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Sharing Hopes, Dreams, and Expectations
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11
Let's listen to Hayley as she describes her recent date with Kevin:
Our greatest date didn't start out so great. Kevin had said, "Let's go over to the lake and watch the sunset." But how can you watch a sunset when it's overcast and foggy? I thought.
Kevin was so determined that I humored him. We got to the lake, and he pulled out a blanket and picnic basket. Was this guy really serious? There was no sun anywhere on the horizon; in fact, it was chilly. I felt weird trying to watch a sun-set in the fog.
Kevin was acting strange-really nervous. "I'll be right back," he said and disappeared. So I sat on this blanket all alone. A few couples walked by hand-in-hand and stared at me. I felt really stupid. This date was going downhill fast. And then I heard a commotion behind me.
I turned around just in time to see a knight in a suit of armor riding a horse right toward me. As I looked more closely, I could see it was Kevin! He dismounted, and the next thing I knew he was on his knees asking me to marry him! Without a doubt, this was our greatest date yet!
What has been your greatest date? Have you had a unique story-book date like Hayley and Kevin? Or maybe you have had lots of great dates and now are looking forward to having a fairy-tale wedding where you will both ride off into the sunset to be blissfully happy ever after. Sounds like the end of the story, doesn't it? Not so. Your wedding day will only be the beginning of the story of your marriage.
A marriage is not a one-day event. Instead, marriage is a lifelong process of growing together and deepening your love for one another. It is facing life's trials together and pulling together in the good times as well as the bad. And, to be frank, marriage is not a fairy tale; it is more like the novel War and Peace. But the marriage relationship can be the most rewarding and fulfilling one you will ever know. And your greatest dates may be up ahead-after you're married!
Maybe like Hayley and Kevin, you've made the commitment to become engaged and are looking forward to getting married. Or maybe you are not engaged at this point but are wondering if you'd like to be. In either case, this date is going to help you look at your hopes and dreams for the future and better understand your expectations for marriage.
Many couples who marry are incredulous when marriage turns out to be different from what they expected. We don't want to shatter your hopes and dreams, but we do want you to take a good look at your present relationship and your expectations for the future. Too many who are considering marriage answer positively the premarital inventory question, "I expect my partner to change some of his/her behaviors after we marry."
Also it's important to note that every engaged couple does not end up marrying. One of the major purposes of marriage preparation is to help couples make a good decision about whether or not they are ready to be married to each other at this time. Couples who begin marriage preparation a year to eight months before marriage have a 15 to 17 percent rate of postponing or canceling the wedding if their preparation includes both an inventory and an educational program.
The value of marriage preparation is having the opportunity to reexamine and reconfirm your decision to marry. In the following dates we want to help you look closer at your own decision to consider marriage or a more serious relationship and to better understand your own "good match." We will start that process on Date One by looking realistically at your own expectations.
What We Expected
We (the Arps) started marriage with stars in our eyes and a belief that we would surely always meet each other's needs. We got married in the middle of our college experience. The year was 1962. Our world was traumatized by the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Russian missiles were headed for Cuba, and the United States had its blockade in position. We were attending different colleges in different towns: Dave was in Atlanta at Georgia Tech; Claudia was in Athens at the University of Georgia. We were convinced if we didn't marry right away, the world would blow up and that we might never get to live together as husband and wife. So we did it. We got married without any premarital counseling, inventories, or any of the other helps available today. We were just going to live on our "love."
Then when the honeymoon was over and our hormones settled down, we discovered that marriage was not quite what we expected. Little things irritated us. I (Dave) was raised in a military home and assumed Claudia would be as orderly as I was. One of our first arguments was about how to arrange the magazines on the coffee table. I wanted them at right angles. Claudia wanted them to look more informal and "homey." I kept putting them at right angles; Claudia kept changing them to "her way." And hangers should be one inch apart in the closet-or so I thought. Claudia assumed just hanging up the clothes was a big accomplishment. So we immediately realized we would need to do some compromising.
When we (the Browns) were seriously dating and considering marriage, we just wanted to be together, and we never got around to discussing our expectations. We also married while still in college, and our unspoken expectations were based on the only marriages we knew well-those of our parents, which couldn't have been more different.
I (Curt) expected Natelle to be a wonderful cook who would never use a mix! My mother served home-cooked meals precisely at 7 A.M., noon, and 6 P.M. She dusted and vacuumed daily. I always had a drawer full of clean socks and underwear, and my shirts and jeans were always freshly laundered and ironed. Naturally, I assumed Natelle would be as passionate about housekeeping as my mother was. (Save the rotten eggs-I changed my view long ago!)
I (Natelle) had a totally different perspective. My mother was a high school English teacher and the first female high school principal in the state of Nebraska. She had worked outside the home since I was two years old. My dad enjoyed tinkering with the car, fixing leaky faucets, and hanging Christmas tree lights. He occasionally even helped with the cooking and was great with us kids. I assumed Curt would encourage me professionally and divide household chores equally. And, of course, he would be the handyman around the house just like my father was. After marriage it didn't take long for us to discover that we didn't exactly fit into the roles the other had hoped we would!
What are your expectations for your marriage? Listen to what some others contemplating marriage expected:
• I expect my partner to always understand and encourage me.
• Our marriage will always make us happy.
• After marriage, our problems will go away.
• We will talk about everything, and therefore we will avoid serious disputes.
• With two incomes, we will be financially secure-especially since two can live almost as cheaply as one.
• We'll keep doing the same fun activities we presently do together.
