Expectations and Marriage

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I got this question 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?

Ok lets dive into an answer.


The reason so many marriages break up are directly due to expectations!

A simple example (so many more exist)

  • Often times people have false expectations from the marriage. They think they are marrying one person only to discover once the marriage happens, their partner releases a facade and a person discovers they married a person they didn’t know.This becomes true since many “married” individuals do act differently over being a single person, for many reasons. The primary reason being: once a person gets married they revert from being a “individual” to instead become a person based on social obligations that the marriage creates. I see this often when people from different cultures (or religions) marry and the different cultural expectations from the marriage changes the individuals so much that … both people become unhappy

From a Taoist perspective the only way to have a marriage that truly lasts is to drop expectations and change over time with your partner.

Keep in mind a marriage mixes together expectations of societies, friends, children, yours and partners expectations. This creates a huge melting pot of contradicting expectations that makes it hard to sort out a proper path for how to live your life as a person. This creates confusion and I end up helping guiding quite a few people through the land mines of false expectations that get created in a marriage.

By not dropping expectations of what marriage means

You will discover time erodes a relationship. As you change, as what is required to maintain a healthy balanced marriage changes. The true problem becomes that: “the expectations of the marriage don’t change”. This ironically forms the anvil that the marriage itself will break against over time. Even worse are the situations where a person stays in the marriage at all costs, so those very expectations end up breaking a person to the point the marriage literally kills them from stress and unhappiness.


Marriage is a wonderful statement of unity. Powerful and binding, in such a way that it helps people ignore smaller problems. In a healthy marriage, ironically the marriage allows couples to safely release emotional problems that would break up non married couples. In other words in a healthy marriage the trust of your partner is enough to help you release problems that this trust helps you change/grow over time.

The biggest issue in repairing a broken marriage is repairing “trust“. Once you have broken trust then expectations , all the negative expectations creep in and destroy any chance you can have of a healthy relationship. So again strangely to repair any marriage you have to teach a couple how to release “all expectations” how to restart from a fresh start so a new trust relationship can form.


In the end a healthy marriage is not based on expectations it is based on Trust.

To base trust on expectations is a very very bad move. Trust is based on heart, on intuition, on actions and how you treat each other… If you base your trust on expectations I would always place money on that marriage failing over the long term.

As a side note: you cannot base trust in a relationship on blind faith. Trust must be grown and maintained with healthy communication and actions over time.

So my friend you ask me this:


But what kind of obligation brings so much comfort?

It isn’t an obligation nor an expectation that brings comfort… It is the trust.

To answer your question now fully

A Taoist has no expectations at all in a marriage.

A Taoist marries a person in kindness and love. Love of helping each other grow over time. Marriage is a statement of trust. If you cant trust your own heart, then how can a marriage work? If you cannot be kind, be in your essence how can a marriage work? If the person cannot be kind to you or if you have doubts of trust… why marry into something assured to break you?

Why is trust important? Since with trust you can be fully kind, you can feel safe to open up 100% with another and know you will treat each other truly to your essence.

Once the kindness is over, the marriage is over. Someone did studies and they were able to tell with unerring accuracy if a marriage would work or not. It all came down to: Kindness.

So if you look closely you actually answered your own question!


But that kind of obligation brings so much comfort…

look closely and now flip it around

obligation of kindness brings so much comfort…

In your heart, you already feel the truth. My answer is to reinforce that you need to take time to discover what kindness means for you. Since kindness translates into “your essence” and you are still discovering the nature of your essence as a student now.

Marriage is about kindness not expectations.

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



4 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.

Casey Kochmer
March 21, 2014 7:22 am

@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 :)

Casey Kochmer
July 23, 2014 9:24 pm

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


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