Expectations are attitudes and behaviors that we expect from other people. We are taught – explicitly and implicitly – that there are standards of behaviors, what we call the norms, when it comes to how we should treat each other. We see it being modeled in our family, and we also see it in school, in our community and the workplace, on TV and other media including the Internet.

It’s normal to have expectations for all of our relationships, in fact, it’s actually good to have them. It means that we value ourselves and we want to be treated with dignity and respect. If we keep on excusing the bad behaviors of others toward us, it may be because our self-esteem is low – that we believe it’s what we deserve.

However, having too many expectations can also become problematic. When we often feel let down by the people in our lives – that is, if we are always disappointed by others – maybe it’s time to ask ourselves: are we being reasonable? Or have we become unrealistic in what we expect from others?

What are reasonable expectations for a romantic or intimate relationship?

Reasonable expectations are those that are already implied in the relationship itself. In an intimate partnership, for example, both parties can expect love, care, respect, support, and sexual intimacy. Since these expectations are already implied to be part of the relationship, they usually don’t need to be discussed or negotiated.

When it comes to friendships, it’s also unspoken that friends respect you and don’t deliberately hurt your feelings or betray your friendship. You both are also expected to engage in a give-and-take when it comes to helping and being helped. There is a healthy mutuality in rewarding relationships.

What can I do when expectations seem unreasonable?

Before reacting about what you perceive to be unreasonable expectations of you, consider communicating first with your friend or partner. Much can be resolved through honest and respectful listening and communication. Even the most reasonable people can have differences of opinion, its okay, just talk about it. Through communication, you’ll learn what’s reasonable and what’s not in their perspective.

Indeed, expectations in relationships go both ways – you can’t expect something from others and automatically assume they will fulfill it. If you have communicated your expectations and they’ve told you it’s unreasonable for them, don’t hope that they will eventually change.

When dealing with expectations, then, you must know that they exist, not only for you but also for your partner or friends. Talk about what you expect from them, and ask what they expect from you. Even if a certain pattern of behavior is normal in your family (or culture), it may not be in your partner’s. Talk about which of these expectations you can adapt, and which are not negotiable. Once these expectations are brought out into the open and made clear through respectful discussion, it should lead to fewer disappointments.

If you need help talking about expectations with your partner, contact us.