Our expectations vary according to our family of origin, beliefs, cultural influences, and other personal experiences
After this, Paul stayed many days longer and then took leave of the brothers and set sail for Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila. (Acts 18:18)
What expectations did you have about the roles of husband and wife when you entered your marriage? Was one to care for everything inside the house and another to care for everything outside? Perhaps you entered marriage expecting a fifty-fifty deal where you and your husband would share responsibilities both at home and monetarily through your own vocations. Our expectations vary according to our family of origin, beliefs, cultural influences, and other personal experiences.
Consider one couple that walked into the chaplain’s office. The husband asked the chaplain to “fix” his wife. What was the problem? She could not iron his uniforms in a way that met his specifications. The scenario seems humorous, but there was nothing funny about the animosity this couple felt toward each other because her ironing fell short of his standards!
Another couple went through what they ended up calling the “Underwear Saga.” The first night home after their honeymoon, the husband threw his underwear on the floor. He continued to do this, and after a few days a pile of underwear gathered. They made their way to the chaplain’s office practically ready for a divorce. Angry because his wife would not pick up his underwear, he said she was lazy. Angry because her husband threw his underwear on the floor, she said he was a slob. The chaplain asked him if he would be willing to throw his underwear in a hamper. He asked her if she would be willing to throw the dirty clothes in the washing machine. They agreed to the plan and their marriage got a fresh start—and clean clothes!
They sound ridiculous, but these are true stories! Unspoken assumptions about roles can mark a turn toward marriage disaster. You may expect he will take out the garbage and he may expect you will pick up his underwear—or iron his uniform.
As mentioned, Priscilla and Aquila were a unique couple for their time. When we meet them in Acts, they already seem to have resolved the role issues couples often face. But I imagine Priscilla and Aquila never expected to fill the roles of “missionary team members” and sail to a foreign land alongside a preacher named Paul to help establish a church. This task must have been accompanied by some personal doubts and struggles. But they navigated the expectations of their new roles through mutual respect and shared purpose. With patience, communication, and God’s help you and your husband can do the same.
Gary Chapman suggests doing an exercise with your husband to clarify role expectations. Make a list of all the things your parents did around your house. What did your father do? What did your mother do? Share your lists and discuss why you think your parents fulfilled those roles in their marriages. Discuss how you would like roles and responsibilities to work in your marriage. Decide your next steps together and be willing to compromise on some expectations in order to move forward with a strong and unified marriage.1
Prayer for the Journey
Lord, help my husband and me to mutually support one another. Remind us of our shared purpose as a couple. Give us patience and clear communication to navigate the expectations we have of one another. May our expectations be realistic and protect us from disappointment that would damage our marriage. Amen.
1 Gary Chapman, Things I Wish I’d Known Before We Got Married (Chicago, IL: Northfield Publishing, 2010), 81.