Healthy Relationships: Ideal vs. Real (Part 3 of 4)

As we all know, life is not perfect, people are not perfect, mistakes do happen, and the spouse you made a commitment to is going to let you down, intentionally or not, and hurt you. When spouses have realistic expectations, they make sure the marriage is more important than placing pressure on each other to grow or meet goals. They accept, like, and love each other just the way they are and do not ask each other to change or grow according to ideal desires. Individuals with realistic expectations make sure there is no fear or stubbornness in the relationship, and they desire to be kind to the other person, accepting them just the way they are. Acceptance and kindness come first; goals and expectations come second.

When spouses are ready to shift from demanding an ideal marriage to accepting a realistic marriage, this is when stress and pressures decrease. Unhealthy marriages demand ideal spouses. Healthy marriages accept realistic spouses. So when you decide to make the shift from demanding ideal expectations to pursuing realistic expectations, this means you do want to pursue and participate in a healthy marriage.

To live in realty is to live in that which is normal. Reality is facing consequences and what really is true of life. Ideal wants to deny the real and only pursue a wish or fantasy. But living in the real means accepting the reality that two spouses are broken, both are going to make mistakes, they will hurt each other intentionally and not intentionally, and they will fail each other at very important times when they really do need each other. All of this is real.

I am all for influencing each other when it comes to expressing some ideas or suggestions a husband or wife would ask their spouse to consider. Spouses do want each other happy or content. They do want to fulfill their spouse’s occasional wants. But if a spouse moves from influence to demands and pressures and makes their spouse feel they need to change, then this will create an unhealthy marriage with unhealthy pressure on one or both spouses to be someone they are not.

You see, realistic spouses realize that life is a journey, and when they get married, both people in a realistic way know they are going to rub off on each other and are going to want to change, evolve, and grow as the years go by. Helping one another grow and to be their best is healthy. Asking your spouse to take ballroom dance lessons with you may be a good idea if both spouses are buying into this plan. Asking your spouse to go with you and take a six-week Italian cooking class at the local college also might be a good idea given both spouses are engaged and wanting to cook together in the kitchen to make delicious pasta dishes together. Spouses can change and grow based upon both spouses having realistic expectations regarding something they want to improve upon or add to their marriage.

It is okay to live in reality by coming up with some creative ideas for the marriage and for how maybe the two of you could do this or that. Growth and change happen over time as new ideas and opportunities present themselves. Ten years ago, there were no smartphones or tablets. Realistic spouses may both want to use these devices for the sake of living in the reality of how these devices can help their lives run more smoothly. However, it is unhealthy to place demands and wishes on a spouse to “be like the Joneses” and keep up with everyone else; if they fall behind and do not have the latest car, device, or activity for their kids, they start to feel they are failing and not living up to the idealistic expectations.