Expectations play a huge part in guiding our perspectives, which in turn influences the way we act and manage our inner selves. Scripture is chocked full of insights into the nature of humanity and the world, and if we take the time to educate ourselves we begin to see the world with new eyes, and a fresh faith in which we can truly place our hope.
God's guidance in scripture is not just a list of do's and don'ts (though there are many of those there for our own benefit), but it is a means of understanding God's intent for the world and the way that His will has played itself out in our history.
You see, God is not content that you just survive this life, he desires that you thrive and find joy and contentment. That may come as a comfort to some and a frustration to others. If God so desires this, then why is there so much difficulty in the world? Why have I all these burdens to bear? Why can I not simply glide along a path of ease and simplicity? These are all valid struggles that any human with the capability to self-reflect circles back around to, time and again during their life.
We can also apply this same principle to marriage. Why is it not easier? Why is there so much struggle following the honeymoon period? Why can't we just understand what each other is saying? We expect that because falling in love was easy, that staying love will be the same. As if a plant could continue to grow with just one watering.
Many are caught up in being "merely" married. Legally married. Morally married. Financially married. But just "merely." Not experiencing the joy and contentment of mutually sustaining and sacrificial love. Just surviving.
What would it feel like to be "fully" married? What would it feel like to thrive?
The example of Jesus is the best that I can give to discuss "mere" vs. "full." Jesus, incarnate was "fully" God and "fully" man. He was the epitome of His own original design for humanity. His natural birth of a woman and natural progression through childhood and adolescence followed the exact pattern of humans around him, before and after. He ate, slept, experienced emotion, stress, loss and love. All human things. And yet, he was distinct because as he did these things, he did so as a "full" human; he wasn't just "merely" living out a human existence as God incarnate. He lived with a defined purpose that he knew since early on (as Mary and Joseph found him in the temple he remarked that "he must be about His Father's business"). He consistently maintained an intimate relationship with the Father, which is reflected in the original intention of life in the Garden of Eden. He is described as "the author and perfecter of our faith."
There were certain things he did that reflected God's original intention for humanity, and he did not stray from that path. He was "fully" human as God intended. We are "merely" human because we have all, at times, lost our way and missed the mark of what God intends for our life. We are human because we fit all the criteria, but there is something missing, and deep down inside everyone intuitively knows that.
So your marriage. Is it "merely" or "fully"? And how would you even know one from the other? You must begin to define what it is you expect marriage to be, and see how that lines up with the way God describes true love. A great starting point would be 1 Corinthians 13:
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NIV)"
Use it as a checklist and see if where you are on the continuum between "merely" and "fully." If you have the courage, invite your spouse to give you a report card, BUT here's the rule: they have to give you examples of when you do and when you don't. Example: "you are patient when you _____, you are impatient when you ______." Essentially saying, "I feel loved when you _____, and unloved when you ______."
None of us wants to "merely survive" marriage, but would definitely rather "fully thrive." How do you best get there? By seeing what true love looks like and adopting new patterns of thought and habits of life that reflect and communicate the love we feel, and the love we hope (expect) to receive, in turn. Allow timeless truths to define your expectations, and invite in the timeless Creator to give you the strength to make them a reality. After all, if we will always be merely human, and He is fully God- only He can take your humility, transform the sin in your life to righteousness, and then fill in where only He can and transform your marriage as well.