Shrinking the Expectation Gap

Lorraine gave up on her marriage. “I don’t love Rich anymore. In fact, I don’t know if I ever loved him. We live separate lives. I guess we just grew apart.” Lorraine’s statement is ironically accurate. She stopped demonstrating love (action) toward her husband. However, her true reason for quitting is that she is not feeling loved. When asked about the vows she took when she got married, Lorraine got a deer-in-the-headlights look that said, “Vows. . . what vows?”

Traditional wedding vows

Although Lorraine has convenient amnesia now, she repeated these traditional vows when she got married:
I, Lorraine, do take you, Rich, to be my lawfully wedded husband, to live together in the Holy Estate of Matrimony; to love, honor, respect, trust, cherish, encourage, and support you according to God’s Holy ordinance, forsaking all others and keeping myself only unto you, for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, good times and bad, joy and sorrow, failure and triumph, from this day forward until death do us part.
By quitting, is Lorraine being faithful to her vows?

Oath of office
Vows are promises to do things. Taking vows is like taking an oath of office. Consider the oath soldiers take:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
These are promises to perform regardless of how hard they are to fulfill, and certainly not based on emotions.

When you marry, you agree to prepare for and go to war. No, not against your spouse, but as a unit fighting for God and each other against Satan and his attacks. Perhaps vows along the lines of a more military oath would be appropriate:

“I, _____, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of husband/wife, and will do my best to preserve, protect and defend our marriage against all enemies, physical or spiritual; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the laws of God, according to the Holy Scripture. So help me God.”

Our expectations

While couples say they will do these things, what they really may be expecting are more like these want ads:

Wanted: Christian woman. Must take care of me; be a Proverbs 31 woman; take care of the house and children; love sports; work exclusively for me; be a good home economist; dress well and stay fit; have dinner ready and be sexually available on demand; commit to stay with me until I die. Compensation: free room and board. Must stay on during income shortages, even if the result of brazen stupidity.

Wanted: Christian man. Must provide for me; pamper me, romantically dine me; provide me with housing in a good neighborhood; help with children; take care of grounds, light plumbing and electrical; be a good listener; put up with mood swings; give massages on demand; provide for me until I die, no matter how I look or act. Compensation: laundry and dinner services. Fringe benefits may be available if/when I feel like it.

The gap between expectations and vows are directly proportional to marital success and happiness. Vows are selfless. Expectations are often self-centered.

God’s expectations

The problem with most expectations is that they are focused on what your spouse is or is not doing instead of focusing on your behavior. In Luke 6:41-42, Jesus told us we are to focus on the log in our own eye, instead of the speck in our friend’s. Further, the Bible describes the love God expects from us:

“Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
Loving like this is not easily accomplished.

How does your attitude measure up?

Good marriages are intentional, not accidental. Intentional couples don’t grow apart. In a recent sermon, Erwin Lutzer challenged couples to mediate and pray over 1 Corinthians 13 daily together for seven days. Will you take the challenge?

And don’t forget: until death, do your part.

Patricia Hartman: CPA/partner at Kofsky, Hartman & Weinger, PA. Patricia is the author of “The Christian Prenuptial Agreement: The Power of Marriage Unleashed” available at

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