Article How are expectations formed and how can they can be damaging to a relationship? 1 2013 Life coaching Relationship coaching life coaching Lifecoachhub Pty Ltd LifeCoachHub
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Unrealistic Expectations in Relationships

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Unrealistic expectations can hurt a relationshipMany of us have been involved in a relationship where there have been expectations placed upon the other person. The fact is, when you are with someone that meets certain needs, it can be difficult not to expect more from them in other aspects. 

We rely on them to fill the voids of our unsatisfied needs and when your partner does not live up to those lofty expectations, it can result in feelings of betrayal, disappointment and frustration. 

Unrealistic expectations can cause a relationship to decay due the fact that we mistakenly assume someone else knew what we thought or expected.

Where our expectations come from

A person’s past is a key indication of how expectations develop. Influences from our childhood play a significant role with respect to the quality of interactions we have with others. 

For example, if a person lives in a household where the parents do not show interest or listen, a child can internalize that behavior and associate those emotions to mean that their thoughts and ideas are not cared about.

This history can later manifest itself in a relationship when the individual does not verbalize what they feel or need and automatically assume that their partner should know what it is they want. This pattern ultimately leads to feelings of disappointment, frustration and anger when the partner is unable to discern what those needs are.  

As we project our viewpoint onto others, we are assuming that they think and feel in a similar way that we would in the same situation, and we expect them to behave accordingly. Unrealistic expectations occur when an individual projects onto their partner what they want or need. Your partner cannot read your mind. When someone close to us does something that seems in deep contrast with the standards we have associated with that person, we often feel hurt, betrayed, angry and/or confused.

Jacklyn Marcus


Unrealistic expectations and control

Having unrealistic expectations can be associated with issues of power, manipulation and control. Some may feel or believe that people who do not act in the manner they expect them to do not care or love them. 

When those expectations are not met, there can be a need to regain control of the situation and the individual through anger and manipulative methods.  These methods can place pressure on your partner as a way to force them to agree with your perspective and/or do the things you want them to do. 

If your partner refuses, this can create a cycle of conflict as one person struggles to be themselves, having their own opinions and beliefs, while the other person feels betrayed that their partner doesn’t feel as they do about the issue at hand.

Unrealistic expectations in relationships

People often enter relationships with certain misguided and unexpressed expectations that may eventually lead to its demise.   

A lack of communication or miscommunication can influence how unrealistic expectations can thrive within a relationship.  Both partners should be free to fully express themselves and their needs to each other. 

Having open communication can foster compromise, which is necessary in order to meet each other’s needs and wants.  This also builds trust, an essential ingredient that will allow a person to openly communicate with their partner without having to agree on everything said.  

When couples can disclose their negative feelings in a practical and positive way, it can actually help a relationship grow stronger.  The ability to not only verbalize but also listen to each other is important to successful communication which can guide the relationship past the walls of unrealistic expectations. 


1.      Marcus, Jacklyn, Ph.D. "Unrealistic and Unspoken Expectations Harm Relationships.", n.d. Web. 12 Feb. 2013.

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