Updated: Apr 22, 2020
If you're reading this article in search of the answer to this question, sorry, you won't find it here. I'm single, what the heck do I know? Like you, this sister has more questions than answers. An inquiring mind wants to know what exactly is 'irreconcilable differences' and is there such a thing as 'me time' in marriage? Better yet, how much of homeslice's annoying habits does a wife endure (like if mister forgets to put down the seat) before she spazzes out and vice-versa? But more importantly, who is responsible for bringing home the bacon and is the person who brings it, exempt from cooking it? I suppose it depends on who you ask, just what kind of answers you'll get to any of these questions. What I do know is, from my little tuffet, couples seem to be getting divorced quicker than Popeyes sold-out of the spicy chicken sandwich!
Okay, I'm not stuck on stupid. Technically, I know what those terms mean, I just don't understand how they come to be some of the reasons people walk away from a whole marriage. The one they longed for their entire life. Whatever happened to conflict resolution? How is it that some couples don't survive? I mean, let's not forget the moments they smothered us with couples PDA and social media overload of 'I said yes' and 'he finally put a ring on it'. Fam, what happened? I suppose my lack of understanding is a contributing factor as to why I may still be ticking 'single' on registration forms. I'm just saying, the way folks be highlighting these cute wedding hashtags, the thing should last longer than Vanilla Ice's career.
Knowing is half the battle
Of course, you know I got to thinking, is my expectation of marriage grossly overrated or after being on earth for about the equivalent of a whole generation, I still know nothing? A while back, I read a quote that said, 'the secret to happiness is to lower your expectations'. I pondered that thought for a while and considered the people I dated. Could I have survived 'til death do us part' with any of them? Could I have 'expected' longevity from any of the characters in my life's story? Did this quote mean that my expectations were too high and because everything around me didn’t measure up to my idealistic and perhaps unattainable views, it caused me to 'act' myself right out of a lifetime commitment? Like me, is your view on marriage a little skewed too? As I further took a stroll down memory lane, I remembered my relationship mantra, to treat people the way I wanted to be treated. Oooh child, what a rude awakening. I soon learned that not everyone lives by that rule. Some folks act like they don't know it exists.
If you expect people to be fair with you just because you are fair with them, then that’s like expecting a lion not to eat you because you don’t eat lions. (unknown).
As I dredged deeper into the thought of what it means to have expectancy or lack thereof, I concluded that it varies from person to person. It's truly all relative. Thus, when hopes are too high, we often end up disappointed when it all falls short of the image we so skillfully designed in our head. It became pretty obvious that if I'm not realistic, I too, will be out here reciting 'irreconcilable differences' on my season finale of 'Yass, I is married now'. Apparently, the wedding day and the 'marriage' are not one and the same! Go figure.
Objects in mirrors are closer than they appear
So then, are the 'happy marriages' I see just out here masquerading? Are the color-coordinated families that come to church on Sunday really as 'perfect' (and I use that word loosely) as they look? I don't have to be married to know that pretending and people-pleasing is unbelievably exhausting! Are the 'put-together' couples I see real, or is it fabricated because that's what they want me to think? That aside, is there an insurance policy that can divorce-proof a marriage? I don't know about you, but I'm not looking forward to marriage just to get divorced.
I think the blurred line for most people occurs when the picture in our minds of how it's all supposed to be, doesn’t translate into reality.
This led me to think about how expectations in mere relationships continue to cause make-up and break-up’s, up's and down or a constant stream of unnecessary arguments. It made me wonder how two people within the first six months of knowing each other, announce to the world how the other person gets them, completes them even. Then in less than a year, they've unfollowed each other on social media and all the cute selfies go MIA? So I started to contemplate, should the root cause of a relationship's demise be hung on the cross of 'expectation' or 'misrepresentation' rather? I dare say it is a solid mix of both. I came up with what I feel are the top three misconceptions that keep us handcuffed in 'girlfriend-Lala-land':
That we can change a person - I can't even change me, I'm not even going to try to change someone else.
What is tolerated and allowed by one, should also be by the other - just because you do something doesn't mean the other person will as well.
Marriage will fix the issues - as I'm told marriage is like a magnifying glass, it amplifies the problems that were always there.
The more you learn the less you know
The sooner we learn that there is a significant difference between expectation and reality, life will go a little more smoothly. Look, I'm not a parent either but I don't suspect that if a child brings home a bad report card that a 'good' parent then discards the child altogether? No, they work with them. They get a tutor, extra classes, educational devices; they'd even take them to see a specialist and run every test known to man to ensure all the learning faculties are in working order. Any caring parent would do what is necessary to help their kid. So how then do folks just throw away an entire spouse because you can't agree to disagree?
I often say relationships are selfish because we tend to seek first what's in it for us and when we don't get what we want, we leave. A consequence of having too many options. I dare say, what if we 'single's' go into a relationship thinking, what can I do for the other person? Or if I may take it a step further, what if we make the expectation “How may I serve you?” rather than the resounding question being “What have you done for me lately?” What if we lower the expectation of what we receive and raise the standard or what we give? If love is supposed to be unselfish and kind, then why is the expectation always 'give me-me' and not vice-versa?
"If each individual came in with the mindset and the notion to give 100% rather than 50%, then there's a greater possibility for smoother sailing."
Before anything else, what if we got intentional about being a better partner? What if there was a conscious and deliberate, almost premeditated plan, to do more and complain less? To solely see the best in the other person rather than expect the worst? I've often heard that it’s easier to catch bees with honey, but it seems as though most of us, at best, have vinegar. Our arsenal is fully armed with viciousness, lack of actions, and full of cruel words that deliver the deadliest blow. We say “I love you” ever so casually, that it merely surfaces in words rather than deeds. Ironically, ‘love’ is an action, and shouldn't be deduced to a term or a feeling.
"So if we truly love, then the expectation should be that we do. It would mean putting the needs of another person-at every chance-above our own."
Expect the unexpected
By no means am I advocating that you should fear marriage because of the multitude of bad experiences you hear about. I'm saying if you truly desire it, make a conscious effort to be better prepared. If the ultimate expression of love as we know it resulted in the death of Jesus, who gave His life so that we may live; then how is it that we aren't prepared to sacrifice anything that makes us uncomfortable for someone else? How is it that we become so annoyed and exhausted by trying that we are not willing to come to any compromise? If the onus is always on the other person to create this 'fan-fare' we imagine, then what purpose do you serve in the grand scheme of things? If you are not willing to totally give of yourself, your time, or resources, then I’m afraid your expectation of what marriage entails is terribly mistaken. It'll never be hyped enough for you! So, no, don't believe the hype, create your own. I don't know if marriage is all it's cracked up to be, but I'll surely let you know when I find out!