Expectations in a Relationship

Written by: Amanda Levison,M.S., LMHC, LPC, CCBT

It is normal to go into a relationship with expectations about how you will be treated and how your partner will act in certain situations. Expectations can be a good or a bad thing in a relationship, depending on how they are approached. If one partner goes in with expectations that are never communicated, they could be setting themselves up for disappointment. However, if expectations are set and are too high, this can lead to disappointment as well. So, how are expectations set and communicated effectively?

Do it together. Sitting down together and talking about things you might expect out of one another takes the guesswork out of what you both want from each other.

Be clear. This is not the time to beat around the bush, and you can't expect your partner to fill in the blanks. State what you wish and want in a precise manner. Practice or write down what you want to say if you are afraid you will not hit all your points. If you feel you cannot confidently have this conversation with your partner, consider writing a letter to them with everything you want to say.

Be realistic. Setting outrageous expectations will lead to being let down more so than setting no expectations at all. Nobody is perfect, and neither is your partner. They might not be able to meet your expectations of them all the time. It takes time, patience, and understanding to work towards your ideal relationship.

Keep an open mind. Remember that not everyone wants the same things. If your partner wants something different than you want, do not get angry; instead, try to find common ground.

When getting into a relationship, there are usually some basic expectations that one or both partners assume will be a part of the relationship. However, when one partner feels these are not being met, it must be addressed before it causes more issues. What are some of these realistic expectations?

Affection and compassion. In a romantic relationship, it is important to feel appreciated and wanted. This is often done with physical affection and compassion, and it is reasonable to expect this in a relationship. However, communicating with your partner about when, where, and how much affection is shown is essential.

Honesty. Each partner deserves the truth from each other all the time. Without honesty, there is no solid foundation for the relationship. It is reasonable to expect honesty from your partner and reasonable for your partner to expect it from you.

Mutual trust. If there is honesty in the relationship, odds are there is trust. It is realistic to expect your partner to be trusting and for you to be able to trust your partner.

Respect. It is reasonable to expect respect from any relationship. It is even more important that you feel respected in your romantic relationship. If your partner is not showing respect, they are showing that they do not value you.

Attention and time. Giving your partner attention and time is essential to build a strong relationship. It is reasonable to assume that you will be receiving attention and time to learn more about each other and grow together when getting into a romantic relationship.

Being prioritized. When in a long-term relationship or one that is still new, it is usually expected to be prioritized. Not making time for your partner or putting other things before your partner can lead them to feel less valued. It is reasonable for both parties to feel like a priority in each other's lives.