After 11 years of matrimony, my wife and I have fallen into a routine of expectations. Expectations from what time we get up in the morning, to who’s taking the trash out on Tuesday nights (me), to who’s taking our son to his swim lessons on Fridays (her), down to what time is appropriate to even think about initiating sex. And if you’re fortunate enough to have years invested into your marriage, you probably go through something similar.
The danger is that our routines lead to a lot of daily assumptions. And we all know who assumptions regularly make a fool of. But lately, I’ve noticed my assumptions have caused some issues. I’ve been making way too many recurring assumptions over the years—assumptions that seem obvious to me (as I’ve connected them by an invisible bridge of unspoken conversations); but these assumptions are things my wife has no clue about.
I assume she notices my contributions
The nights I get home before my wife does, I usually cook dinner for the family, get my son cleaned up for bed, read him a book and then furiously try to clean the kitchen to appear like dinner just magically arrived. I wash the dishes, clean the counters, wipe up the spills a 4-year-old tends to make while helping and such. Nothing amazing, just dad things. Based on the volume of times my wife has mentioned her pure disgust for doing dish work, I think she’ll be pleased when she comes home to a kitchen of pre-washed dishes and a hot dinner. Some nights she’s thrilled. Other nights, she questions why the dish washer wasn’t loaded properly. I feel I shouldn’t have to point out every single thing that happened over the past few hours, considering it’s a miracle the dishes are actually in the dishwasher vs. on top of the fridge and behind the toaster.
It’s a frustrating routine, recently leading me to speak up more about the things I want to be recognized for. Not simply bragging, but we all have to be our own largest advocates. I can’t say I notice all the awesome things my wife does for me because I’m probably used to it or even worse yet, expecting it. I gotta do better.
I assume she understands my need for sex is not just physical but me also trying to connect with her emotionally
My wife and I have been trying for an addition to our family for almost a year now. We told ourselves we would stop trying once she turned 35, simply because that was the age cut-off we set for ourselves. That was six months ago. We kept trying. The process of intentionally bringing life into the world wasn’t as fun as I anticipated. But we kept at it—sparingly with little energy or effort as time progressed and hope faded.
So when we received the news she was finally pregnant, we were both excited, terrified, fatigued, relieved, grateful and more. Basically a glass case of emotions. But we were overjoyed.
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She told me while I was away on a business trip, and while I tried to process the information, I was simply excited to get back to my family and see my new pregnant wife. The emotional toil of the past year was paying off, and our lives were forever changing by adding another human to our family’s story line. I thought once I came home, my wife would want to celebrate the news the way I did. By talking about it, and then have a celebratory unpressured-to-create-life-sex—especially due to all the heavy emotions her and I just discussed. My bad. My mistake. My assumption. Her version of celebration was Get Some Sleep. She was tired.
A few days, later she mentions she felt I was trying to use her that evening, so she decided to go to sleep instead of having sex.
This is a fairly recurring theme in our marriage. After many conversations and genuine heart-to-heart talks, I still assume she understands my need to emotionally connect at the physical level. And I assume after we have do have sex, she can feel the emotional repair to our connection. But it’s not automatic to her. At times, she still feels used and objectified. And we’ll continue to work on this from both sides. I’ll start with less assumptions.
I assume she knows I appreciate her
Years ago, my wife and I read the book The 5 Love Languages together. We took the quiz, did the challenges, had the conversations. Turns out our respective love languages were not much of a surprise: physical touch for me and receiving gifts for her.
Her and I agree to our financial budget. We have everything mapped out based on our future goals. She knows there’s not much room for random gifts in general. What we do have is financial stability, a son with access to great education, health benefits, a front and back yard and progress to our ultimate goals. Much of this is due to all she’s done to keep our family’s finances stable and my ability to earn a decent wage no matter where we go in the country.
I assume the stability and growth we have is much more of a gift than regular trinkets or jewelry. I’m mistaken more times than not. And it’s obviously not that she doesn’t appreciate these things, it’s that she wants to be shown that appreciation in very specific ways. And regardless if I keep the kitchen tidy, cook the meals, put gas in the car or keep health benefits around, the thing that says “Thank You” the loudest to her is stuff. Physical things, which are symbolic of my thoughts and sacrifice toward her, speak my appreciation the loudest to her. I don’t get it, but I try to understand it. In her defense, in recent years, she’s wanted less things and more travel. And I can better wrap my head around building experiences rather than things.
Every time my marriage isn’t going the way I would hope or expect, I realize more and more the most important thing I can do is take a good look at myself and what I’m contributing to the situation. Because at the end of the day, a person can only control their actions and reactions. You can’t make a grown person do anything they don’t want to. And moving forward, I don’t want to assume simply because we made it to 11, means we’ll make it to 22 and beyond.
BMWK, what assumptions constantly create problems in your marriage?