We all come into marriage and parenting with expectations. We may or may not realize it, but we have expectations about everything in life. Our expectations come from a variety of sources, including media/social media, our parents/family of origin, other friends, and from God’s Word and the body of Christ.

For example, Kristen and I entered the world of parenting with different expectations on bedroom boundaries.

Kristen’s parent’s bedroom door almost always remained open. My parent’s bedroom door stayed closed. 

She could enter their room (almost) anytime she wanted. My parent’s bedroom was a kid-free zone— I can count on both hands the number of times I went into my parent’s bedroom. 

So we came into marriage and parenting with very different expectations on the rules surrounding our bedroom. 

Kristen welcomes the kids— four boys, ages 16, 16, 14, and 12— into our room every day. I get frustrated when I see them in our room. They brush their teeth in our bathroom and sometimes even use our toilet. In moments of sarcasm, I ask them if they want to sleep in my bed and borrow my socks!

Our biggest disappointments in life come from missed expectations. In this case, with boundaries related to our bedroom, we’ve both experienced unmet expectations that have led to disappointment and frustration with each other and with our kids.

Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.” 

In other words, when our expectations aren’t met, we get sick and frustrated. But when expectations are met, it’s like a tree of life. We need to learn how to manage our expectations so that we can experience life instead of sickness.

Here are three problems typically related to our expectations:

We’re often unaware of our expectations. 

Since my parents kept us out of their bedroom, I assumed we’d do the same. Since Kristen’s parent’s bedroom door always remained open, she assumed ours would always be open, too.

Neither of us knew we had these expectations— until, of course, they began to clash.

We each come into parenting with expectations we’re not aware of. We take for granted that things will be a certain way— usually because we’ve seen our parents do something a certain way.

These subconscious expectations of right and wrong— these expectations we’re unaware of— often lead to conflict, frustration, and disappointment.

Our expectations are often unspoken.

Similarly, we often don’t verbalize our expectations. We might be aware of what we expect, but we assume we don’t need to share it because we think it should be obvious to others. 

In the example of our bedroom boundaries, I never told Kristen my expectations because I assumed she had the same boundaries. In my own heart, I’ve noticed that the issue of unspoken expectations often boils down to self-centeredness. Everyone should agree with me and see things my way. Why speak something that should be obvious to others, right?


We need to learn how to manage our expectations so that we can experience life instead of sickness.

Our expectations are often unreasonable.

In this third common mistake related to expectations, we’re aware of what we expect, we verbalize what we expect, but the expectation is unreasonable. 

For example, a new parent who expects their newborn to sleep through the night in week two probably has some unreasonable expectations.

In our parenting example, Kristen and I each had expectations we weren’t aware of. When we became aware of different expectations, we verbalized them to each other. After sharing our expectations, we had to decide if our expectations related to our bedroom boundaries were reasonable or not.

Awareness, communication, and reasonability

Are you aware of the expectation you have?

Have you communicated that expectation to others?

Is that expectation reasonable?

Take almost any challenge you have in your marriage or as a parent and run it through this grid. 

When it comes to boundaries as parents, take the time to become aware of what you expect. When you’re frustrated, ask yourself why. There’s a good chance it’s because you have an expectation that wasn’t met.

Next, as you and your spouse discover differences, communicate your expectations to each other. Proverbs 18:2 says, “Fools find no pleasure in understanding but delight in airing their own opinions.” Take time to listen to each other as you share your expectations.

Last, take some time to evaluate whether your expectations are reasonable. Be realistic, ask questions, and live with each other in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). If you’re stuck, ask people you trust to help you resolve any differences. There is wisdom in the counsel of many (Proverbs 11:4. 15:22).

So is our bedroom a kid-free or a kid-friendly zone?

Kristen and I spent some time figuring out the boundaries and expectations around our bedroom— are kids allowed in or not? 

Ultimately, we decided that we wanted to keep the doors open and remove a boundary.

Yes, there are times when the doors are locked for intimacy purposes and there are other times we close the doors so we can get some time to talk and connect. But most of the time we leave our doors open. 

In a few years, our nest will be empty, and we decided we want our room to be a safe place for our kids. In our room, we’ll play together and pray together, watch TV, resolve conflict, talk about our days, and laugh. 

What was once a sore spot has become something that strengthens our family— because we learned to deal with unmet expectations and unnecessary boundaries. 

Thanks to Scott Stanley and his great work on how to resolve unmet expectations— check out his book A Lasting Promise.