When Expectations in Marriage Take Over
When I was twenty, the future I dreamed of included a loving husband and four kids. By the time I was twenty-nine, my husband and I excitedly welcomed our fourth child into our home, and we were living that dream life.
However, in my early thirties, my feelings and my reality were not in sync. Looking back, I can safely say I was in the midst of a mild depression. The blessings in my life were somehow not enough, and I felt something was missing. I began to look for and expect that missing piece to be found in my husband.
One memorable morning, my husband and I sat on the edge of our bed. Tears streamed down my face as I once again expressed that I was struggling with nearly constant sadness. I will never forget the defeated look in his eyes.
Numerous times before that day, he had lovingly pointed out the positives, embraced me, and prayed both for me and with me. But on this particular day, when my tear-filled eyes locked with his, I realized he was weary and out of ideas about how to satisfy an unfair expectation I had unintentionally placed on his shoulders. Somewhere along the way, I had started looking to my husband to be the solution to my feelings of emptiness.
Confiding in my husband about my lack of joy was part of the covenant of marriage, but looking to him to be the solution was not contained in the vows we made to each other back in 1992.
Like the line from the movie, “Jerry Maguire,” I was looking to my husband to complete me. In this famous scene, when Tom Cruise’s character declares to Renee Zellweger’s character that she completes him, many viewers see it as the ultimate romantic gesture.
But in real life, it is an extraordinary amount of pressure to thrust upon anyone; especially someone we deeply, dearly love. Not only this, it is unfair to ask a person to be for us what God can only be. But here I was, seeking to find in my husband a fix for my empty.
I wish I would’ve known that as a wife, looking to my husband for my source of purpose, joy, or identity would only bring disappointment and frustration. And in my case, a low-level depression.
Friends, we have a promise-keeping God, and one of His promises is that we can indeed possess complete joy. God’s Word assures us that our journey to complete joy starts by remaining in an obedient, loving relationship with Jesus.
John 15:9-11 (NIV) says, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
God goes above and beyond, because a different version of the bible (the NLT) reads, “our joy will overflow.”
Let us never burden our husbands with the impossible task of completing us. How wonderful it is that God truly wants us to look to Him to do that. Let us rejoice that He is willing to fill us to overflowing!
This truth is freeing and life-giving. God has what your heart longs for. Turn to Him, and see your heart come alive.
A note for anyone struggling with depression: the church has historically not been an advocate for mental health. We do not want you to read this and think there must be something wrong with you, because you are looking to God for joy, but still not experiencing it. Please know that sometimes, like in my case, my feelings (of low-level depression) were due to my misplaced source of joy. But for you, it may be due to a chemical or hormonal imbalance, or due to a traumatic brain injury, which may possibly require medication. If you believe you may be suffering from depression, we encourage you to seek the care of a professional to help you seek the Lord in navigating your own unique journey of healing.
Wife Step: Spend five minutes alone with God, sharing your heart with Him. Tell Him how you desire new joy in your heart and in your life. Bare your soul to Him and tell God how you’re struggling with your expectations of your husband. He wants to hear, and He wants to fill you with His presence and joy.
Gwen Thielges is an author, blogger, church worship leader, and songwriter. She is married to Darren, her high school sweetheart, (maybe elementary sweetheart would be more accurate?) They are above-and-beyond grateful for their three sons, one daughter, two daughters-in-law, and two grandsons.
Gwen is a blogging contributor for devotableapp.com and her devotional for college athletes, All In For Him, can be found on Amazon. She has recorded two CDs of original Christian songs, and her writing and music projects can be followed at facebook.com/gwenthielgeswritingandmusic. She blogs at www.gwenthielges.com.
Her heartfelt desire is to encourage readers to strive toward a deeper faith and a wider witness. She credits the immeasurable love of Jesus, the love of her amazing family, and strong coffee for her writing inspiration.