There are two basics about marital expectations to remember. First, keeping your expectations a secret will inevitably set yourself up for major disappointments. Your spouse isn't a mind reader. If you don't tell him or her what you expect, your spouse won't know.
Second, no matter how much you communicate or how reasonable your expectations are, expect your marriage to be a lifelong surprise party. Expert Laura Schlessinger (“Dr. Laura”) lists a few of the big surprises you'll probably encounter along the way:
1. Not everything can be compromised. The more important an issue is to our central values, core beliefs, and basic emotional needs and fears, the less likely there will be a compromise. We all have primary emotional needs that cannot be negotiated: affection, sexual fulfillment, affirmation, respect and love.
In great marriages, neither spouse gets his or her way all the time. Marriage feels great when the positives far outweigh the negatives. Do things together you both enjoy; compliment and thank each other for things that get done; and go out of your way to help your spouse, even when you don't feel like it.
2. You have immense power to either enrich your spouse's life or ruin it. Love is a basic human need. But love requires vulnerability, letting someone into your heart, letting them know the secrets of who you are.
Healthy marriages are intensely intimate relationships, which give each spouse tremendous power over the other. If you hold your spouse's heart safe, you give a gift of immeasurable value. If you hurt it, you inflict indescribable pain. The power of love is awesome; use it wisely and the rewards will be surprising.
3. It's surprisingly difficult to stop thinking about just “me” anymore and to remember that there's another human being to consider in every single decision. Schlessinger puts it bluntly: “In 'shacking up,' two ambivalent people stay 'two,' while in marriage, two committed people become 'one.' ”
4. Your wedding vows are statements of commitment that bind you and your spouse far more than any declaration of undying love you made while you were dating. When you marry, you cross a line by making a public commitment. You're announcing before friends and family and a public official that you're something new: You're no longer just a couple, now you're a married couple.
5. It's amazing to belong to someone. This is one of the most joyous surprises of a healthy marriage: The growing knowledge that your heart has a place to live: It belongs in the heart of someone who loves you.
Schlessinger explains that these surprises come to couples who follow a few simple ideas:
•Start thinking positive thoughts about each other at day's end. Cuddle in bed together for a few minutes before dropping off to sleep. Focusing on the positive will let you sleep better, and you'll wake up feeling better about your relationship.
•Give big doses of affection in small ways: a touch, a kiss, a hug, a flower or an act of service. Little drops of affection quickly create a bucket full of love.
•“Find something special about that day to compliment your spouse on,” Schlessinger says. Marriages are built up by building up your spouse.
Every marriage is a surprise party. But even surprise parties need attention to details. Work at keeping your marriage healthy and fun and it will be the best surprise of your life.
©2014, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.