The Science of a Happy Marriage, Part 3 - Maintain High Standards

“One common theme couples often hear in counseling is that they have unrealistic hopes and expectations for marriage. If you’re unhappy, maybe that’s because you were simply expecting too much.


But recent research suggests that high standards are a good thing. At the University of North Carolina, psychologist Donald H. Baucom, Ph.D., set out to determine how having idealistic standards can affect a relationship. Couples answered questions on everything from sex and religion to career issues and finances. They also told researchers about how they communicate positive and negative feelings to their spouses. Dr. Baucom found that people who want to be treated well and who expect romance and passion get that kind of relationship. Those with lower standards end up in a marriage that doesn’t offer those things.


The lesson: If you expect a better, more satisfying relationship, you improve your chances of having one.”


Taken from the June 2010 issue of Ladies Home Journal magazine. From For Better: The Science of a Good Marriage, by Tara Parker-Pope. Copyright 2010 by Tara Parker-Pope.




This is a tough one.  On one hand, we should expect and look for God’s best in our marriages. And we should work towards having it every day. On the other hand, sometimes having lofty expectations for our spouse leads us to always be disappointed in them and to not value them for the simple love and faithfulness they provide.


It is probably women who struggle with this the most. I think it was Gary Smalley who said that “Women have a built in desire for a great marriage…and a built in barometer to tell them whether they have one or not.” Most men, on the other hand, are pretty content at home as long as things are civil and stable. They want to avoid (like the plague) anything that will disrupt the civility.


So it’s usually women who bring high expectations in the relationship and it’s usually men who feel like they are not measuring up. This is a stereotypical, gender based statement…but I think it’s a true one.


Every couple is different, but let me give a very general Biblical observation on this subject.  Jesus said in John 10:10 that He “came to give us abundant life.” That would presume a good measure of joy, happiness, and rich satisfaction. While we can acknowledge God’s desire to bring us this satisfying life, the tragedy is that few believers would honestly characterize their marriage as “abundant.” It’s sad that Christ’s blessings of joy don’t permeate our marriages.


I encourage you to have an expectation that Christ can and will give you a rich marriage. But it does require a dependence upon Him, especially if your spouse is unwilling to do anything to move in a positive direction. Then you REALLY need to look for Christ to do what only He can do: change things through you in spite of the obstacles you face.


So expect great things and ask God to help you to work toward great things in your marriage. But also, don’t forget to savor and thank God for the simple fact that you have a spouse to do life with, imperfect as he or she may be.