Evaluating Expectations in Your Marriage to Better Manage Conflict


Evaluating expectations in marriage to better manage conflict

Few couples will admit it, but conflict is common in all marriages. Even the best relationships are still bound to face conflict eventually. It’s unavoidable! Since every marriage has its share of ups and downs, it is not the question of avoiding conflict but of how you deal with it.


Here are some common causes of conflict in relationships and tips on how to overcome them.


The most common cause of conflict in a marriage is unmet expectations. We all enter relationships with a set of expectations – things that we feel our spouse should do for us. Many people have realistic expectations that seem simple but are still not being fulfilled. When these reasonable expectations go unmet for years, hurt and resentment can take over.


Many individuals try hard to gain the attention they deserve from their spouse ineffectively. Instead of confronting the issue directly, they suffer in silence. This leaves their fair and reasonable needs unmet simply because their spouse is not aware of them.

Expectations exercise

Print out a copy of this expectations list. Both partners should take some time to read it thoroughly. The list provides a brief explanation of each expectation that couples often have. Go through the list and rate each expectation on a scale of 1 to 7, with the 1 being the most important. After you have ranked yourself, go through the list again and rank each item in order of importance based on what you believe your spouse would choose. After you are done, discuss your lists together and discuss what you see. Don’t get into an argument if your judgment differs from that of your partner. If this occurs, simply discuss what and why you see it differently.

Expectations checklist

You Your Partner
Security – the assurance of permanence in your relationship as well as financial and material security.
Companionship –a friend for life who shares all of life’s joys and sorrows with you. A person who has common interests and activities that you can enjoy together.
Intimacy – someone who meets your needs for sexual intimacy.
Understanding and affection –a simple touch or a kiss that says “I love you and I care for you.”
Encouragement – verbal support and appreciation for the efforts that you make in your career, home, children, etc.
Intellectual closeness – discussing common intelligent thoughts.
Mutual activity – finding activities such as sports, hobby, volunteering, gardening, etc. that both enjoy and can do together.


Using the checklist provided above, rank the 7 expectations in order of 1 to 7, with 1 being the most important priority for you in a marriage and so on. When you have finished analyzing yourself, go through the list again and rank each expectation the way you believe your spouse would. Compare your answers when you have both completed the checklist. Viewing what you and your spouse value in your relationship on a paper will help clarify the issues of expectations in your marriage.


Dr. Debbie McFadden is a co-owner and Clinical Director at Village Counseling Center and a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Dr. McFadden has been in private practice since 1994, working extensively with adults and couples, specializing in women’s issues. She has completed specialized training in critical incident management to work with victims of severe trauma.

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