Giving Your Spouse the Benefit of the Doubt

We all have expectations of our spouse. Some of these expectations come in the form of daily tasks to be completed, such as meal planning or yard maintenance. Other expectations are met emotionally, through intentional communication or sexual intimacy.

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If effective communication is occurring in the marriage, these expectations are clear. For example, I know my husband really appreciates a stocked refrigerator and a planned meal because it communicates that I value the hard work he does all day. He knows that I appreciate my phone calls and text messages returned quickly because it makes me feel wanted and loved. These are just our quirks; everyone is different.

But what do you do on those days when your expectations aren’t met?

I have found that the best gift I can give my spouse on those days is the benefit of the doubt.

When I want to pounce on the fact that I sent him fourteen witty comments today and he only answered one (maybe I’m exaggerating a bit…maybe), I can realize he had important meetings today rather than get my feelings all in a wad.

When I didn’t make it to the grocery store and I have no idea what we are eating for supper, he can recognize that I spent valuable time helping a friend that day and wasn’t able to stock the pantry. Rather than rushing to conclusions, training our emotions to give the benefit of the doubt can curb a multitude of arguments and hurt feelings.

When you step back and give each other a little wiggle room, a little grace, a little understanding:

1. You show that you value your spouse more than you value that expectation.
As much as I may truly enjoy a well-maintained edge of the driveway, I value my husband much more. I should not elevate the importance of my expectation of yard maintenance above my spouse. When we take a step back and separate our expectations from our relationships, it is easier to extend grace to the one we love the most.

2. You show that perfection is not your expectation.
Obviously, we are not perfect people. By allowing our spouse to fall short of perfection without the risk of a major falling out, we demonstrate the truth that only Jesus fulfilled the role of perfection and we are all in need of grace. Giving grace frees your spouse—and you—to co-exist without the unattainable measure of perfection.

3. You are motivated to meet each other’s expectations more consistently in the future.
If my husband had an expectation that we would have sex on a certain night and that expectation was not met, I am more likely to eagerly meet that expectation on another night if he responds with grace rather than anger. Likewise, my husband is prone to thoughtfully respond to a phone call or text message during his work day if he feels that his time is valued and not scrutinized.

Giving each other the benefit of the doubt when expectations are not met communicates a great respect for one another. Treating each other with grace also points us to the Giver of all grace and daily reminds us of our need of a Savior.

Amanda Iles is married to Clint and mom to Jack, Sydney, and Ellen. She lives in Woodworth, Louisiana and is the Family Ministries Coordinator for Calvary Baptist Church in Alexandria. She enjoys the outdoors, time with friends, and lazy evenings at home.

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