• Our love life will always be exciting and satisfying.
• We will divide and conquer housework fifty-fifty.
• I expect my mate to meet my needs-to be a lot like me.
Obviously, these people were shocked when their mates were unable to live up to their expectations. It is really important that we talk about our expectations. It is hard enough to meet expectations when we know what they are, but it's impossible when we don't.
What You Expect
Do you identify with any of the comments above? On Date One you will have the opportunity to take our Expectation Survey and talk about what is really important to you. When Lisa and Ben talked through their Expectation Survey, they discovered areas where their expectations were totally different. For example, Ben had little need for "intellectual closeness"-that was the last on his list. But for Lisa, it was near the top of her list and she would probably starve to death without it! On the other hand, Lisa rated "mutual activity" lower than Ben. Talking about their expectations before marriage was a very helpful exercise. They understood that they would have to work to adjust their expectations and that their marriage would benefit from their different interests. Lisa would learn to put a higher value on shared activities while Ben would appreciate how important it was to Lisa for him to relate to her on an intellectual level.
You too can benefit from understanding your differing hopes, dreams, and expectations-especially when you talk about them before marriage. But first we suggest that you consider what your own expectations are for your 10 Great Dates.
If you are engaged, we hope you expect to have some fun, to learn more about each other, and also to pick up new relationship skills that will help your future marriage succeed. And if you are seriously dating, we hope your expectations for these dates include helping you understand each other better and equipping you to be able to make an informed and wise decision about your future together. Whether or not you are engaged, these dates can help you see your relationship more clearly, evaluate your present skills and abilities you bring to this potential partnership, and learn new relational skills.
So let's get started! But before we look to the future, let's consider the past and how you got to where you are today in your relationship.
LOOKING BACK - CELEBRATING GREAT MEMORIES TOGETHER
Let's take a trip down memory lane and revisit the day you met. Do you remember the first time you saw each other? We (the Arps) won't ever forget the day we first met.
I was thirteen, and Dave, who was fifteen, threw me into the swimming pool with my clothes on! But we were first attracted to each other when we met again after I graduated from high school. After finishing his freshman year at Georgia Tech, Dave was again spending the summer with his grandmother who lived in Ellijay, Georgia-the same small north Georgia town where I grew up. A mutual friend got us together, and it was almost love at first sight. Dave's impish nature was still in full force, but he was also fun-loving, adventurous, and a college man!
And Dave thought Claudia's vivaciousness, enthusiasm for life, and twinkle in her eyes were irresistible. Within three weeks we were together and never looked back (or at anyone else!).
It's fun to think back on our own history and remember the excitement of that time when we realized we were in love. Memories help us to remember just how important our marriage is and why we want to keep nurturing our relationship.
CELEBRATING THE PRESENT
From our observations, when couples become engaged, most of their time and energy are focused on planning the wedding. Often they forget to nurture their relationship now. In our Before You Say "I Do" seminar, we give couples the opportunity to celebrate the present by considering three questions.
The first question you might ponder is "What is great about your relationship right now?" These are the positive attributes of your relationship to be celebrated. Perhaps you work hard at expressing your true feelings to each other, or maybe you look for ways to encourage the other. These are the attributes to celebrate! Cheri and Bill are seriously considering marriage. When they did this exercise their list included the following positives:
• We have similar interests.
• Our faith in God is important to both of us.
• We laugh together a lot.
• We're good at expressing concerns and work together to deal with them.
The second question we suggest is "What is okay about our relationship, but could be better?" One thing Cheri wrote down is that she gets irritated when Bill says he will meet her at specific times but is continually ten minutes late. Bill honestly can't see why being ten minutes late is such a big deal.
The third question, "What is one thing you can do to make your relationship better?" helped Cheri and Bill move forward with this issue. Bill already knows one thing he can do to make their relationship better. If he will more realistically estimate his time of arrival and call when he's running late, perhaps Cheri will be more understanding when he is late and give him some slack.
LOOKING FORWARD - CELEBRATING THE FUTURE
Many couples anticipating marriage have a "future focus." It is exciting to look forward to marriage and dream of how wonderful it will be, but it is also wise to be realistic and articulate some of your expectations. Now is the time to take some steps to insure that your future is based on solid principles.
In our national survey of long-term marriages, we found three common strands in marriages that are alive and healthy. First, they put their relationship with each other first; second, both spouses are committed to growing and changing together; and third, they work at staying close.
Put Your Relationship First
At this point in your relationship, putting your relationship first is obvious, but after you say "I do," life happens-careers, children, sports, hobbies, friends, church activities, or whatever will vie for your time and attention. Throughout a marriage, partners must continue to refocus their lives on each other and make their relationship with each other a higher priority than other relationships or activities.
Most would probably agree that the marriage relationship should be a top priority, but sometimes in days, hours, and minutes, it just doesn't work out that way-even when we try. Love is a delicate balancing act. Some things we can control; others things we must juggle. You might want to think about your life right now. If you peel off the layers of activities and time commitments, what is underneath? Do you often have wistful thoughts about each other? Do you wisely use the time you do have?
Commit to Grow Together
Building a successful marriage includes a lifelong commitment to grow and change together. Unless you are really committed to your marriage, it is easy to give up when problems come along. Anyone who has been married for more than a few days knows that problems will surface.
Excerpted from 10 Great Dates Before You Say "I Do" by David Arp and Claudia Arp Copyright © 2003 by Zondervan
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Posted July 29, 2011
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