Expectations and Marriage

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Here is recent question about marriage from a student:

I’ve been trying to focus on the whole “no expectations” thing for a few months now.

Titles bring expectations. What about marriage? “Husband and wife” brings ALOT more expectation. If you’re trying to live life without expectations, how can you ever get married? Isn’t that EXPECTING the person to stay with you? It’s EXPECTING loyalty and devotion and sharing PERMANENTLY (though it doesn’t usually work out that way). By getting married, you are obligating the other person to care for you for the rest of their life. How can you expect that from someone? But that kind of obligation brings so much comfort. It gives you something solid to rely on and believe in. It’s hard to turn that down. How can you have comfort and no expectations? How can you feel safe in a marriage without expecting certain things?



It’s too easy to simplify what you think of marriage into a nice ideal cartoon in one’s mind. The difference of our expectation compared to reality is where we discover the challenges of our marriage. This is a very common problem and it can take years to discover the discrepancies between reality and internal expectations. For example, a person thinking they are marrying one person only to discover over time they are married to someone very different.

Consider that “married” individuals do act differently from when they were a single person, for many reasons. Often, after the marriage occurs, their partner releases a facade. In addition, once people get married, they revert from being an “individual” to become a “couple” with the social obligations that the marriage creates. A marriage mixes together the expectations of societies, friends & children. This creates a huge melting pot of contradicting expectations. It creates challenges that makes it hard to sort out your own proper path. I see this most often when people from different cultures (or religions) marry. The different cultural / religious expectations from the marriage change the individuals so much that … both people can become unhappy.

What happens when you don’t drop your expectations of what marriage means? Then time erodes your relationship.

As you change, as your partner changes, what is required to maintain a healthy balanced marriage changes. The true source of problems is when the expectations of the marriage don’t change. This ironically forms the anvil against which the marriage will break itself over time. Even worse are the situations where people stay in their marriage at all costs. These very expectations end up breaking people to the point where the marriage literally kills them from stress and unhappiness.

I have helped guide many people through the land mines of false expectations that are often created in a marriage. If you want to have a marriage that truly lasts, drop expectations which are wearing you down and then change over time with your partner.





Marriage is a wonderful statement of unity. It is powerful and binding in such a way that it helps people ignore smaller problems. A healthy marriage allows couples to safely release emotional problems that would break up non-married couples. This is because, in a healthy marriage, the trust of your partner is enough to help you release problems. True trust gives a person freedom to explore life and options which helps you change and grow over time.

Often the most significant issue in repairing a broken marriage is repairing broken trust. Once you have broken trust, this allows all of the negative expectations of marriage to creep in. These negative expectations can destroy any chance you have of a healthy relationship. This is why when you want to repair a marriage, you have to first release “all expectations”. This allows you to make a fresh start so a new trust relationship can form.

Don’t mistake trust as just another form of expectation or judgment.

Rather trust represents the faith you place into your partner.

But what kind of obligation brings so much comfort?

It isn’t an obligation or an expectation that brings comfort. It is the trust, the faith, you can rest within and against relative to your partner.


Trust and Marriage

In the end, a healthy marriage is based on trust, not on expectations.

To base trust on expectations is a very, very bad move. If you base your trust on expectations, I would always place money on that marriage failing over the long term.

Trust is based on heart, on intuition, on actions, on how you treat each other.

Another aspect about trust is this: you cannot base trust in a relationship on only blind faith. Trust must be grown and maintained with healthy communication and actions between partners over time. To only have blind faith is to release all the little actions that actually maintain a healthy relationship, which in turn helps keeps trust strong. Trust is an active process requiring paced interpersonal reconnection between you and your partner. Blind faith is inactive and subject to erosion from our personal differences over time.


A Marriage Based in Kindness:

Marriage Tranquility

Art By Shadrad

Trust is the important baseline in marriage. In having trust you can then expand and act with complete kindness. You can feel safe to open up fully with another. This allows each person in marriage to see and act truly to their essence rather than trying to maintain false stories of what a “relationship” should look like.

Therefore, marry in kindness and love. For a marriage kindness translates into meaning: acting and balancing against each other’s “essence.”

Love is helping each other grow over time. Remember that both people in a relationship are still discovering the nature of their essence. In marriage, you are intermixing and doing this together at times while also taking personal time to work on your own essence.

Since marriage is a statement of trust,  if you can’t trust your own heart, then how can your marriage work? If you cannot be kind or you cannot live relative to your essence, then how can a marriage work? If the person you want to marry cannot be kind to you or if has doubts of trust, then how can a marriage work over time? Never marry into a situation where the baseline of kindness or trust isn’t there in the first place!

Many marriages fail before they even begin since they weren’t rooted in a deeper shared kindness.

When the kindness is over, the marriage is over. Studies have been completed where the researchers were able to tell with unerring accuracy if a marriage would work or not. It all came down to: Kindness.


The Baseline of Marriage

Read the original question again. If you look closely, you can see actually it answers itself!

But that kind of obligation brings so much comfort…

Now flip it around:

That obligation of kindness brings so much comfort…

In your heart, you already were dancing around the truth. My answer now is to encourage you to take the time to discover what kindness means for you.

You marry the person you can be “in kind” with.

Discover you don’t have to be alone, in figuring out how to improve your relationship.

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6 Comments. Leave new

it's impossible to have "no expectations." if we did that, we would be constantly surprised! we would be surprised that gravity is still working and that babies are still being born!
trust is a kind of expectation, but the expectation is not a preconceived notion, it is born out of experience. you can't (or shouldn't!) trust someone you just met, if you did, that would be a preconceived notion. i think personal tao uses the term "expectation" to refer to preconceived notions, the kind of expectation that has no foundation in experience. if your partner has been faithful and trustworthy for a long time, it's natural to expect that trust to continue.
however it's also detrimental to take that trust for granted, because things may change! that's why it's important to treat a marriage like a living entity, constantly changing and requiring development. once a marriage becomes "stagnant" it starts to decompose.

@Iktomi: It isn’t impossible to live without expectation. I teach people how to do this every day. Rather it’s hard to live without expectations in a Judgmental culture. The reason for this is simply that expectations are a form of judgement.

Thanks so much for this, really helpful :)

@Lottie: I am glad this article has been kind to you and helped.


I am a Christian who has much love for a Taoist. She is active in her temple and over that past 8 months we have become very involved over the internet with each other and sharing the differences of our faith. I have read the Tao Te Ching and as a philosophy I agree with it. In many ways it coincides with what Jesus teaches, but not necessarily what the bible teaches. The whole concept about expectations is something I have adopted many years ago, as I feel the expectations can only lead to disappointment. Now I am faced with a new question. Is there any restrictions with an active Taoist in regards to marrying to one of another faith. If so, how can it be consistent with the philosophy of Taoism.

@Stan: If she has stated she has restrictions within her practice then it comes down to respecting her. If she is open to exploring a relationship, then enjoy that exploration of life with her.

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