When roles become rules: Expectation is the thief of appreciation in marriage and in life

It was early. Joseph had already left for his clinical rotation, and I shuffled to the kitchen, barely awake to pour my morning cup of coffee.

The pot was empty.

Expectation killS appreciation

Where was my coffee? Joseph ALWAYS made me coffee. He must have overslept. He should have gotten up earlier, I thought. He should have been more on top of things.

I let a spirit of ingratitude come over me. Discontentment slipped into my heart. I’d come to expect things from my husband instead of appreciate them.

Too often I do the same thing to God. Instead of rejoicing in each day as a gift that He has given, I catch myself complaining about my to do list. Instead of thanking God for providing for us financially, I feel entitled to the paycheck I think I’ve earned.

I expect it. And I become ungrateful.

The greatest threat to gratitude isn’t our situation. It’s our expectations.

When roles become rules

When Joseph and I got married, we talked about our expectations so we would not take each other for granted. We tried to communicate clearly whether I would cook or he would clean, whether he would mow the lawn or I would. So we looked to Scripture to clearly understand our roles as husband and wife:

“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, His body, of which He is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a glorious church, without stain or wrinkle or any such blemish, but holy and blameless. In the same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. Indeed, no one ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church. For we are members of His body.” Ephesians 5:21-30

What we discovered reading through the Scriptures is that our role as husband and wife comes down to love and respect, not a list of rules.

As head of the home, it is his responsibility to love me, sacrifice for me, lead me with the Word, and encourage me in my journey of sanctification.  It is my responsibility to submit to his godly leadership.

But the part that most people tend to overlook is that we are to submit to one another. We found that we appreciate each other so much more when we serve one another and share everyday responsibilities instead of merely focusing on our own. So my husband washes the dishes. I do too. Usually I cook. Sometimes he cleans. He pulls weeds. I mow the lawn. I do a load of laundry, then he does. We are careful not to assign jobs based on gender roles because we know being husband and wife isn’t about who works indoors and who works outdoors. It’s a mirror of Christ and the church.

Christ’s sacrifice for us and His responsibility to bear the burden of our sin wasn’t merely motivated by a sense of duty but by a posture of love.

Joseph and I have discovered that we love and respect one another when we don’t expect certain things to be done a certain way out of a sense of duty. We love and respect one another when we serve one another out of sacrificial love.

There is nothing wrong with setting up pattern or routine. There is nothing wrong with recognizing your responsibility or duty for a particular aspect of the home, but when marriage becomes about the rules you live by instead of the person you love, your relationship becomes a ritual.

… when marriage becomes about the rules you live by instead of the person you love, your relationship becomes a ritual.

When I expect him to refill my gas tank and make me coffee, I don’t appreciate it. When he expects a meal to be made at 6 o’clock every day, he becomes entitled. How can we be truly grateful if we think we deserve the very thing we’ve been given? How can we be delighted if our roles as husband and wife become a list of rules to live by instead a relationship to love?

Love supersedes expectations

For the last couple months, I’ve been the one making coffee. This morning I shuffled over to the coffee pot, and to my delight a fresh cup of coffee was waiting for me to enjoy. He had woke up early, earlier than he had to, not because he had to, not because it was his duty but because he loves me. And I’m grateful for that.

“This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

It’s easy to take for granted the things we expect. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. But my cup of coffee reminded me to be continually thankful for the love of my husband and the love God pours on us each day! Let’s not shrug off God’s love by thinking we deserve it. Let’s appreciate the love behind everything He does. Let us delight in how good it is to be loved by God!

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