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Fountain of Life with Taiwo Odukoya: Marriage & the Clash of Expectations

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Few things sound the death knell of a marriage more certainly than unrealistic expectations. And that is expecting something out of a marriage or relationship that the other party is either ignorant of, unwilling to provide, or simply unable to provide. When our expectations of our spouse or marriage are not fulfilled, the result is usually frustration, anger and sometimes resentment.

The truth is, we all have expectations. And that does not change even with marital status. Naturally, we expect our spouse to be faithful to us. We expect our spouse to love and respect us. We expect him or her to support us. We expect our spouse totolerate or put up with our tastes, excesses or weaknesses. The truth is, from the outset, we are undyingly filled with expectations for our spouse and marriage.

It is pertinent to point out that:

  • Expectation is a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future; a belief that someone will or should achieve something.
  • Disappointed expectation is one of the leading causes of marital trouble.
  • Many people’s expectations are often poorly defined and sometimes completely unknown, yet they desire others to meet them.

The question is: where do expectations come from? Usually, they are from our own desires – from the things we want, or would like to have. They come from what we think we deserve. In marriage, we have given up some of our rights as singles to commit to someone, and we often expect that such a person should reciprocate our commitment by making us happy or at least by trying to make us happy. And some expectations come from the things we are used to, which could be our lifestyles. After all, we grew up in certain ways and environments. That way or environment then becomes a familiar terrain, so we unconsciously expect it to continue even when we are married. Our expectations could also come from the things we observe. We see certain married people relate in a particular way and we like it. Then we expect that to be the norm or standard in our marriage.

It was M. Scott Peck who said, “The problem of unmet expectations in marriage is primarily a problem of stereotyping. Each and every human being on this planet is a unique person. Since marriage is inevitably a relationship between two unique people, no one marriage is going to be exactly like any other. Yet we tend to wed with explicit visions of what a ‘good’ marriage ought to be like. Then we suffer enormously from trying to force the relationship to fit the stereotype and from the neurotic guilt and anger we experience when we fail to pull it off.”

The truth is, there will be expectations in both little and big things: finances, romance and lovemaking, what car to drive, when and how to sleep, where to go on holiday, how to bring up our children, how to relate with his or her friends and in-laws etc. And some of these expectations will be perfect matches, while some will require adaptation or adjustment. Unfortunately, some expectations will sometimes be downright unrealistic and will ultimately spell doom if they are not tempered with reality. Such will include:

  • The outgoing spouse wanting his or her profoundly introverted partner to be as sociable as he or she is.
  • The hard-working, goal-driven person seeking participation and integration with a spouse who is unpardonably passive andunmotivated.
  • The logical type who values systematic approach wanting to resolve issues with a spouse who is overly emotional.
  • The deeply spiritual person wanting to share his world with a spouse who is uninterested in anything religious.
  • A pennywise person expecting cooperation in maintaining a responsible budget with a spendthrift.
  • The earnest, philanthropic person who wantsto spend a lifetime tending to the needs of the downtrodden and indigent in the world expecting to involve a spouse who wants to live the good life and frolic with the rich and famous.
  • The greedy and unrealistic spousewho expects a partner to always satisfy his or her insatiable appetites or wishes.

It is therefore no wonder that issues will often come up in marriage as a result of difference in expectations. This plays up the need to watch out and try as much as we can to come to terms with our spouse concerning those expectations. As the Bible states, “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

The truth is, a marriage is made so much more difficult when you, or you and your spouse, set unknown expectations of each other. If you expect your spouse to assist or behave in any way, it is important that you make it clear, instead of assuming that he or she knows what you want.And make sure that the expectations are realistic. It can be counter-productive to set goals for your spouse without his or her consent.

Now, where differing expectations are already causing a problem in the marriage, it is important that:

i) One partner takes the initiative for peace and progress by lowering his or her expectations, particularly where they are unrealistic or unachievable.In actual fact, it is not fair to expect something from one’s spouse that he or she cannot possibly give or do.

ii) Both partners work together, making compromises, where necessary, to ensure that difference in expectations does not cause division. After all, much of the success in marriage is often through compromise. So it is important that you find a middle ground – something that is acceptable to you both.

iii) Spouses learn to express themselves and discuss their expectations. That way, differing expectations are synchronised or dealt with.

iv) Couples see a mediator or counsellor, where amicable resolution of differing expectations is impossible. But it should besomeone who is impartial and can give ideas on a compromise, or other possible solutions.

Whether or not we like it, our spouse is unique in some way, and tapping into this uniqueness will greatly enhance our marriage. Otherwise, we will be inadvertently trying to force others into our mould, and that could lead to frustrations and pains. So rather than creating unnecessary frictions and problems, it is advisable to enjoy your spouse’s uniqueness as long as it is not inimical to the general good of your marital relationship.

Even if it is a habit you consider intolerable, you can find a way to encourage and help your spouse seek a solution. You can lovingly support your spouse to bring about the desired change. Remember,“Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another….”

