expectations in a relationship

Have you ever wondered if your expectations of a man in a relationship are too high or even too low? 

The truth is it’s hard to know what to expect from a man in a relationship if all you have experienced in the past were casual relationships were you did not have responsibilities towards each other. 

However, that changes once you start dating with purpose. Now you have to have standards and expectations in relationships in order to discern between men that are serious about you and the ones that are not. 

To help you avoid getting caught up in unrealistic expectations in a relationship, I decided to share with you a list of reasonable expectations in a relationship. 

reasonable expectations in a relationship

What are expectations in a relationship?

Be honest with me? Are you the type of girl that everybody calls picky and advises to lower her expectations? Or are you the type of girl that all her friends tell to get (higher) standards?

No matter where you find yourself on that spectrum, we all have been in a situation, romantic or not, where we had the wrong expectations for someone. 

While a new relationship can be fun, exploratory, loving and nurturing, it can get irritating, stressful and dissatisfying really quickly if the relationship does not live up to your expectations.

With unmet expectations being the number one cause for divorce in today’s marriages, high expectations don’t just affect our love life, but also our career, friendships and goals. 

And oftentimes lead to disappointment, hurt and anger. 

The problem with expectations, however, is that they are needed in every human relationship, but need to be understood, communicated, and fulfilled in order to not disappoint. 

If your expectations of a romantic partner are too low you run the risk to be treated poorly and if your expectations are too high you may end up resenting the other person. 

The trick lies in understanding the difference between standards and expectations while coming up with a list of expectations in a relationship that is reasonable. 

The difference between standards and expectations in relationships

Most people use expectations and standards interchangeably to communicate what they want out of a relationship. However, they do not mean the same thing.

Expectation meaning: 

A person’s expectations are strong beliefs which they have about the proper way someone should behave or something should happen.

Standards definition: 

A level of quality or achievement, especially one that people generally consider normal or acceptable. 

Both, standards and expectations in relationships can be used to communicate what we want. 

However, they are communicated at a different stage in the dating process. Standards are the bar we set for someone to qualify as a romantic partner. Expectations are what we demand of someone to provide or be once we are an item.

While we can control whether someone meets our standards or not. We have only limited control whether someone fulfills our expectations. That is entirely up to them to decide. 

This brings us to the question “Why do we have expectations of others if we are not able to control the level to which they meet them?”.

10 expectations every girl needs to know

What are unreasonable expectations in a relationship? 

1. You expect him to be more emotional

As a woman, you are most likely attracted to a man because he is a man. However, a lot of times in relationships women expect their men to turn into their best girlfriend after a while. With the same amount of empathy, emotions, and vulnerability. 

Which is very unlikely. 

A man is a man and will not act like a woman, no matter how much you desire him to. Expecting him to relate to you as your best friend does is therefore unrealistic. Constantly nagging or complaining about his inability to deal with challenges or feelings the way you deal with them will therefore lead to a lot of arguments. 

Instead of trying to change your partner, change your approach.

Find out how he deals with emotions and feelings best and relay the information in a way that supports that approach. A great resource for that is Dr. John Gray’s “Men are from Mars, women are from Venus”. This book is a brilliant guide to understanding how healthy men and women are different.

2. You expect him to be perfect

Funny enough we all know that there is no such thing as a perfect human being, therefore we say sentences like: ‘you may not be perfect, but you are perfect for me’.

While I myself love it when the main character of a good Hallmark movie says that phrase before kissing his love interest, this sentence bears danger. 

Being perfect for someone suggests that your boyfriend needs to meet every single criterion you consider boyfriend material, without any room for deviation.

See the problem right there? 

Expecting someone to be perfect for you, means that every time they do something that you do not consider perfect they failed in your eyes, which will turn you off really quickly and communicate to them that they are not good enough for you. 

Therefore, rather than expecting your man to meet all your criteria, find out what things you truly need in a relationship and allow him to be himself without complaining. 

3. You expect him to be your source of happiness

This point, I believe, is a big one for a lot of women. Even if you don’t expect anything from the relationship, I can assure you that you at least expect one thing. And that is that the relationship should make you happy. 

While I am a firm believer that your relationship should add to your life and not distract from your life, I also believe that your relationship or even more specifically your boyfriend, fiancé or husband is not responsible for your happiness. 

By expecting your partner to be your source of happiness, meaning that his presence, his behavior, and his actions stimulate you into happiness, you are putting him on a pedestal he is bound to fall off of. 

Because no one is in control of your emotions but yourself. 

Your happiness has to come from within yourself and is ultimately your job. Better than expecting your partner to make you happy, do the inner work it takes to cultivate joy by yourself. 

4. You expect him to love you the way you love

As women, we often assume that being the traditionally more emotional, caring and affectionate gender, we are the measuring bar for how love is shown.

In relationships, it often translates to the expectation that the way you show love is the right way and therefore he should adapt to it. 

The problem with that thinking is that no two women show love in the exact same way and definitely no two people of the opposite gender.

