Differences that Disappoint

Unless you really married someone who is perfect, your marriage dream has been tainted by disappointment. Whenever you or your spouse fail to meet each other’s expectations in some way, somebody is disappointed. It happens in all relationships, but it is most painful in a marriage relationship. You thought you were getting a perfect angel. You thought you knew your spouse well. Then—surprise! You saw something in him or her you didn’t see before or something that was no big deal before. And you felt disappointed.

Let’s say it plainly because we all know it’s true: Nobody’s perfect. You didn’t marry the angel of perfection you thought you were getting—and neither did your spouse. When the honeymoon ended and the glow of your first year together dimmed, you began to see your partner more realistically. You rubbed each other the wrong way occasionally—not because you wanted to (most of the time) but because your differences and flaws were beginning to show more clearly. In the overall scheme of things, these relational glitches are not usually major. Most are momentary annoyances. But the end result is disappointment that continues through married life.

 Photo by  Spencer Dahl  on  Unsplash

Photo by Spencer Dahl on Unsplash

The antidote to disappointment is persevering love, a love that hangs in there even when your spouse doesn’t live up to your ideals. You wish your husband wouldn’t slurp his soup, but you love him just the same when he does. You wish your wife kept the house as neat as a pin all the time, but you love her just the same when she doesn’t. Yes, you will still feel disappointed at times. But persevering love rises above feelings of disappointment and loves anyway, as if you were perfectly contented.

Marital disappointments are unavoidable because marriage is the collision of two different perspectives and ways of living. You brought into the union your own family background and traditions, but your spouse came with a different set.

Your marriage is also a blend—and in some cases a clash—of two different personalities. One of you may be the quiet, stay-at-home type while the other is an outgoing party animal. Somebody will have to deal with disappointment just about every weekend and holiday.

You also came to the altar with two different sets of values and philosophies. You may be fairly compatible on most issues, but it’s unlikely that you grew up in the same denomination and political party, or if you did, that you share identical views on every issue.

Finally, you brought with you into marriage a truckload of expectations that may differ from those of your spouse. Like how many kids you want or how close you think you should live to your parents.

So what do you do with the disappointments—great or small—that accompany the many differences you have discovered in your relationship? Where does persevering love kick into action? The apostle Paul’s words in Ephesians 4:2 are the key to dealing with differences and disappointments—“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”

Ideally, both of you will adopt these “be-attitudes” in the power of the Holy Spirit and take turns cutting each other plenty of slack.

Be humble. Take the servant’s role by not demanding that everything happen your way. Remember: You’re basically dealing with preferences, not issues of life and death, right and wrong, my way or the highway. It’s okay to state your desire to stay home on Friday night, but will it really kill you to go out with your more social half from time to time—and make sure he or she has a good time? 

Be gentle. “If you don’t do something about your snoring, I’m moving to the den—period!” Hey, do angry ultimatums and threats really help settle differences and heal disappointment? No, and they can even make things worse. When you are persevering in some area, be tender and kind about it. And when your spouse is doing the persevering, be gracious and grateful.

Be patient. Maybe it seems that your spouse will never yield to your preferences in some areas. Maybe he or she is overbearing and demanding about some things, even to the point of being unkind or ungracious about it. Maybe you live with constant disappointment, afraid that things will never change in some areas. Here’s a place where you need to lean into Jesus in prayer, hang on to his Word, and wait for him do something you cannot do. In the meantime, following Paul’s instruction, make allowance for your spouse’s faults, realizing that he or she is doing the same for you over other issues.

Why go to such lengths in a marriage relationship? “Because of your love,” Paul answers. Your love for each other is not on trial when disappointments arise. Rather, your love, which is rooted in God’s love for both of you, is the solid platform for working through and persevering in disappointments. And your love will grow even deeper as you take steps to heal any disappointments that arise.

*For more helpful insights to connect with your spouse, check out Renewing Your Love: Devotions for Couples in our online bookstore.