An excerpt from the book released September 3, 2013, by Howard Books

When we first start out on our marriage adventure, it seems that we have forever ahead of us. And then, life happens. Babies come along. Career paths change. School starts. Finances get tight. And before you know it, life is going faster than you realize.

In the midst of all of this, many couples become passive in their approach to their marriage and wake up one day wondering what went wrong. They operate their marriages in what we call default mode: things happen without planning or intentionality or effort. Instead of the default mode, we need a proactive approach for our marriages to grow. The call that we’re sending out is this: Get out of the default mode in your marriage. Live at a higher level! There has to be a plan. The old adage is right: Fail to plan, plan to fail.

Every marriage can benefit from an intentional plan. What if there was a tool that would help you have a weekly intentional conversation about your marriage—a tool that would help you grow in spiritual, emotional, and physical intimacy?

That’s where The 50 Fridays Challenge comes in!

The challenge is simple and fun. Each week as a couple, you will spend a few minutes answering one question that has been designed to help you have open and honest conversation as you connect and enjoy each other. Some weeks you will laugh as you travel down memory lane together. Some weeks you will be challenged as you evaluate different aspects of your marriage. And other weeks you will dream and plan for what the future can become. Our hope is that The 50 Fridays Challenge will give a troubled couple new hope, a happy couple a tool for ongoing closeness, and a newly married couple a unique way to know each other more deeply.

Intentionally growing intimacy in your marriage is such a valuable investment. The return on this investment brings a benefit far beyond your marriage. All of us are leaving a legacy through our marriages to our children and to our friends. We can choose the kind of legacy we leave; it may be a legacy that is marked by a lack of intentionality or even apathy. Or we can leave a legacy marked by an intentional way of connecting and enjoying the years ahead so they don’t just pass you by.

Let’s thrive, and not just survive, on the way to our golden anniversaries. After all, getting to fifty years starts with fifty Fridays!

What Do You Expect?

Challenge 12:

What different expectations create challenges in your marriage?

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

 – Proverbs 13:12

In our early years of marriages, we were very unaware of the impact of expectations on our marriage. And yet, expectations exist everywhere. We had expectations about everything: spending and saving money, leisure time, friendships, vacations, sex, conversations, buying cars—you name it, and expectations were in play.

When two people come together in marriage, they bring with them a world of different experiences. Our expectations come from the families we were raised in, the churches we’ve attended, the impact of media, our unique cultures, and so much more. Those expectations aren’t right or wrong, but they must be spoken and understood. If not, we end up with unmet expectations and then disappointment sets in. When this gap gets created, we must work hard to prevent discouragement, resentment, or bitterness from growing.

Often expectations fall into one of the following categories: unknown, unspoken, or unrealistic. An unknown expectation is something we are unaware that we carry with us, and it’s “hard-wired” inside. These often develop from how we saw our parents interact, and we’ve “inherited” them. We learn styles of relating from what our parents did or didn’t do, and we don’t realize the impact of these unmet expectations until something feels different in our marriage. Marital roles (housekeeping, pay bills, etc.) often fall into this category.

Sometimes we are aware of our expectations, but we choose not to speak of them. Unspoken expectations can also create difficulty in our marriages. We may think our spouse should know what we want or what we’re thinking, even though we know full well that we can’t read each other’s minds. In those times, we may get angry with our spouses for not knowing what we need—even though we know we’re not being sensible.

Finally, there are unrealistic expectations. These can be the most tricky to see. When we begin to compare our marriages to others, it’s easy to develop unrealistic expectations by thinking our marriage should look like a friend’s or we should be able to do the same things they do. Also, unrealistic expectations are often couched with global terms, such as “always” and “never” (“we should never fight,” or “you’re always late”). Ultimately, unrealistic expectations happen when we are looking for our spouse or our marriage to fill something that our spouse or marriage is not capable of filling.

Remember, expectations aren’t a problem in our marriages. They’re actually the playground where hope and dreams can grow. They only become problems when they are unknown to us, they’re unspoken or they’re unrealistic—and that leads to unmet expectations. As we become aware of our expectations and discuss them with each other, we can narrow the gap that unmet expectations can create and in doing so, we increase our connection, satisfaction, and intimacy. Here’s a practical step for today’s question: spend some time considering where expectations have created some challenges in your marriage. It may be helpful to use the three categories of unknown, unspoken, or unrealistic. Block out some time this week and identify these expectations so they don’t continue to trip you up in your journey toward intimacy.

The wider the gap between what we expect and the reality of what we experience, the greater the potential for discouragement and fatigue.

– Gary Smalley, Making Love Last Forever

From The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge by  Jeff & Lora Helton © 2013. Used by permission of Howard Books.

For more information about the 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge, visit: