Walking past the living room, I saw my husband was having a conversation with our kids. I was shocked when I heard him say, “Your mother and I didn’t have an argument during the first six years of our marriage.”
I nearly stumbled I was so surprised! I didn’t stop to argue the point, though. “Was he living with me?” I thought.
“Why would Jerry say we never argued during those early years? He never lies. He might exaggerate a little, but not frequently. Hmmm…” I needed to think about this, and I did throughout the rest of the day.
“We have a good marriage. We argue some, but we rarely ever fight. Funny, I can remember an argument we had early in our marriage.”
With this thought, a bolt of understanding flashed through my mind. That was the point! He truly didn’t remember having an argument. He didn’t remember because he chose to forget. He was telling the truth. He honestly could not remember arguing with me during that season of our marriage.
Suddenly I was humbled, and I realized another reason why I loved him so much. My husband was quick to forgive and to forget. It wasn’t so with me. I would hold a grudge and give him the silent treatment for a while. Then I would eventually forgive, or almost. I didn’t realize how closely related forgetting was to forgiving.
“What made the difference? Why was he able to forget when he forgave? Why was forgiveness problematic for me?”
My thoughts eventually took me to years before, during premarital counseling with our pastor. One of the keys to a successful marriage, he told us, was to give our expectations to God. He explained that if we would each look to God to meet our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, instead of expecting those needs to be met by our spouse, we would free each other to become the person God created each of us to be. We would also be free to see each other’s needs and want to meet them.
The greatest need of a woman, he explained, is security. Giving my expectations to God meant I would trust God to be my security, rather than expecting Jerry to make me feel safe. Then I would be free from fear and able to look for ways to serve Jerry. The freedom came from relying upon God to meet my needs, especially my need for security.
Everyone seeks to find meaning in life, a sense of significance. We learned how important it is especially for a man to gain his sense of significance from God. When he doesn’t look to his wife to make him feel needed and important, he is free to be sensitive to her needs. He begins to think of her and to serve her.
We agreed giving our expectations to God would be vital for a successful marriage, and we talked in depth before committing to do it.
Jerry embraced it. He didn’t expect meals on the table at a specific time, a spotless house, or a sexy wife when he desired physical intimacy. He was grateful for whatever I cooked, and he helped in the kitchen at times. He was happy when clutter was put away, but didn’t complain about messiness, and sometimes he helped clean it up. He wasn’t a perfect husband, and I wasn’t a perfect wife. He understood about expectations, though, and was a happier person for it. To him there were so many fewer offenses that called for forgiveness, because he didn’t place expectations on me. And when I needed his forgiveness, he was quick to offer it.
For me, however, there must have been a disconnect. I thought I was allowing God to meet my needs, especially my need for security. In reality, though, I expected Jerry to meet my needs, and I wasn’t very happy when he didn’t or couldn’t. Mentally, I made a cage of my expectations and put my husband in it. I didn’t realize I was unconsciously trying to refine him into who I wanted him to be. When I confined him to my expectations, and he didn’t measure up, I felt threatened. I was offended and didn’t forgive him easily. As long as I had him in a cage, he couldn’t become who God created him to be. His thoughts were centered on keeping me happy instead of hearing from God.
Destroying the cage wasn’t easy—recognizing what I expected of Jerry and giving those expectations to God. I discovered I was afraid to allow God to meet my needs in the way He thought best. I finally turned to Jesus, asking Him to meet my need for security and help me trust Him with other needs. When I stopped expecting Jerry to think or act as I thought he should, when I chose to look for the good in my husband, when I stopped thinking first about me, I wasn’t offended as often as before. And I could forgive.
I saw, again, the traits that drew me to Jerry in the first place. I noticed his needs, but I wanted to serve him. A transformation took place in our relationship. Our marriage gained a much deeper dimension when I demolished the cage of my expectations and chose to forget. Love flowed between us and needs were met by God.