How Unrealistic Expectations in Marriage Can Lead To A Divorce

Almost all marriages are pregnant with unrealistic expectations and when these impractical expectations are left unmet, we start moving away from the marriage. These unrealistic expectations often stem from fairy tales, movies, magazines, articles, and even our family and friends. However, if we don’t deal with our expectations ourselves, it can quickly eat away the connection and lead us down the path of divorce.

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” – Donald Miller

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In 2005, the National Fatherhood Initiative published a report on a national survey they conducted on Marriage In America. One of their findings was that 45% of divorced respondents said that unrealistic expectations in marriage by them and/or their spouse was a major contributor to the end of their marriage. That’s nearly half of all divorces being caused in major part because of unrealistic expectations.

If you’re in an unhappy marriage and want to explore ways to improve your relationship, looking for and addressing unrealistic expectations might be a great place to start.


Where do expectations come from?

“Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” – Antonio Banderas

We all have expectations. We expect the sun to rise in the east and set in the west. We expect that our heart will pump without our conscious thought. We expect that we will outlive our children. And when we marry, we expect that we will be married for the rest of our lives.

Each of these expectations is based on our personal experience, understanding and/or hopes. They emerge from our beliefs about how the world works.

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Beliefs and expectations can be rational or irrational. They can be based on facts. They can be based on decisions. They can be based on societal norms. They can also be based on misunderstandings.

The challenge is that we each tend to believe our beliefs and expectations are completely rational. Yet, the truth is that we all have irrational beliefs and expectations. They can just be really difficult to identify – especially when it comes to the expectations and beliefs we have about our spouses and marriages.


Examples of unrealistic expectations in marriage

“We must rediscover the distinction between hope and expectation.” – Ivan Illich

We begin accumulating unhelpful beliefs and expectations about love and marriage from the moment we hear our first fairy tale. And society continues to pile them on through movies, books, quotes and, of course, societal norms.

Below are some of the most common unrealistic beliefs and expectations in marriage:

1. Your spouse should complete you.

2. Getting married is the hard part. Once you’re married, you’ll live happily ever after.

3. Your spouse’s job is to make you a better or more evolved person.

4. Your spouse will never change.

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Dr. Karen Finn
Dr. Karen Finn is a divorce and life coach. She helps her clients navigate the challenges of divorce – from the moment it enters their mind as a possible solution to the discontent they feel in their marriage (it’s not always the best answer), through the turmoil of getting divorced, and on through creating a fulfilling life post-divorce. You can learn more about Karen and her work on her website.
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