Expectations in Relationships: Useful or Damaging?

We may think that having expectations in relationships is a negative thing. But what if they were actually useful?
Expectations in Relationships: Useful or Damaging?

Last update: 19 October, 2022

Many people think that having expectations in relationships is something negative that, in the long run, ends up destroying everything.

However, not having them can make you lose interest in the relationship. Why? Because, on the one hand, it may show that you’re not really thinking about being with that person long term. And, on the other hand, it might indicate that you don’t really know what you want from that relationship.

Here are some examples of expectations in relationships:

  • What will my life be like with this person?
  • Will they love me forever?
  • What goals will we have together?
  • Will we have children?
  • Will they be faithful to me?

If you think about the courses you’ve studied, the work you do, or even the place where you’re living, you’ll realize that expectations do influence how you feel and what you do. They’re simply a little bit of faith that a possibility will end up becoming a reality.

In order for these possibilities to bear fruit, you need to take action. If you have the expectation that you’ll be able to be a teacher one day, then you’ll obviously need to study towards that goal and take steps towards it. If not, then it’ll just be an ephemeral dream.

But can we apply the same theory in the world of relationships? Are expectations useful? Do they move us forward or pull us back?

A worried woman.

The “bad” expectations in relationships

Expectations in relationships are necessary. However, it’s important to differentiate between expectations that are real and those that are only the result of a romantic dream.

The same can happen in other areas. For example, let’s think again about the example of becoming a teacher. If you don’t train and just sit around doing nothing, your expectations will end up as an impossible, frustrated desire.

The problem in relationships is that, sometimes, we deceive ourselves. This happens, above all, in the phase of falling in love, in the first few weeks and months of the relationship. This is when you only see the wonderful aspects of the other person and think of an idyllic future. You still haven’t made a realistic analysis of the other person’s profile and circumstances.

In addition, in your mind, you’ll have an ideal of what you’re hoping for in a relationship. As a result, you often expect that ideal to be fulfilled. It doesn’t matter whether the other person has the ideal requirements to be the one for you or not. In your fantasy world, you always think you can change them.

These kinds of expectations in relationships aren’t based on anything real. They’re only based on ideas that you may have, and unrealistic romantic ideas that “Love can do everything“, “If you really love me you’ll make the effort to change“, or “With time, we’ll change things“.

The usefulness of expectations in relationships

However, there’s another side to all of this. If you chose to suppress all your expectations, then it’s very likely that you’d never even start a relationship. Without expectations, your horizons are blurred and there’s no foundation to build a relationship on.

Therefore, clearly, some expectations in relationships are useful, as long as they don’t harm the relationship and always help the communication between the two.

We can have the expectation of having a child (whether or not this ends up happening). Ideally, if you feel this way, then your partner should also feel the same way. Although it’s always possible they may have a change of heart, there’s no guarantee this will happen. If they don’t change their mind, resentment and disappointment may start to build.

In addition to this, expectations in relationships motivate the couple to build a life together. Because of this, the ideal thing is for the person you’re with to have similar expectations. You need to think about what they expect from you, from your life together, and from your relationship.

If you don’t do this, then it’s highly likely that the relationship won’t be successful. And, on this theme, we should also add here that it’s important to differentiate between all the expectations that are deeply rooted in our state of mind.

Expectations in relationships.

Final reflections on expectations in relationships

Correct management of your expectations will be a good foundation for your emotional state and for the relationship itself. For example, what you want from the relationship and how you want to live. It isn’t good to try to impose these expectations on the other person if they don’t feel the same way.

Apart from this, it’s always a good idea to look inside yourself and differentiate between the expectations that you consider indispensable in your relationship and those that have secondary importance. Only this way can you truly build healthy relationships.

“There’s no favorable wind for the sailor who doesn’t know where to go.”


All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Garrido Garduño, A., Reyes Luna, A. G., Torres Velázquez, L. E., & Ortega Silva, P. (2008). Importancia de las expectativas de pareja en la dinámica familiar. Enseñanza e Investigación en Psicología13(2).
  • Garrido Garduño, A., Reyes Luna, A. G., Ortega Silva, P., & Torres Velásquez, L. E. (2007). La vida en pareja: un asunto a negociar. Enseñanza e investigación en Psicología12(2).
  • Sánchez Aragón, R. (2009). Expectativas, percepción de estabilidad y estrategias de mantenimiento en las relaciones amorosas. Enseñanza e investigación en psicología14(2).

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.