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Expectations and Your Relationship

William Shakespeare once said, “Expectation is the root of all heartache.”

Ask yourself a question. Have you ever been disappointed because something did not turn out the way you expected? Why did you have such a strong belief something would happen?

We all have high expectations at one point or another, only to be disappointed when things do not turn out the way we wanted. It can get the best of us at any given moment. When those expectations are not met, we need to keep in mind the way it affects us.

The purpose of this article is to discuss how expectations in your relationships can be damaging. It’s not fair to put unachievable standards on your partner or vice versa. In the end both parties are affected; resentment, anger, and disappointment can develop towards each other.

These expectations are fantasies and false hopes that ruin your idea of your partner. Some people never realize the unwarranted damage they cause because of these inflated ideas. Carrying high expectations in your relationship can take shape in a few ways. 

“The way I was brought up”

During my time in dealing with couples a very problematic expectation has been the traditions a spouse carries from their family of origin into their marriage.

For example, a man expects his wife to take care of the house and chores the same way his mother did. A small hint, one should never be compared to their partners’ parent. This is a standard they will never live up to. It is absolutely unfair and unrealistic.

It is ok for your partner to have some traits and characteristics of your parent; as the saying goes, we often end up marrying our mom/dad. Some search for these traits because it provides a sense of security, and security in a relationship is generally what people seek.

But if you expect your partner to be as polished as your parent, you are holding them up to an unachievable expectation.

Expecting the unexpected

Another way expectations can destroy your relationship is when you expect your partner to do things that you never communicated to them. How can they possibly do this? They are your partner, not a mind reader. For example, expecting a certain birthday or anniversary gift.

Just because it’s not the extravagant gift or idea you had in mind, doesn’t mean they didn’t put any thought into it. Or expecting dinner to be ready when you get home or duties with the kids to be done after a long day at work. When you begin thinking of things they should do for you and it’s not done, you are left with disappointment.

Try communicating what you would like, it may help you and your partner.

Expectations of change

One set of expectations that I feel is also very damaging, is the expectation of changing your partner.

Not sure what motivates a person to think they can change someone, but it happens all the time. Unless they are causing harm to you or themselve, why would you want to change them? If they are causing harm, then you need to seek the proper help. 

Some people might think it’s harmless to try to change their partner’s wardrobe or activities they participate in, but it can cause damage. They begin to lose themselves. Just as important as it is to share interests, it’s equally important to have autonomy in your relationship.

Expecting things to work themselves out

A friend once asked me, “What advice would you give me before I get married?” I responded, “Don’t expect your marriage to fix itself. You still have to work for it, Every. Single. Day.” 

Both partners have to work harder to keep it. I’ve seen couples who think that just because they are married problems will fix themselves. That’s not how it works. In sense they are taking the relationship and their partner for granted.

Be attentive to each other’s feelings, needs, and wants. If you feel you need help with fixing your problems, finding a Marriage and Family Therapist can be the answer. Too many times I’ve seen couples seek help when it’s too late, one partner already has their foot out the door of the relationship. You do not want to get to a point where the problems are beyond repair.

Expectations on yourself

Lastly, setting high expectations on yourself is the worst of them all.

Many times men think they have to live up to a certain standard such as being the breadwinner, the Rock of the family, and be Mr. Do It All. Women have self-expectations of running the home with the children, keeping the house clean and cooking dinner every night. Many of these expectations come from society and our very culture.

However, it’s okay to ask for help. All of these duties can put lot of pressure on everyone. Which can lead to stress, anxiety, and depression. Taking care of the home is a team job, it’s important both partners help each other in these duties, but hiring a maid, nanny, or even getting help from other family members is okay.

To conclude, setting unrealistic expectations on your relationship can only lead to frustration and disappointment. We have to remember no one is perfect and everyone has faults. It is great to set goals in your relationship but let’s make sure these are realistic goals.

Expectations and Your Relationship


Michael Bouciquot, MS

Michael Bouciquot is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapist Intern at the Counseling and Wellness Center of South Florida. He received a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Florida International University and a Master of Science in Marriage and Family Therapy from St. Thomas University. Michael is committed to providing a safe nonjudgmental environment where clients can explore their feelings. His clients learn about the issues they are dealing with in order to grow and transition into who they would like to be. He believes therapy is a collaborative process where he and his clients set attainable goals and achieve success through different therapeutic techniques.


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APA Reference
Bouciquot, M. (2018). Expectations and Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 18, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/expectations-and-your-relationship/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.