According to Gary Chapman’s “The five love languages”, people show love in one of 5 ways: gifts, words of appreciation, acts of service, physical touch, and quality time. 

Therefore, the challenge lies in finding out the primary love language of your partner and yourself and to teach each other how to provide it. A boyfriend that is open to learning how to show you love will meet your expectations more likely than the one that is hesitant.

5. You expect him to want the same things in life

Before you take this point out of context and assume I’m suggesting you enter a relationship with someone that is unequally yoked to you, I want you to read carefully.

While compatibility is my main focus in relationship coaching, it needs to be said that even the most aligned couples have to learn to compromise. 

Depending on the age, environment or season of life the two of you met, chances are that your outlook on life or goals for the future will shift. Ideally not a whole lot, but a little bit. 

Therefore, you cannot expect to always agree with your significant other in your relationship. Instead, you will have to learn to compromise in order to make things work. 

Thankfully, the above mentioned 5 unrealistic expectations of a man in a relationship are common and therefore come as no surprise to most of you.

But what about the type of expectations you should have in a relationship? 

standards and expectations in relationships

What are reasonable expectations in a relationship?

In contrast to the common unrealistic relationship expectations mentioned above, there are also a number of reasonable expectations in a relationship, as Dr. John Gottman explains, that you do not just have the right to demand but actually should demand if you desire a healthy relationship

1. Respect

The first one definitely goes without saying. And that is that you should expect respect from your partner. Treating each other in a respectful way, even when disagreements arise, is crucial to the health of your relationship. Prior to entering into a relationship you should communicate what respect looks like to you and what you will and will not accept.

2. Affection

Of course, different people show affection in different ways. While some people feel uncomfortable with too much physical affection and will prefer showing it in words or actions, it is still very important to experience touch as a romantic couple. Therefore, you should discuss what adequate affection (kissing, holding hands or cuddling) is important to you for building a deep bond. 

3. Time

There is nothing worse than feeling like your partner does not make any time for you. It gives the impression that the relationship is not a priority to him and therefore can cause a lot of pain. Agreeing on a minimum and maximum amount of time you will see each other or communicate per week is a great way to discuss your expectations around time, which will lead to a more satisfactory relationship. 

4. Challenges

Every good relationship faces challenges. It’s unavoidable and leads to growth. The best way to prepare yourself for the stress and hurt that comes with those ups and downs is by anticipating them beforehand. Acknowledge the fact that you and your partner will bump heads from time to time, which does not necessarily mean that he is not the right one for you.

5. Growth

As briefly mentioned in the last point, challenges will lead to growth, but so will as well vulnerability, shared experiences and love.

As the two of you spend more and more time together and connect emotionally, you will see the communication, affection, and challenges change. Some of those points will improve and others will get more demanding.

However, embracing the process and expecting these growing pains will allow you to focus on what the outcome is and that is a greater understanding of your compatibility or incompatibility.

As you can see, all these are healthy relationship expectations that will improve the relationship if communicated early on in the relationship. 

How to communicate expectations in a relationship

The number one way that we cause unmet expectations to surface is by failing to communicate them clearly. In a romantic relationship, it is important that you express your needs to your partner open and honestly with courage, compassion, and compromise. 

You will need the courage to demand your needs to be considered and met, even if he is apprehensive at first. In addition, you will need compassion to listen and honor his expectations, even if you are not used to them. And lastly, you will need the ability to compromise if you want the relationship to prosper.  

unrealistic expectations in relationships

Communicating your expectations in a relationship might feel daunting in the beginning but will get easier as you get to know and trust your man. 

What to expect from a man in a relationship 

Regardless of how prepared you are for the relationship, you will always find that there is a discrepancy between what you thought it would be like and what it really is. 

Meaning that you will find that your dating expectations or even marriage expectations derived from a completely unrealistic view and therefore don’t add up in real life. 

That’s why I suggest that you review and evaluate your expectations whenever you get into a relationship. And once you are certain that he can meet them, communicate those effectively. 

On the flip side don’t hold on to unreasonable expectations whenever they surface. Be willing to let go of them for the sake of the relationship. 

Healthy expectations in a relationship are the ones that you can expect your man to meet. And if he doesn’t then it’s a sign you may be unequally yoked. 

What are your expectations in a relationship? 

In relationships, couples have an implicit social contract. A set of rules, expectations, and boundaries that define their relationship. 

Believe it or not you probably already have a set of expectations before you even get into the relationship. 

The problem arises when these expectations are not verbalized and instead only exist in your head. Which makes it hard for your man, because he is unable to live up to an expectation that he doesn’t know about. 

So, instead of waiting until you get into that relationship and subconsciously testing your man, make a list of expectations now. 

In addition, a lot of people subconsciously believe that expecting something to happen will make it happen without a reason why.  This unreasonable thinking that someone will behave in a certain way, just because you think he ‘should’ only leads to disappointment and resentment.

Even though unspoken expectations of any form are hard to fulfill, it gets even worse if your boyfriend doesn’t meet those that were unrealistic from the beginning.

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