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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Spousal Expectation Myth

I have a little theory.

Sorry, correction. I have a huge theory I’ve long held. Many women my age live in a Cinderella induced state of unrealistic expectations.

Blame it on our culture. Blame it on Barbie. Lay the blame at Disney’s feet, if you wish. Wherever you place the blame, it doesn’t change my theory that many women, NOT ALL, think that their husbands /significant others should make them exquisitely and perfectly happy.

Heck, I’m romance writer and a self-proclaimed upholder and weaver of the Spousal Expectation Myth. Let’s face it, most people want their romance to end with a happily ever after.

What happens when your story doesn’t end with happily ever after? Hey, are you listening? Come closer, because I have the answer for you. A story that doesn’t have a perfect, never-a-complication ending is called REAL LIFE.

Several days ago I sat in a large group of women all relaying various stories about how their husbands made them unhappy. The stories all had a different twist. One schlep never took out the garbage unless asked. Another lazy caveman couldn’t seem to get that a full dishwasher only gets clean if you run it.I know, I know. You relate. Another candidate for cruddy-husband-of-the-year actually ate the Thanksgiving dinner his wife had slaved for two days cooking and then when the meal was over he went and sat on the couch while demanding pie as the wife stared in mounting, semi-close to murderous, frustration at the dishes.
Needless to say the husband didn’t get his requested pie, but he did get a verbal lashing I’ll never forget, and I’m sure, since he was actually there, he won’t forget either.

This conversation got me thinking that we, and I include myself, women are actually a bit to blame for our unhappiness with our husbands/significant others. We need to discard ourselves of the belief that someone else can make us happy. The only person who can really make you happy is yourself. Other people add to your happiness or take away from it, whichever way the river flows that day, but ultimately each of us is individually responsible for our happiness.

Living under the Spousal Expectation Myth is not healthy. There are no happily ever after’s except in movies and books. If your life never experienced frustrations you’d get no joy from the upswings. If you're married or in a relationship think about this today. Instead of concentrating on what your significant other does today that irks you think about what they do today that brings you joy. But above all remember, you have the power to make yourself happy. Don’t look to others. Look within yourself and don’t forget if you are unhappy you have the power to make a change.

Have you debunked a myth in your life? If so, I'd love to hear about it!


  1. I actually had this same realization, Julie. As a lifelong reader of romance, I had this pre-existing notion of a 'hero'....and I eventually came to find that it placed unrealistic expectations on what a 'real hero' is. Does that make sense? It allowed me to appreciate my husband for all the amazing things he does for our family. He doesn't wear a cape or cloak but he is more heroic than any figure on a page. : ) Great post!

  2. That makes total sense, Christie! I too was guilty if unrealistic expectations!

  3. Julie,
    Great post! I think it's human nature to give more attention to the things that cause us discomfort rather than the things that keep us moving along happily. Think about when we're in traffic. If some jerk cuts us off, we focus on that jerk, maybe all the way to our destination where we then tell our friends about what that jerk did. We don't notice all the perfectly courteous drivers that were following the rules and maybe slowed down so we could make a lane change. It takes effort to fight against our nature and recognizing it is the first step.

    Several years ago I was cleaning the bathroom and being ticked off because of something my husband hadn't picked up. I was tired of being angry about everything and tired of cleaning up after everyone in my family. I thought, "I don't want to live this way." Then I put myself in his place and thought how unfair it was to expect him to live how I wanted him to live. Obviously, it wasn't important to him to put the cap back on the toothpaste. It was important to ME! That's when it hit me that I wasn't doing it for him. I was doing it for me. It changed my whole attitude so I could happily go about my life. We'd had fights about me cleaning up after everyone in the past, but I stopped fighting. When I need help, I ask for it and my family helps pick up. And now my husband has hired a cleaning service to do the main cleaning, so he found a solution that adds to my happiness. :)

    1. Sam,
      What a great epiphany! I need to remember that a lot of stuff I want my hubbie to do is ME wanting it, and him not caring about it like I do!

  4. Well said, Julie. When I met my Hubba-luv, I'd been divorced for two years and I'd taken some time off from the dating scene. He asked why I took a break and I told him I had to be happy with who I am and let go of the expectation that it was a man's job to make me happy. He proposed right away. (JK- but he agreed that we have to be happy with ourselves first.)

    A lesson learned on trashing husbands: I used to walk every morning with two of my neighbors and the conversation was usually us complaining about picking up dirty underwear they left on the floor or some other little insignificant thing that bugged us. One of those friend's husband died of a heart attack at age 41 and the one thing I remember her saying to me in the aftermath was she wished she could take back every bad thing she ever said about him. He was a good man and didn't matter that he had to be reminded to take out the trash. He and my hubs were close friends and close in age and the loss made me rethink my attitude about my husband's "so-called" flaws. Would I want him fussing to his friends about how I do or don't do something so trivial in the scheme of things? I read "Love and Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs and realized I'd been disrespecting my husband by complaining about him behind his back.

    I could go on about this subject for awhile since it's a hot button of mine. Thanks for sharing this post and your experience, Julie. Best wishes.

    1. What a powerful story, Meda. Thank so much for sharing it with us. It really puts things in perspective.

    2. Meda,

      That is one of my greatest fears with my husband and kids that I'll get wrapped up in something negative and forget all the positive things. That's awful about your friend, but it does really put things into perspective.