Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Couples Counseling Bethesda MD

I think it is safe to say that most people enter into marriage with high expectations of their partner and, ultimately, their marriage.  Certainly not a bad thing to want to have a happy marriage! However, high expectations are not necessarily realistic expectations and, unfortunately, can result in one or both partners being let down or resentful.  Lets talk about what is actually realistic!

We are raised with Disney love stories and movies that end in happily ever after – romance novels that glamorize sex – TV shows that end when the guy gets the girl.  What these do not show is what happens after happily ever after  – the real nitty gritty of marriage.  Let me tell you what you can expect after that: You can expect that you will be let down by a spouse who doesn’t do what you ask or need, you can expect that your spouse will annoy you…a lot, you can expect that they will have bad breath and gas, you can expect that your in-laws will bother you in some way and your spouse will side with them, you can expect that your sex life will be poor to non-existent at times especially after children.  Should I go on? Because I certainly can!

I know that this might seem like a bleak picture of marriage that I am painting, but this is the day to day of marriage that can be extremely trying when you are in the weeds.  This is the day to day that, if not looked at as normal and part of the process, can drive two people apart.  I am definitely not ignoring that there are lots of good times and amazing moments in a marriage but, if that is all you expect, you will be let down and you will end up in my office.  What you should really expect is that, when there are hard times, you have a partner that is willing to listen and respond to your concerns again and again even if they do not agree (just to be clear, your partner will let you down in this at times, too).  I have said it before and will say it again – the beauty of marriage, the thing we really seek, is not in the day to day but in making it together through the ups and the downs and still choosing to be together.

I will end with a little exercise for you:  A former colleague of mind would ask clients struggling with their marriages to consider couples in their neighborhood or family whose marriage they might have a little insight into – people around their age that are in similar stages of life.  She would ask them to imagine being married to any of them. Generally the clients would have strong negative responses to the thought of being with those people.  She would then explain to them that this is the sample of what is out there and what marriage would be like if they were to ever get divorced and go looking (obviously not these exact people).  Fairy tales that we have been exposed to do not exist! Every marriage has its challenges and frustrations but, in the end, the grass is NOT greener on the other side of the fence.  Water and appreciate the beauty of your own grass – weeds and all.

Kara Smith, MS, LCMFT, provides couple, family, and individual therapy in our downtown Bethesda office. Call 240-752-7650 ext. 3, or email [email protected] to set up your first appointment or a complimentary telephone consultation.