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Unrealistic Expectations: Healthy, open dialogue is required to discuss and wrestle with marriage expectations

It may be no surprise that seriously dating and engaged couples are more prone to “agree” or “strongly agree” with statements such as “We are as happy as any couple could possibly be!”

Almost intoxicated by love, engaged couples are often known for being infatuated with one another. They tend to be confident that they’ll never have problems or that existing problems will just fade away with time, they’ll never question their love, never experience a drop in romance, and already know everything there is to know about their partner. They truly are love struck.

The Problem with Unrealistic Expectations

Anticipate a Surprise: when reviewing marriage expectations couples are often caught off guard. Asked if “I can share my true feelings with my partner”, sounds good on the surface but often there are underlying issues that interrupt this premise.

Whilst it is the norm for engaged couples to be love-struck, embracing romanticised notions regarding love and marriage it may even be how humans are designed to function at a physiological level. Healthy, open dialogue is required to discuss and wrestle with marriage expectations.

One couple, deeply committed to their faith tradition, each spent years praying for the “right person” to enter their life. They met and dated for over a year, and got engaged only after a great deal of counsel and consideration. Believing that God had brought one another into their life, they felt deeply committed to one another. Both families felt very positive about their marriage plans. As a counselor, it would be productive to explore the commitment this couple is feeling.

A second couple was matched by an online dating service, engaged within a month of meeting one another, and felt they had found their one true “soul mate”. While their families disapproved, they were planning to be married as soon as possible and believed they already knew everything there was to know about one another. As a counselor, you would want to challenge this couple to consider their motivation and expectations.

Exploring Relationship Expectations is a challenging, yet fun area of discussion for premarital couples, however whilst these couples often have a lot to discuss as they prepare for marriage, healthy dialogue about expectations is critical. The key question for exploration for engaged couples is:

“My partner is the only person with whom I could have a happy marriage.”

Source: Peter Larson, Ph.D. 


  • Olson, D. H. (2004). PREPARE/ENRICH Counselor’s Manual. Minneapolis: Life Innovations.
  • Slater, L. (2006). True Love. National Geographic. February, 32-49.

By Shane Smith, Director PREPARE-ENRICH, Relationship Educator and MediatorPresident, Marriage and Relationship Educators Association of Australia

Read on for various resources to assist you at this time. Finally, please let us know how you are going in these challenging times.

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Marriage and Relationship Education is a learning opportunity, much like you would do in any other important life event. Check out the video for couples on YouTube:

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