High Standards, Low Expectations: A Plan for 2012

I have come to believe that a key to happiness is having high standards and low expectations. Let me explain.

A standard is a rule, principle, or requirement. It’s where you set the bar. In marriage, I have chosen to set the bar high. God sets the bar high. That verse, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)? God realizes you’ll never get there, but the standard of perfection, sinlessness, unselfish sacrifice, and perfect First-Corinthians-13 love is out there. It’s what we aim for.

Too many couples settle for less than what God desires for them. They have decided that their relationship will never be terrific, that no one will love them fully, that sexuality will be ho-hum, that the goal of life is to just get through and hope that the afterlife makes up for what this one lacked.

Instead, I would challenge you to set a higher standard. In the area I write about — sexuality — aim for exciting, fulfilling, connecting intimacy with your spouse. If you don’t currently have a high desire, believe that there is an answer to increasing it. If you have struggled with your sexual past, believe that healing can come. If pornography has invaded your marriage, believe that it can be shown the door. If your spouse doesn’t find you attractive (or vice versa), believe that you can rekindle that fire. If you haven’t had an orgasm, believe that you will.

Target

© Nevit Dilmen via Wikimedia Commons

Is it easy to achieve all of your dreams? Of course not. But if you aim at nothing, you will hit it with remarkable accuracy every time (Zig Ziglar). If you decide that you want something better and you are willing to make an effort, seek answers, get help, and work toward a more fulfilling life, you will likely hit the target on at least some of your goals. If every year you resolved to make your marital sex life better, imagine how good it could get over time!

And now comes part two of my theory — low expectations. To expect something is to regard it as likely to happen. If you write AMAZING SEX LIFE on a target, do not expect to hit a bull’s-eye the first time — or the second time. High standards are great, but if you pair them with high expectations, you will probably be disappointed.

For one thing, a great marriage takes a lot of intentionality and work (for all but a few super-blessed couples). We are flawed human beings with selfishness, personal scars, defensiveness, and misperceptions. We can make amazing progress toward our goals, but we usually get there with baby steps. Still, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step (ancient Chinese proverb).

Second, you can only control yourself. You can suggest to your spouse to work on communication, finances, or sexuality in your marriage, but you cannot make your spouse do what you want like a remote-controlled robot. You can pray that their sexual desire will increase, that they will take care of their body, that they will stop watching sports over your shoulder while you copulate. However, there are no guarantees.

In fact, if you lower your expectations of your mate, you become more aware of the small improvements. Sure, you’re not there yet, but you’re moving in the right direction. Standing in long lines for the roller coaster at an amusement park, the waiting is bearable because you can look around and see how far you’ve moved. Maybe you’re not in the front with your hands up and screaming as your coaster car takes that first dive, but you have made progress and know the fulfillment of your wish to ride the roller coaster is coming soon.

By the way, I am not suggesting that you lower your expectations to the point of letting your spouse abuse you in any way. Those aren’t lowered expectations; they are no expectations at all. It is a reasonable expectation to receive humane treatment in your own marriage. I’m talking about not drawing your attention to every flaw in your mate.

So that’s the goal I suggest to couples in pursuing better sexuality in marriage for 2012:

Higher standards – knowing that our Heavenly Father loves His children and wants the best for them; and

Lower expectations – knowing that marriage and life are marathons, not sprints.

What do you think? What are your desires for your marriage — and specifically, your marital intimacy — for 2012?

4 thoughts on “High Standards, Low Expectations: A Plan for 2012

  1. Robyn

    That was awesome advice and great delivery! The ‘lowering the expectations’ is pure genius and it works, not only for sexual intimacy but for all areas. Years ago I learned that when I pray for my hubby’s faults, my mind and heart tended to ‘micro’ focus on those very problems, to the point of blinding me to any of his good traits and accomplishments or growth. This also tended to minimize my own faults as well! Which made complete sense because the more you are praying for something … someone, the more you are thinking about them. Big mistake!

    Now when I pray, I have two lists that I springboard from. His strengths and MY weaknesses and faults.

    I leave his weaknesses between him and God.

  2. Erin

    Love this. Expectations can kill a marriage, but standards can make it grow. Thank you for explaining the difference!

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