While we were discussing bad behavior, Valentine (of QBG Tilted Tiara) gave us her list of reasonable expectations. How do expectations affect your relationship?

Marriage is a business.

Marriage is a partnership. We call our spouses partners because we are in the business of marriage. If you think of work ethic applied to marriage, this will all become very clear.

Job Description

notice of intended marriage

Expectations are the line items in the job description of “spouse”. Some of them include:

  • Laundry operator
  • Chef
  • Dish washer
  • Plumber
  • Gardener
  • Child Care Assistant
  • Accountant
  • Teacher
  • Psychologist
  • Watchdog
  • Familial buffer

By far, this is not an exclusive list. When you expect something of your partner, Mate must absolutely know what is expected. Have you discussed this?

Dress for Success

Frankly, I could care less if my mate owns clothes, but they are a necessary evil for the outside world. Ironically, they are also needed in the marriage. I do not need him to constantly wear his cape. Some days, I need him in a pair of coveralls. Other times, I need him in his board room best to wield diplomacy on behalf of our marriage. Let us not neglect the days when combat gear is needed.



Image by Leo Reynolds via Flickr

Guess who flunked mind reading? Both of us did. Resentment creeps in when we expect Mate to do something which never materializes. Valentine gave us some great examples. Is your life so busy you cannot schedule these activities for Mate? Doing any of these without prompting scores well at evaluation time.


Do not cringe. This is not an ED discussion, sheesh. Whether you have admitted it or not, you expect Mate to perform at least to the level you would at any particular line item in the job description. How should Mate know how and how well you do it? Have you done it together? Has Mate watched you do it? Did you explain the expectations to Mate? Hmm.


Some of the line items are a team effort. Both partners need to pull their own weight to compensate for the strengths or weaknesses of the other. This portion of the business is non-negotiable.


Humans judge. Yes, we suck. Despite your best effort, you will judge Mate for all of the above. You are not the boss…you are Mate’s partner. You are not in the position to fire Mate, regardless of your inclination to do just that.

Research & Development

Cycle of Research and Development, from "...

Image via Wikipedia

Did Mate flunk you on your last eval? Time to research and develop a new plan.

  • Keep personal attacks out of discussion.
  • Outline the expectation.
  • Talk to one another about how the expectations were not met.
  • Discuss a different approach to the problem.
  • Resolve to change.
  • Follow through with change.
  • Reevaluate after change.

If businesses dissolve over the first conflict in the relationship, no money is ever made. Work together.


What is a job with no check? Marriage. If polled, more than 75% of married people will tell you marriage is the best job they have ever had. Aside from constant companionship (which is no little feat), those married for more than 50 years all cite the same benefits:

  • Respect
  • Love
  • Better health
  • Lower psychiatric bills
  • Acceptance of and help with change of bad behavior*
  • Support through rough times in employment and family
  • Children and grandchildren (and some great-grandchildren)

* Happily married people often say, “My [spouse] made me a better person.”



Image by violet.blue via Flickr

When both partners are not performing to standard, the business will go bankrupt. There are plenty of places to get a (knowledge) loan to bail it out: Marriage counselor, family friends, long-married couples. Reconstruction is the first, and often best, plan for marital bankruptcy. Go back to “Research & Development”.


Some marriages are beyond the point of repair: Not because they should not be fixed, but because the partners are no longer willing to commit more emotional capital to the marriage. For those non-abusive marriages where the partners are too tired, hurt or angry to work, dissolution is the next step.

If this is the path you choose for your marriage, remember the lessons of “Evaluation” and “Research & Development” before venturing down the aisle again.


What are your expectations of Mate?


(c) Ann Marie Dwyer 2011
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