How to Stop the Roller Coaster of Unrealistic Expectations - Karla Downing - A Wife Like Me

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How to Stop the Roller Coaster of Unrealistic Expectations – Karla Downing

September 16, 2018

How to Stop the Roller Coaster of Unrealistic Expectations

When I walked down the aisle, I didn’t know it, but my expectations were unreasonable.


I expected my husband to meet all my needs and for him to not need anyone or anything but me. This isn’t an exaggeration.


I told my friends that I didn’t need them anymore because I was married. I was in for a huge disappointment.


My husband didn’t seem to need anything but me when we were dating for all of five months. He came home from work, picked me up and spent every night with me uninterrupted: no TV, no friends, no projects. After the honeymoon, he began to work on projects after work, watched TV to unwind, and spent time with his dad and friends. After we were married, he seemed to need everything but me!


It took awhile for me to mature enough to recognize that he couldn’t meet all my needs and I couldn’t meet all his, and that it was healthy for both of us to have other people and things in our lives in addition to each other.


Then there was a different layer of expectations that I had to struggle with. My husband grew up watching his father work physically hard and long hours in construction. He valued work and measured a man’s worth on how hard he worked. My husband, like his father, strived to be a financial provider. He is willing to work  hard to provide well for his family. This has benefits, but it also has drawbacks.


He was tired every night and didn’t want to go out, not even for church.


He worked weekends and wasn’t available on Saturdays for family outings.


He didn’t want to talk as much as I wanted when he came home and was too tired to be enthusiastic about what I shared.


He wasn’t available to help with the kids or go to as many of their events as I wanted.


For many years, I hoped he would not be tired at night or working on weekends. Each night my hope turned into disappointment, and I became focused on what he wasn’t doing.


It was a huge waste of energy. My husband knew what I wanted and was making a choice that he believed was right and good for our family. I realized he likely wasn’t going to change.


How to Stop the Roller Coaster of Unrealistic Expectations


Manage your expectations. Aligning your expectations with reality sets you free.


I didn’t have to like or agree with his focus on work. I didn’t have to pretend that I wouldn’t prefer a busier social life or having him attend mid-week church with me and activities with the kids.


The only thing I had to do was manage my expectations, so I wasn’t on a roller coaster of hope and disappointment on a daily basis. This gave me the opportunity to choose what I wanted to do with my attitude toward my husband and his sacrifice for the family. It gave me the option of using my extra time productively and creatively. It gave me an emotional lift that allowed me to keep the mood in my home lighter and happier.


Unrealistic expectations get us in trouble. They make us fight reality by hoping things will be different when they may not be. Accepting reality means we align our expectations to reality as it is. It doesn’t mean we are stuck with it.


Pray for your own heart and mind to fight for gratefulness with where your marriage is today, but also pray that God would give your husband a new heart for the Lord and your family. God is in the business of changing lives – so tell Him what your heart longs for, while thanking him for your marriage today.


Wife Step: Analyze your expectations for your husband. Which ones are unrealistic? Adjust those so they are realistic instead of unrealistic expectations. And then pray.



Karla Downing, the founder of, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.

Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image.

She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.

Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.


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