Above all, take whatever problems or challenges you have with your spouse to God in prayers.

Your marriage is a blessing.

Taiwo Odukoya is the senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church. He is an avid believer in the role of the Church in the social and economic life of the nation. He is the host of The Discovery for Men, The Discovery for Women, The Woman Leader, and Ruth and Boaz, quarterly meetings that reach out to thousands of men and women from all works of life and denominations. He lives in Lagos with his wife, Nomthi, and children. He can be reached at [email protected]

13 Comments

  1. Francine

    June 24, 2015 at 9:42 pm

    Well done sir!

    I had posted this on a previous post but I don’t think it reached you and so I have posted it here again.

    Dear Pastor Odukoya,

    Thank you for your for the posts that come in from you from time to time. I know that you have a very busy schedule and so writing these posts must be something that you are deeply committed to. Thus, I would like to provide some feedback,

    Every time I read your posts I always wonder to what extent you put some of the things that you write into practice.

    It is easy to peach but at the end of the day some of us would be more impacted if we had a chance to learn from your personal experiences both in terms of where you succeeded and in areas where you have made mistakes (as all humans do),

    For example, to what extent have you been able to maintain adhere to some of the principles that you have enumerated in this post? Others might not care but I would like to know. Not because I want to know your secrets or failings but because I want to see the side of you that is like me (human) and by extension more relatable.

    These are just my thoughts. While I look forward to your next article, I hope they would go beyond just “preaching” to impactful experience sharing.

    Thank you once again.

    Best regards,
    Francine BN

    • Victor Ndedde

      June 25, 2015 at 6:31 am

      I write in response to Francine’s response post. Her post requests Pst Odukoya to relate his post with his personal experiences. This is to someone who has successfully midwived a marriage with grown children How does he do that, is he to explain in real terms how he related with his current wife by going on counselling? Have we heard anything unbecoming about his marriage having midwived successful marriages with grown up children and
      upcoming one(s).

      Francine’s question, although sounding like a transferred pickiness of a disgruntled preacher’s wife insisting that her hubby live the talk, is apt but cannot be thrown at every preacher of the word without basis.

      Francine’s tone is equivalent to asking Paul (the apostle) the basis of his marriage experience before he’s authorised to comment on marriages. Which disciple ever relayed their example on pages? Is it Peter who seemed to ‘abandon’ his family and fishing to join Jesus and yet we saw a pin hole view of Peter’s attention to family life when he hosted Jesus who prayed for his sick mother in law?

      As one married for 15 years at least, reading Pastor Odukoya’s post here, leaves me with the impression of one tacticallyrecounting his specific experience indirectly. It shows when he suggests that:

      “One partner takes the initiative for peace and progress by lowering his or her expectations, particularly where they are unrealistic or unachievable.In actual fact, it is not fair to expect something from one’s spouse that he or she cannot possibly give or do.”

      This is when experience and calling speaks from the covert of a social duty to reach out to marriages because he too is married and well grounded and has seen the various angles of it.

    • Personal Signature

      June 25, 2015 at 12:06 pm

      This is practical enough with examples.
      You don’t expect him to put all his life outside on BN

      Even you, all we know about you on BN is Francine
      Francine without a surname, without a picture, without a description, without a google account that could be linked and bio read up…..

      Asking for his own life example is even different from what you asked for. According to you “Every time I read your posts I always wonder to what extent you put some of the things that you write into practice.” Are you questioning his integrity?

      ***Assuming*** he “doesn’t walk the talk”, that doesn’t concern you. What you need is what he has given you here-an encouragement/advice. If he(or any other preacher) likes, they shouldn’t “live the talk”, they will meet God on the judgement day

      If you wait to follow people’s life style, you will be disappointed. Do what is right and forget if the messenger does same or not- it is his business. If the preacher likes, he shouldn’t apply the same principle to his own marriage, it will crash irrespective of who the person is- a bishop, imam or pope.

      Lets focus on the right things for once and stop the hatred, criticism and negative insinuations

  2. Zoe

    June 24, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    Wise counsel, God bless you pastor.

  3. King

    June 24, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    Thank u very much Sir for this post. I appreciate d uniqueness of my spouse.

  4. Chyde

    June 25, 2015 at 12:22 am

    quite inspiring. Spoke right to me.

  5. Victor Ndedde

    June 25, 2015 at 6:50 am

    I write in response to Francine’s response post.
    Her post requests Pastor Odukoya to relate his post with his personal experiences. This is to someone who has successfully midwived marriages with grown children. How does he do that, is he to explain in real terms how he related with his current wife by going on counselling?

    Have we heard anything unbecoming about his marriage having midwived successful marriages with grown up children and upcoming one(s).

    Francine’s question, although sounding like a transferred pickiness of a disgruntled preacher’s wife insisting that her own hubby live the talk, is apt but cannot be required of just anyone to precisely tell every detail on social network.

