Setting Realistic Expectations in a Relationship

Understanding the reasons for your expectations can help you respond to them appropriately.
... Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images

Most people tend to fantasize about the perfect partner, the perfect friend, the perfect boss and so on. This is normal and healthy, according to counselor and consultant Doron Gil in his article for Psych Central titled, "7 Tips on Developing and Maintaining a Successful Intimate Relationship." These fantasies become problematic, however, when we rigidly adhere to them and expect others to conform to them. Since no one is perfect, it is essential to understand how to evaluate your expectations of others to maintain your relationships with them.

1 Unhealthy Expectations

Relying on others to meet all your needs is unrealistic and unhealthy, as it believing that you can meet all of your partner's, according to psychologist Jennifer Kromberg in her article for Psychology Today titled, "How Realistic Are Your Relationship Expectations." This occurs when you expect someone to know what your thinking or what might be bothering you, without the need to tell them. It can also happen when you try to fix your partner's problems. For example, believing that you can resolve your sister's depression if you love and support her enough is not likely. You are responsible for communicating your wants and needs to others, and they are responsible for their own problems.

2 Healthy Communication

Addressing and responding to relationship expectations requires open, honest and respectful communication. Own your feelings by using "I" statements, such as by saying, "I feel neglected when we don't see each other for weeks at a time." Phrasing your concerns this way will minimize the chances of your partner becoming defensive, which could happen if you said, "You never spend any time with me!" Healthy communication also requires each of you to understand the other's personal boundaries. For instance, your boyfriend should know if you don't appreciate the messes he leaves throughout your apartment. Similarly, you have the right to know if he prefers to be alone when he isn't feeling well.

3 Negotiation and Compromise

Through healthy communication and boundary-setting, you and your relationship partner will better understand what you expect from one another. You can then let each other know what is and is not realistic or manageable. You may be willing to resist the urge to take care of him and leave him alone when he has the flu. He may agree to be more mindful of the disarray he creates when he visits. Conversely, either of you may be unwilling to fulfill certain requests. This negotiation can help you adjust your expectations, or help you decide how to proceed with the relationship if a compromise can't be met.

4 Realistic Expectations

Once you and your relationship partner have adjusted your expectations for one another, you may find that the connection between you is stronger than ever. Instead of expecting your sister's mood to lift due to your efforts alone, you can offer support and help her find a qualified therapist. Her depression may subside, and she may greatly appreciate your help. You may accept that your partner can't spend as much time with you as you would like, and he can appreciate the importance of the time you do spend together. The fantasy of perfection can be attained if you readjust your definition of it.

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.