Last Updated 16.05.2022
17 min read

How To Set Realistic Expectations In A Relationship

Alan Schin (he/him/his) is the Chief Editor at Taimi. He wears several hats daily as a writer, editor, blogger, and content contributor. He began his university studies as a Psychology student but found his passion in Advanced Communication Studies. Alan loves having the opportunity to write and help our content team shine. According to Alan, his education helps him to understand the dynamics behind dating and socialization better. When he isn’t busy with Taimi, Alan works on his first novel, a sci-fi thriller, and creates works of art in his ceramics studio.

Each person views what they need from their partners differently and therefore has different expectations in a relationship. This is normal and is part of what makes new relationships exciting and refreshing. Most people mean well through these expectations and just know what they are looking for in a partner before they expect to devote themselves to anyone.

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    When it comes to sharing these expectations in a relationship, you need to know how to bring them up to avoid offending or scaring your partner. In order to help you achieve that, here are some ways to set realistic expectations in a relationship, in a healthy way.

    Why is Having Expectations Important?

    Some people might argue that going into a relationship with certain expectations can be unhealthy and set the relationship off on the wrong foot. There are always two sides to expect in every situation, and this is definitely one of them.

    On the one hand, going into new relationships without having any expectations on how you wish to be treated or how you wish to treat your partner can lead to a great disaster. This might show a lot about your or the other person's character and can mean that you just go into relationships just so you don't have to spend time alone.

    This is a very unhealthy way to see things and you definitely have a lot of self-reflection to do before you are remotely ready to devote your time and energy to a new person. Relationships work both ways and you need to know what to expect from yourself before being with anyone new.

    On the other hand, going into new relationships with a suitcase full of expectations can also be problematic. You might expect more than what the other person is willing to give or your expectations might cause problems in the relationship, especially when you start comparing your situation to that of others.

    The right thing is being able to find a balance between which expectations will actually work in a relationship and which will make either party feel disappointed. Knowing where you need to set boundaries and expect your significant other to treat you a certain way shows you know what you need in order to be happy and functional in a relationship.

    There is no shame in having expectations in a relationship that will allow you to feel safer and loved by the one you're with. The problem starts when these become unrealistic expectations that no one can fulfill and you can't focus your attention on realizing they are creating more conflict than positive feelings between you and your partner.

    Understand What You Need Personally

    Before you start thinking about what expectations in a relationship you would have from a partner, you should start with yourself. It is good to have expectations in a relationship but are you ready to also take some steps back and be someone that someone else needs?

    Oftentimes, we get so caught up in thinking of the perfect partner for us that we don't want to change anything about ourselves and this leads to unmet expectations which continue to make you upset. This is the moment when any high expectations you might have for a relationship will probably make things worse instead of better.

    Doing some self-reflection first is crucial to not setting high expectations which can affect both you and your partner. Think about why you would like to be in another relationship and if you are ready for this next step and be prepared to manage expectations in advance. Are you ready to take a step back from these high expectations in a relationship when someone you care about needs you to see things differently?

    Knowing exactly what you are looking for in a relationship is great but you also need to remember that the one you will be with might also expect certain things from this relationship too. Being in a place where you are able to communicate about these things with a new partner, and manage expectations from both sides will help you avoid unrealistic expectations and make this relationship work.

    Discuss The Expectations Subtly

    When you start a new relationship, you might want to make it clear that you expect the other partner to see things your way from the start and treat you the way you want to be treated. While it might sound tempting to just go straight into this, you need to take a step back and these can easily be unhealthy expectations that will strain your relationships.

    You are probably still at the stage in your romantic relationship where you get to know them and their character. Any relationship coach would agree that instead of thinking about how you would like things to play out, spend all your time and energy getting to know this individual better before you discuss any smaller or high expectations either of you might have.

    See how they act when they are happy and when they are upset, especially in their relationships with other people. Are they someone you could see spending a long time with? Do you believe they will be able to discuss your expectations in a relationship with you and bring their own thoughts into this equation and manage expectations they consider important?

    If these answers are positive then you can go ahead and start touching on certain topics you wish to discuss with them and see their opinions on your expectations. The point is for these discussions to start organically and become something important in the relationship that both of you can expect and benefit from.

