At the age of 16, Joe was the man of a young girl’s dream. He was smarter than anyone else, unbelievably mature and patient, a very good listener, totally loving and attentive, had answers for all my problems and knew what I wanted without me having to ask. It was as if the only desire of his life were to make me, the love of his life, happy.

I entered marriage with such unrealistic expectations and Joe was determined to live up to his promise of making me happy. I have no sense of direction, so I was disappointed whenever Joe got lost because he was supposed to know where we were going. When we argued about parenting, I felt deeply misunderstood and hurt. When he couldn’t comprehend let alone fix my childhood hurts, I was gripped by excruciating pain. We struggled during the first few years of our marriage, usually with me falling back to the silent treatment and Joe feeling defeated and discouraged. Then we made up and the cycle continued. When Joe and I were happy with each other, we shined and the world was such a beautiful place to be.

The blueprint of a blessed marriage outlined in the Bible offered solutions to our volatile relationship. I followed it whole-heartedly and went through a life-changing transformation. Joe was simply satisfied that I was finally happy. Although I still became disappointed occasionally, I learned to surrender my expectations to God. We enjoyed 10 years of peaceful and fulfilled marriage. I expected it to last forever.

The only thing constant about life is change. We eventually left the church and abandoned our faith. I was more lost and lonely than ever. All of a sudden, Joe could do little to please me – everything seemed annoying. Every disagreement just proved that our relationship wasn’t right. We started arguing, but not about the real issues that were bothering us.

I began to see the other side of Joe I had been blind to and wasn’t thrilled to discover. It became crystal clear that he was masterful at manipulating the children to change their mind about something just because he didn’t like it. I was convinced that he had been manipulating me the same way. And all the things he did to please me, he was doing them to get me off his back so that he could enjoy his little peace and quiet.

One day I told Joe that I was going back to China to teach English and I’d take Jake with me. All he said was, “Maybe you can come back for Jake when you get settled.” I had been led to believe a romantic fantasy that my husband would go to the end of the world to find me and win me back if I ever left him. The realization that it was nothing but a fantasy was hard to deal with.

At times divorce seemed like an attractive escape. I asked myself 3 crucial questions. “Do I still love him?” “What’s the best for the children?” “What’s the best for me?”

After much self-reasoning and reflection, I arrived at the only decision that felt right: to fall in love again with same man. Luckily, it wasn’t too late for that to happen. Accepting my own flaws and imperfections made this effort possible.

Unrealistic expectations either prevent you from falling in love with a good guy who is right for you, or put your marriage to test in the Realization stage. You need to uncover your hidden expectations that are usually tied to your upbringing, your cultural and religious affiliations, the movies and TV shows you watch and the books you read. Previous romances and even friendships further shape our expectations. And at a deeper level, we often believe our spouses will somehow understand and heal our deepest psychic wounds.

I’ve been learning to love Joe and myself just the way we are. Joe isn’t perfect, but he is perfect for me!