assert your supremacy in the house. Whereas prior to marriage he was the excellent partner, now he becomes this take-it-or-leave husband who must have his way all the time. She wonders at the horrific metamorphosis.

It is definitely critical to discuss your expectations with your potential mate well before the wedding day. Whereas some pre-marital counselling does attempt to bring these out, the time it takes in many instances is much too short. Some churches arrange three meetings prior to the wedding, which are assumed to prepare a couple on their life together. Definitely an impossibility. Whether an expectation is realistic or not, could be thrashed out in such discussions so that both parties get into the marriage with a semblance of agreement on how to live.

there’s time

It is never too late though. No matter how many years you have been married, it is always a good exercise to take stock of life up to that point, by undertaking an audit of your marriage. At this time, it would be good to delve in detail at what each of you has been expecting from the other and letting your spouse know. You may have been having angst in your marriage because of unspoken, and therefore, unknown expectations. Your wife cannot be assumed to know that you require to be massaged every evening, if you have never told her.

So there is no point of sulking each evening because she is not massaging you and yet she has no idea that that is expected of her.

In fact, I have begun realising that as I grow older, my expectations of my husband are changing as circumstances change. So whereas he could have known them so far, but he needs a refresher course when and if they change so that he adjust to me now. Otherwise, he will continue operating as he knows best, which may not be the best for me for now. I also need to know if his expectations on me are changing so that I can adjust myself accordingly.

Barnett R Brickner has said: “Success in marriage does not come merely through finding the right mate, but through being the right mate.”

You can be the right mate in terms of your mate’s expectations on you, if you know, to begin with, what those expectations are.

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