    Communicate Expectations in a Clear Way

    After some time, you will come to realize that being subtle about communicating certain expectations in a relationship is different from being clear about what you expect. You might not want to start a big conversation about something less significant that you wanted to bring up, but you also need to make sure that your significant other understands what you need from them.

    Sometimes, telling someone you miss them for example might not help them understand in what context you're saying this. They might have started a new job and have less time to spend with you, but they might have also stopped texting you as much because of the workload. If you just tell them you miss them, they might expect you to try to change their schedule and spend more time with you. You might just expect to hear from them more every day.

    These difficult-to-understand expectations in a relationship will definitely create problems between the two of you. Make sure you communicate what you need in a clear way that is easy to understand in your relationships, and this will make things a lot easier between the two of you.

    Be Ready to Make Compromises

    Another thing you should always remind yourself is that your significant other can not be the only one to make sacrifices while you only have expectations in a relationship. Compromise is a very important thing for most healthy relationships and shows that you also care about your partner's expectations.

    This also comes to show that you have a mutual understanding that certain set expectations need to work for both parties in the relationship. Being on the same page about things and choosing to do something your significant other might expect from you is important and a very healthy expectation to set in relationships.

    It also shows you that you truly care for your romantic partner and care to set relationship rules and reasonable expectations which will allow you to live a life together by finding solutions instead of creating problems between you.

    Don't Focus on The Small Stuff

    Every relationship will have its ups and downs and there will be times when you will need to be very patient with your other half. When you are facing difficulties or when you are even upset with one another, it is oftentimes difficult to stop focusing on small things that you might not have even noticed under different situations.

    It is unrealistic to expect that things will always be perfect between two partners all the time. Conflict will appear occasionally in every couple's future, no matter how loving these relationships are. Choosing to pay attention to bigger things that are more important is a much better idea. Small and unimportant issues can always be resolved a lot easier when neither of you is upset.

    Having expectations in a relationship about changing even small and not important things is something that can create problems in your life with your partner and make them feel like you're just looking to find more things to point out. This can be stressful and make you lose trust in one another. When you expect to argue about the smaller things, more important issues start to look like icebergs that you will never overcome in your relationships.

    Always Keep an Open Mind

    It’ll take a while for you to truly know and understand your partner as well as their expectations in a relationship, and that’s okay. But, that also means that you should expect to find out some things you might not be completely okay with. For example, your other half might really be into tennis or like particularly spicy food – how will that make you feel if you didn't expect it?

    Will you feel warm inside and happy to learn more about them? Or, will you feel as if you can’t really work as a couple after all? It’s very important that you keep an open mind when setting your relationship expectations and learning about one another. Your partner will also find out certain things about you that they might not expect or totally be okay with but will still appreciate and respect your likes and dislikes. Open-mindedness in relationships extends beyond character traits, however.

    Your partner might want to travel abroad at some point and hike or bike through Europe or South America. Would you be down with coming along or would you try and dissuade them from their aspirations? Being open-minded about your significant other is essential for a relationship with another human being.

    Once you achieve a state of being understanding toward one another, you’re far more likely to develop a relationship that will last far into the future, despite any conflict or misunderstanding that might crop up along the way.

    “When someone loves you, the way they talk about you is different. You feel safe and comfortable.” ― Jess C.

    Realistic Expectations to Have in a Relationship

    After seeing the way you should discuss these relationship expectations, you are probably thinking about which expectations in a relationship would be reasonable for you to bring up with your partner or expect your partner to accept. Here are some realistic and healthy expectations you should expect to discuss in your relationship and why they can help your relationship succeed.

    Honesty And Mutual Trust Are a Must

    One of the main expectations in a relationship you should set with your partner is being honest and always trusting one another. This can be an expectation that can be different for every individual in every relationship, but for most people who choose to follow this, they trust their partners until they have a reason to think they are not being honest with them.

    If you can't trust the one you are with, you will always expect something wrong to happen in the relationship. If you expect your significant other to trust you. then you should also trust them without question.

    Being honest, and admitting when you made a mistake or something wrong is important, and no matter how small the mistake is, being open and honest with one another is something to expect that will lead to a greater understanding, mutual respect, and real trust inside the relationship.

    Putting a Lot of Effort Into Effective Communication

    Another one of the most important and reasonable expectations you can set in your relationship is to always put effort into communicating effectively with one another. Every relationship coach you come across will put their attention on how important communication in a relationship is and how much it can help resolve issues in the long run.

