A big, common problem I see with my clients is the misunderstanding of what it means to be married. There is more time spent planning the wedding and engagement than considering the concept of spending the rest of their life together. Therefore, couples often have unrealistic expectations or no expectations at all. Although there are no guarantees in marriage, there are healthy expectations you should hold for yourself and your spouse. Below are ten things that should comprise your marital “bill of rights.” These are expectations the couple should embrace as truths because they have equal importance in the marriage.
- The right to emotional intimacy. Partners should expect that they will be safe entrusting their most vulnerable self. They should be able to share secrets without being betrayed.
- The right to be loved. This includes loving words and actions.
- The right to know your partner will be there for you in times of need. Life is difficult, and you should always be able to depend on your spouse.
- The right to physical and exclusive sexual intimacy. The mutual expression of affection with hugs, kisses, and touching shared between two people is the glue of a healthy relationship.
- The right to be a top priority. Each partner can expect that they will come before work, kids, or parents. The only time this should shift is if there is an immediate emergency within the family.
- The right to a partner who takes care of themselves and brings their best self to the relationship. No one knows how their partner will change; however, you should expect that your partner will take care of their physical, mental, and spiritual health. Be accountable and responsible for your health.
- The right to loyalty. When you are married, you can expect your partner to have your back and remain faithful no matter what situation they find themselves in.
- The right to grow and explore your personal interests on your own. Relationships thrive when two people can express themselves and pursue their unique interests. Your partner should not try to make you feel guilty for the time you spend on hobbies or force themselves into joining you.
- The right to be trusted. You do not have to report back to your partner every single place you went or person you spoke with throughout the day. They share your life, but they do not own you.
- The right to be included in decision-making that involves you. When you are married, your respect is shown in words and actions. You don’t make choices or decisions for your partner; you discuss decisions to be made. Your opinion should be respected.
The longer you’re together, the more likely you are to forget your relationship bill of rights. You may overstep one or two, causing conflict in your marriage and damaging your partner’s trust. Talk to your partner and get back in touch with what it means to be a spouse. Going through these as a couple on your anniversary each year can reinforce the expectations you embraced the day you said, “I do.”