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Expectations in Relationships

By Dr. Margaret Paul
December 05, 2022

Unrealistic expectations are one of the major reasons for relationship failure. Are your expectations realistic?

expectations vs. realityThe ego wounded self believes that it has the right to expect how it wants a partner to be, regardless of whether or not the expectations are realistic for that partner. The wounded self often has a long list of expectations regarding how your partner will or should act if he or she cares about you, or if you are important to him or her. Then, when your expectations are not met, you feel hurt, angry, or disappointed, believing that these feelings are being caused by your partner rather than by your unrealistic expectations. The following behaviors may have nothing to do with whether or not your partner cares. He or she may have many good reasons for behaving in these ways, reasons that have nothing to do with whether or not they care about you.

My clients often say, “Don’t I have a right to expect this from a partner?” My answer is, “You have the right to expect whatever you want, but if you are expecting something that your partner doesn’t do or doesn’t want to do, then you will be disappointed, and your disappointment is from your unrealistic expectations – not from your partner. It’s important to be realistic regarding who your partner is, rather than expect him or her to be different than they are.”

What are some of the expectations you have for your partner?

Imagine saying these things to your partner: "If you really loved me, cared about me, or if I were really important to you, you would…

  • never do things for yourself that you know will upset me.
  • be ready on time.
  • be turned on to me, or at least make love whenever I want.
  • want to spend your time the way I want.
  • agree with me.
  • remember our anniversary.
  • lose or gain weight.
  • make more money.
  • spend less money.
  • work more.
  • work less.
  • keep the house neat and clean.
  • eat right and take your vitamins.
  • get enough exercise.
  • exercise with me.
  • dress the way I like.
  • be affectionate.
  • put your clothes away.
  • make me happy.
  • never be attracted to anyone else.
  • never look at another man or woman.
  • never be affectionate with someone else.
  • give in to me.
  • do things my way.
  • call or text me every day.
  • bring me flowers.
  • buy me expensive presents.
  • solve my problems for me.
  • always want to be with me.
  • never socialize without me.
  • never go to a party when I don't want to go.
  • initiate special times for us to be together.
  • stop drinking or taking drugs.
  • spend more time with the kids.
  • stop watching so much TV.
  • watch TV with me.
  • stop playing video games
  • take care of me the way I take care of you.
  • give me more money.
  • take care of me financially.
  • do things for me all the time that I am capable of doing for myself.
  • go to bed the same time I do.
  • stop being friends with people I don't like.
  • stop being friends with old lovers.
  • get rid of everything that is a reminder of your previous relationships.
  • never lie to me.
  • take a shower every day.
  • love my pets.
  • love my parents.
  • be miserable when I'm miserable.
  • be happy when I'm happy.
  • be miserable and miss me a lot when I'm away.
  • practice the same religion I practice.
  • go to church or synagogue with me.
  • believe what I believe spiritually.
  • Add your own. __________________________________.

What do you do when your expectations are not met? It may be difficult to be honest with yourself regarding your controlling behaviors when your partner or a friend doesn’t meet your expectations.

What happens between you and your partner or your friend when you respond with controlling behaviors?

The negative aspects of your relationship and your expectations are fertile areas for exploration within yourself and with your partner. It might be helpful for you and your partner or friend to explore your expectations together.

Heal your relationships with Dr. Margaret’s 30-Day online video relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.


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