Unrealistic expectations in the couple

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Robert Maurer
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Unrealistic expectations in the couple

The partner cannot know all our thoughts and feelings (just as we cannot know his). That is why it is important to have quality communication that helps us manage the expectations of the parties involved.

Last update: 27 November 2022

Having a relationship does not confer the supernatural power to know everything the partner thinks and desires, thus acting accordingly. This erroneous belief leads to have unrealistic expectations in the couple.



For example, we might expect our partner to send us good night every night. Still, he doesn't feel the need to do it or doesn't care about this habit, so he doesn't.

Just then it happens that we get angry because our expectations are not met; thus a conflict arises.

No it would be easier to communicate to the partner that we would like to have a specific routine, instead of expecting him or her to do it and get angry if not?

The emotional upheaval is not given by situations, but by the interpretations of the same.

-Albert Ellis-

The power of expectations

We start a couple relationship with a precise idea that typically provides expectations that they are based on previous experiences and relational models acquired in the family. In addition to this, cinema and literature also influence our beliefs about love.

Having certain expectations can be adaptive and completely normal in a relationship. Well, the problem arises when we think that these contain the list of the duties of others.

It is therefore essential to be aware of the subjective dimension of these projections, as well as of the need to communicate them.


On the other hand, there are clichés about the couple that, combined with expectations, they represent an explosive formula capable of generating conflicts in any relationship. We present them in the following lines.


What is a cliché?

A commonplace is a shared and false belief, which is not certain. This belief often relies on biased arguments that ignore part of reality.

Taking a cliché as true leads the person (and also a community) to commit a series of mistakes. The affective dimension is no exception.

Everyone has their own idea of ​​love, based on personal, family and cultural experiences. In this scheme, ideas such as “in love is worth anything” and “jealousy is a demonstration of love” can play a prominent role. It is, however, a distorted conception, since it shows a love destined to die out.

Commonplaces about love

  • Love can do anything. According to this idea, respect and trust are the consequence of each other, so there will be no conflicts or, if they arise, they will be easily resolved. It is not necessary to talk and resolve conflicts because with love everything is fixed. A deeply wrong idea.
  • The partner should meet all my needs, fill my emotional gaps. We are rarely aware of the affective deficiencies that are part of our emotional baggage since childhood. In adulthood we often expect these to be filled by the partner. Here we will begin to have certain claims against her. "
  • Certain levels of jealousy are a demonstration of love: if he is jealous, it means that he loves me. Absolutely wrong idea, since jealousy is a demonstration, it is true, but of insecurity.
  • The soul mate. Thinking that there is a perfect person for us, like a soul mate, is a belief that leads us to cling to a bond because we think we cannot find another perfect being for ourselves; ending the relationship will dissolve any possibility of finding love again.
  • There is no right to be attracted to another person. Very often it happens to feel a kind of affinity and attraction in the course of one's life for another person, without this meaning not to love one's partner anymore. One does not exclude the other.


Don't let your relationship take up your whole being and mind, otherwise there will be no room for you. To love is not to fade away.


-Walter Rice-

How to overcome unrealistic expectations in the couple

  • Improve the dialogue: communicate your priorities to your partner. Each person is different and it may be that what matters to you doesn't matter to the other person. The partner is not required to meet our expectations. This is why dialogue is essential to establish clear limits and expectations in the relationship. You are not a fortune-teller and you cannot read your mind, the solution is to speak.
  • Establish personal boundaries: specify the non-negotiable aspects for us. Clarify, reflect on the limits that must not be exceeded. What are the aspects that we just do not tolerate, under any conditions, in the couple relationship?
  • What weight does the relationship have and what are the unfulfilled personal expectations? It is common to complain to the partner that he has not fulfilled our wishes, when in many cases he is totally unaware of it. It is necessary to understand if the conflict is the result of expectations or if it depends on a couple problem.
  • Identify emotional deficiencies that we could project onto the partner. Express our needs by avoiding blaming the other.

Making requests is fine!

  • Flexibility: think that it will hardly be possible to re-enter an ideal model, although the initial phase of idealization might lead us to think that this is the case. Searching for a relationship in which the partner has to satisfy our every desire is a big mistake. It is advisable to have realistic and healthy expectations.
  • Respect, be willing to negotiate about the differences between yourself and your partner.
  • Accept the other person without having to change them at all costs.

Having unrealistic expectations in the couple is counterproductive

A healthy couple relationship is based on the following premise “if I have to ask you, I will appreciate your attention to my needs; if you don't act accordingly, I will understand that we are different and that you don't have to do everything I want".



We tend to live according to our expectations

-Earl Nightingale-

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