    Francine’s tone is equivalent to asking Paul (the apostle) the basis of his marriage experience before he’s authorised to comment on marriages. Which disciple ever relayed their example on pages? Is it Peter who seemed to ‘abandon’ his family and fishing to join Jesus and yet we saw a pin hole view of Peter’s attention to family life when he hosted Jesus who prayed for his sick mother in law?

    As one married for 15 years at least, reading Pastor Odukoya’s post here, leaves me with the impression of one tactically recounting his specific experience indirectly. It shows when he suggests that:

    “One partner takes the initiative for peace and progress by lowering his or her expectations, particularly where they are unrealistic or unachievable.” He further says, “In actual fact, it is not fair to expect something from one’s spouse that he or she cannot possibly give or do.”

    From the foregoing, I glean some wisdom and swallow truth.
    That, is my humble take.

    • The real D

      June 25, 2015 at 1:12 pm

      @ Victor, na real wa for us Nigerians. We can do talk the talk but don’t walk it when it suits us. Now, this does not in any reflect my opinion on the original author but on your response Mr. V. Ndede. So because we’ve never heard anything unbecoming (in your own words). Does not in any way mean he or other marriage counselors have not and still do not struggle in their relationships. So asking that the pastor personalize some of his points by going a step further by sharing some of his own struggles and how he may or may not have overcome them,like Francine said takes his point from being theoretical to making them more practical as people are better able to relate. If you had bothered taking the time to read Francine’s comments with a genuine open mind instead of a defensive one you’d have realized that his/her criticism is actually a very constructive one.
      By the way, have you heard the sayings: Never judge a book by its covers or all that glitters ain’t gold. All these sayings are trying to tell us is that many times outward appearances are just facades. I know for many “godly” couples who people go to for advice but the true state of their marriages are anything but godly. Yet, they are the ones young couples run to for advice, singles see them and want to “tap into their anointing” . I am not saying that is the case with the author but just point out that your points are somewhat invalid. I will leave the Bible out of it because I mean even Jesus had issues in his relationships on earth (see Judas, Simon Peter) and we heard all about it and we have learned and still learning from them.

    • The real D

      June 25, 2015 at 1:22 pm

      Lastly, putting ” this is my humble take” at the end of such a judgemental and insulting “take” is everything but humble. And does not make it ok. It is like shooting someone and trying to put a bandaid on it, in the hopes that the bandaid makes you look like the nice person you are not.

  6. Julles

    June 25, 2015 at 9:33 am

    @Victor Ndedde, it is really sad to read ur bitter post. Francine simply made a request and then u come up with all that accusation about a “disgruntled preacher’s wife?” Ur post shows buttresses the points raised by Pastor Odukoya which u even quoted. U understand perfectly what has been written (in ur own perception by the way) and expect Francine to do same. Why?! I ask?

    Just so u know, some people “get” it by illustrations while others do hypothetically so it would be nice if u let people be and not be rude.

    Thanks!

  7. Mimi

    June 25, 2015 at 10:48 am

    I agree with francine. I read marriage counselling books written by foreign authors. They tell you about live experiences and how they handled them and got back up after mistakes had been made. But Nigerian marriage counsellors won’t do that. They dish out instructions without any personalisation. It would really help the way we relate to the stories.
    I get that we are pretty secretive people, based on our lifestyle though…..

  8. Personal Signature

    June 25, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    @Francine, Jules and Mimi

    This is practical enough with examples.
    You don’t expect him to put all his life outside on BN

    Even you, all we know about you on BN is Francine
    Francine without a surname, without a picture, without a description, without a google account that could be linked and bio read up…..

    Asking for his own life example is even different from what you asked for. According to you “Every time I read your posts I always wonder to what extent you put some of the things that you write into practice.” Are you questioning his integrity?

    ***Assuming*** he “doesn’t walk the talk”, that doesn’t concern you. What you need is what he has given you here-an encouragement/advice. If he(or any other preacher) likes, they shouldn’t “live the talk”, they will meet God on the judgement day

    If you wait to follow people’s life style, you will be disappointed. Do what is right and forget if the messenger does same or not- it is his business. If the preacher likes, he shouldn’t apply the same principle to his own marriage, it will crash irrespective of who the person is- a bishop, imam or pope.

    Lets focus on the right things for once and stop the hatred, criticism and negative insinuations

  9. Victor Ndedde

    July 9, 2015 at 1:04 am

    Matthew 23:3 paraphrased NIV; Jesus said, “so whatever they(Pharisees in that context) tell you to do, be careful to do it, but by no means do what they do…”.

    This reference of the holy word is clear. It gives priority to obedience of the hearer beyond mirroring that person. Looking out for practical illustration is good, but inappropriate if the person is not disposed to discuss his private life except on a face to face counseling for example. So does Francine, The Real D or Julles give up readily for want of practical illustrations, far be it.

    If Francine BN were to ask apostle Paul for practical illustration on marriage, the latter would admit he never got married. Yet, Paul taught on marriage more than any bible author we know of.
    This is where Jesus’ caveat is very illustrative. This again is my humble opinion! Victor.

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