Do You Really Lose Your Rights in Marriage?

What do you have the right to expect from your mate?

Growing up, Larry’s mother always cooked a Big Breakfast. The first day after our Honeymoon ended, he woke up, breathed deeply and didn’t smell coffee, bacon, oatmeal or anything else cooking. Concerned, he asked me, “What’s for Breakfast?” I immediately got up and got dressed thinking he was taking me out to breakfast. Can you believe it? He expected me to cook him a big breakfast just like his mother. I had news for him. In the words of author Wellington Boone, “Your wife ain’t your momma?”

We smile every time she tells this story about unfulfilled expectations in our marriage seminars. So, what are we to do with our expectations which we pick up from our upbringing, the culture and media as well as the church? When we are crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20), we surrender our rights from the flesh (our sin nature) and we begin to grow in God’s expectations of us. What God expects of us often differs from our wants and desires both for ourselves and our spouses. We can expect what God expects. That doesn’t mean we can be judgmental or legalistic about our marital relationship. God always expects the best for us and others knowing that when we fail, His Spirit will correct us and empower us to grow in grace and truth.

Unrealistic expectations of our mate can lead to hurt, frustration, a critical spirit, anger and resentment. So, what are realistic expectations? They are those rooted in God’s love (agape) for the other person. Often people speak of their ‘rights’ in marriage. As a husband or a wife, I have the right to expect this or that. Such thinking is ‘stinking’ thinking. It is selfish and hurtful. Relationships cannot be life-giving when they are built on rules and rights. Covenant marriage builds a holy, healthy relationship on seeking God’s best not for self but for the other person.