    You should never let your partner find what the matter is in a certain situation or expect them to know how to act when you feel a certain way. Communicating what you need the right way will help your relationship become a lot easier and both parties will know what to expect and how to support one another.

    Wanting Your Partner to be Affectionate

    It is absolutely okay to want your significant other to show physical intimacy and be affectionate towards you but you should remember that each individual shows affection in a different way and on different levels.

    While your significant other might not be the type to show public displays of affection and shower you with hugs and kisses when you're outside, they might still make an effort to hold your hand or be close to you when you're around other people.

    It is important that you share how you feel about this with the one you love and tell them that one of your expectations is for them to show you more affection. Discuss the ways that would make you feel happy and safe and allow them to share the level of intimacy they are comfortable with.

    Being Available For One Another

    Making sure you make time to spend together is important. Even when things happen in everyday life that makes you have little free time, you should make sure that you and your love find the time to spend quality time together.

    Spending time together can help ensure neither of you feels neglected or like they are being treated poorly by being apart for too long. Every relationship that has healthy expectations makes sure to prioritize time together over friends and other activities.

    While it is good to hang out with friends and do things outside the relationship, you should also discuss when this should happen so you also find a great balance between your personal life and the life you are building with your significant other.

    Treating Each Other With Respect

    One of the things you should always expect your partner to do is treat you with respect no matter the situation. Not showing your partner the respect they deserve will definitely end in conflict and make the relationship take a turn for the worse.

    This is one of the reasonable expectations that you should probably not even have to discuss with your significant other. If the situation arises though where you see that the other person said something that hurt you, you should make a point and discuss it.

    Showing Compassion For One Another

    Compassion is one of the most important parts of a successful relationship, and it is a worthwhile expectation to have from the get-go. The same way you want your partner to express a greater understanding of your emotions, the same applies to you toward them. Your partner will go through difficult times and periods where they might not be themselves – that’s okay.

    Set aside some partner time and talk about compassion for one another so that you can set some ground rules and find a mutual understanding in relationships. How will you handle it if your partner has a panic attack in the future? Will you shy away from them or latch onto them and not let them go until you’ve made them feel better?

    Being compassionate should not fall short of doing everything you can to make your significant other feel appreciated so they know that there’s someone out there to support them, even if they're not expecting this support at first.

    Compassion will also help you resolve a potential conflict or a misunderstanding before it even happens because you’ll be able to place yourself in your partner’s shoes and see reality from their point of view. Being able to do that will help you respect one another more, and lead to relationship intimacy, unlike anything you could imagine.

    “For the two of us, home isn't a place. It is a person. And we are finally home.” ― Stephanie Perkins

    Putting Each Other First

    Putting the needs of your partner ahead of your household chores, hobbies, or other activities isn’t an unrealistic expectation to hope for, for both sides involved in the relationship. Your partner might get a very lucrative job application abroad and want you to come with them and start a new life together – would you be okay with that? Moreover, would you want your partner to do the same for you?

    This is a mutual expectation that works both ways, as you’ll face various challenges and difficulties throughout your relationship. If treated poorly, these events can have consequences on the way you perceive one another and breed more unresolved conflict. Talk about this with your partner and tell them about the things you’d like to do in the future, both as a person and as a professional building a stable career.

    Every relationship is a matter of compromise and life won’t serve you two an easy hand most of the time. Cherish each other’s emotions and respect the wants and needs of your significant other and they’ll do the same for you. When you put your mind to it, you’ll be able to find solutions that work for both of you and on the flip side, one partner will never suffer because of the needs of the other.

    The biggest relationship killers are:

    - unspoken expectations
    - expect others to be like you
    - impatience
    - micromanaging
    - betrayal of trust
    - needing to be right all the time
    - not resolving minor conflicts

    — Harsh Goenka (@hvgoenka) April 8, 2022

    Treating Your Partner The Way You Wish to be Treated

    Having realistic expectations and openly discussing them with the one you love is a great way to build trust and good communication in your relationship. You can get a better understanding of what your partner needs and how you can make them feel happier in the relationship.

    Being aware of what are unrealistic expectations in a relationship and what you should not be expecting of your partner has a lot to do with your own self-reflection and should happen before you enter a new relationship. This will help you avoid being treated poorly or treating someone you care about in a poor way.

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