Managing Expectations in Relationships

To avoid disappointment and resentment, standards in relationships need to be set. Whether romantic or friendly, shared values and strong communication are a good starting point for relationships.

Relationships are dynamic and ever-changing, therefore, there is no specific definition of what comprises ‘normal’ relationship expectations. What can be said for sure, however, is that’s it’s often best when people meet in the middle, respecting both themselves and each other.

You probably have heard the phrase, “expectation leads to disappointment,” but how do you manage relationship expectations to guarantee satisfaction – not disappointment?

Realistic and unrealistic expectations come to play, shedding light to a healthy relationship.  The simplest way to define a healthy relationship is if both parties listen and understand each other. Talk is the strongest tool in any relationship, and ‘openness’ functions to benefit and improve conversations.

Expressing feelings and concerns without fear of the reaction is a positive sign to look out for, offering a new dynamic to the relationship. Mutual respect and trust come hand in hand as this means the other person’s values are acknowledged.

Healthy expectations therefore will foster a sense of order and stability, whereas unrealistic expectations may increase insecurities. Believing, for example, that good relationships never display conflict, or that some things need to always remain the same for the relationship to survive are impractical expectations. Disagreements and change are natural happenings, so if you believe they aren’t, you’ll automatically fear for the relationship when they appear.

Shifting the energy from unrealistic to realistic expectations will help nurture a sense of stability and harmony. Being able to articulate your expectations to yourself first will give you the opportunity to distinguish whether they are realistic or not, before sharing them with your partner.

Giving the other person time to process and consider what has been shared shows respect for your individual experiences. If you’re a fast processor yourself, take a step back and allow them to feel out their emotions. Giving them time helps manage expectations in the relationship.

Compromise is another key characteristic in handling expectations. Be open minded and consider the other party’s boundaries as well as their own expectations as it can lead to growth and greater vulnerability. Take the time to consider what is important to you and where you can talk things out in order to meet in the middle.

An unrealistic expectation that comes up frequently is the idea that change threatens, rather than enriches a relationship of any kind. Flexibility and adaptability will play a major role in these changes, so the best approach is acceptance.

The biggest no-no in this conversation is comparison. When you stop comparing your relationship to others, you open the gateway to something unique, setting your own boundaries and rules, playing the game on your own terms away from expectations.


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