Education Week: Learning to survive during the beginning years of marriage

For many newlyweds expectations differ when entering marriage. XXX discussed how discussing expectations can improve marriages. (Photo courtesy of Maddi Driggs)
Expectations differ for many newlyweds when entering marriage. Mark D. Ogletree discussed how sharing expectations can improve marriages. (Photo courtesy of Maddi Driggs)

Mark D. Ogletree spoke to a smaller crowd of mostly newly-weds during BYU’s Education Week about identifying and negotiating marital expectations.

Ogletree began by asking couples what surprised them the most about getting married. Answers varied from in-laws, changes in life goals and general differences between the couple.

The presenter then shared a story about a couple who, after three weeks of marriage, got into a fight over a broken egg yoke. Because of the disagreement, the couple thought they could not make their marriage work until they discovered disagreements and arguments are normal in marriages.

Ogletree then asked what the audience thought could be reasons behind divorce. After several responses, Ogletree highlighted two reasons: over-commitment and physical exhaustion, and being unprepared for unmet expectations.

Ogletree quoted Deut. 24:5, saying he wished that practice could be followed now.

“When a man hath taken a new wife, he shall not go out to war, neither shall he be charged with any business: but he shall be free at home one year, and shall cheer up his wife which he hath taken.”

Since a couple will rarely have a break where they can just sit around and cheer each other up, Ogletree emphasized how understanding each other’s expectations can help a couple avoid divorce.

He shared an example of learning each other’s expectations from his marriage.

“We had been married for one week,” recalled Ogletree. “We were jogging down the Tree Streets in Provo in May of 1989 and my wife just stopped running. I said, ‘What’s wrong?'”

It was then that Ogletree found out his wife, who had jogged with him during their whole engagement, actually hated running.

“In my mind the perfect Mormon family jogged together,” said Ogletree.

He continued to share how they discovered their expectations didn’t quite match up in everything, which Ogletree believes is normal in marriage.

Common marital expectations, according to Ogletree, include:

  • A husband instinctively knowing how his wife is feeling
  • Expecting that a couple will always be happy together
  • Marriage is easy
  • The couple will have the same way of living the gospel and its principles
  • There will be no disagreements
  • A good sexual relationship in marriage will be automatic and easy to develop

To avoid confusion about a spouse’s expectations, Ogletree suggests that the couple sit down and discusses expectations, before and after marriage.

One of the best ways to discuss expectations is to first write down the expectations an individual has personally and then write down what they expect their spouse to do regarding socializing, recreation, money management, sexual intimacy, in-law relations, children, house, religious practices, job or career, spirituality, health and exercise and education.

Ogletree explained that most married couples will need to make life adjustments in seven areas:

  1. In-laws: Often times, married couples want to be treated like adults by their parents, and parents want their children to act like adults. In in-law relationships both sides need to benefit in some way for it to be a healthy relationship.
  2. Finances: Ogletree says the way people spend money reflects what they care about. How and when to spend and save money needs to be discussed, or one spouse might get upset about spending too much or saving too little.
  3. Friends: Relationships with friends will change, especially with those of the opposite gender. Be willing to make adjustments.
  4. Intimacy: “The greatest answer to intimacy is to talk about it (with your spouse).”
  5. Parenthood: Couples should discuss the timing of having children, how many they want, and how they will raise them. There will be times that, because of different upbringings, spouses will want to put more emphasis on things they wished they could have done or felt they missed out on.
  6. Household duties: According to Ogletree, Flora Williams, who wrote an article about household activates between men and women, said that the number one area of disagreement between a couple is household responsibilities. Deciding how to split household responsibilities could be difficult depending on what a person observed in their home growing up.
  7. Time together: Ogletree emphasized that Satan’s greatest tool is distraction. If each spouse makes the other person a top priority, Satan will have less of a chance to distract them and break up the marriage.

When negotiating these topics, and any others, Ogletree recommends that couples’ compromises always lean towards the person who is most passionate about the issue. Once the compromise has been applied, couples should later review their expectations again.

“Great love is built on sacrifice. Only if you sacrifice for something will you love it,” Ogletree said.


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