Do We Expect Too Much From Our Spouse?


We all want someone who will laugh at our jokes, comfort us when we cry, share our same interests and hobbies, help pay the bills, pick up the house, satisfy us sexually, and be there for us when we need support. In this day and age, though, is that really too much to ask?

When the institution of marriage was first introduced, it looked a lot different than how most people think of marriage today. Not only with polygamy being the norm (and of course, gay marriage not being legal across all 50 states until a few years ago), but as a whole it resembled very little of what makes up a modern marriage.

Back then, most people married as a way of preserving power; usually kings and other powerful rulers marrying off their daughters to create alliances and acquire land and produce heirs, the latter being true even in the lower class. Basically, people didn’t used to marry for love, but rather as a means of survival and convenience. Read more about why people used to get married here.

So it’s only been in the last century or so where people married each other because they actually wanted to, because of love, and with that came a whole bunch of needs and wants that each other now have the responsibility to fulfill. We want them to be there for emotional support, sexual gratification, financial support, a co-parent, a best friend, and so on. In short, we want them to do it all.

With everything we want (need?) from our spouse, are we asking too much of them? Are we asking them to fulfill an impossible task that no human could possibly fill? Are we inevitably setting them up for failure for which we in turn become disappointed that our partner isn’t living up to the task of loving us the way we prefer- no- expect from them?

Or maybe we ask just enough of them. Maybe it really isn’t too much to ask that they be all we need them to be and more. Typically, we as a society divide up our needs and expectations between friends and family, like having someone to make jokes with and be silly with (best friend), someone to be completely yourself around and still get what you want sexually (spouse), someone to turn to complain and vent to (best friend, parent/sibling), etc. So we divvy up responsibilities to those around us instead of expecting one person to carry the weight of our needs. If you’re religious, you probably believe only God could carry the burden of that, and not one single person or even a handful of people could ever do it alone.

So what do you think? Do you think we expect too much from our significant other or should they try to do it all for us?

PS: for even more exploration of this topic, this podcast from NPR is a great listen, and this article from The Atlantic is a great read.