What Do Expectations Mean in a Relationship?

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What Do Expectations Mean in a Relationship?

Do you know what you want in a relationship? What qualities do you seek in a partner, and how should they treat you?

When you know what you want, you won’t settle for anything less, and you’ll shape your relationship around it. 

Even though they say expectations lead to disappointments, they are essential in every relationship. 

So, what do expectations mean in a relationship? This article covers the meaning of expectations, examples of expectations in a relationship, and the difference between realistic and unrealistic expectations. 

It also answers if it’s good to have expectations in a relationship and whether they must align with your partner’s. 

Read on to learn all these things and more.

What Do Expectations Mean in a Relationship?

Before we define expectations in a relationship, let’s understand the dictionary meaning first, so we can establish a solid base.

A couple laying down on a grass together
A couple laying down on a grass together

Dictionary meaning of expectations

According to the dictionary, expectation means a belief that something will happen. 

If you dig deeper, you learn that the word expectation is associated with hope. So when you have expectations, you hope something, often good, will happen. 

It can also be a belief in how things should happen or how somebody should behave. For example, you might have high expectations that the new software you installed will make work easier. 

Anyone can have expectations; for example, parents can have expectations from their children, but in our case, we are focusing on relationship expectations. 

The meaning of expectations in a relationship

Expectations in a relationship mean anticipating how your relationship should be and how your partner should behave toward you.

Expectations help set a baseline for the appropriate treatment. So if you expect your partner to love and respect you, that’s the baseline for treating you right, so you don’t tolerate disrespect from a partner.

In the same way, your partner has expectations of you and the relationship. As such, you should meet their expectations the same way you expect them to meet yours. 

That’s why parties in a relationship should be reasonable in their expectations to avoid conflicts and disappointments. Sometimes people ask too much from someone, causing conflicts and sometimes breakups. 

In a healthy relationship, expectations set the tone and cultivate a safe environment for everyone, allowing the relationship to thrive. 

Examples of Expectations in a Relationship

A man kissing his girlfriends nose on a train
A man kissing his girlfriends nose on a train

The expectations in a relationship should provide a foundation for determining whether or not the partnership works for both parties. And though we all have different expectations in our relationships, they should all align to create a conducive environment for every partner.

Simply put, every party’s expectations should be met. Otherwise, the relationship is deemed unhealthy and is likely to end.

Some reasonable expectations in a relationship include the following:


Trust is vital in every relationship as it promotes a secure attachment and allows each to participate in personal activities and interests. 

While it’s reasonable to expect mutual trust in a relationship, partners should also ensure they don’t break the trust through betrayal, because you can’t expect your partner to trust you if you keep breaking that trust. 


Everyone in an exclusive relationship expects their partner to be faithful. This is a reasonable expectation because if someone can’t be faithful to you, they don’t value you enough.


A healthy relationship should be respectful, which means you should respect your partner as you expect them to respect you. 

Have due regard for each other both in public and in private.


Romantic relationships are built on love. And not just love by word of mouth; partners should show they love each other. Expecting your partner to love you back is just the bare minimum.

However, it’s worth noting that we all speak different love languages. For example, while some people prefer acts of service, others feel loved when they receive words of affirmation. 

Therefore, the first step is to establish your partner’s love language and ensure they know your love language so they can express love in your language. Otherwise, they might be expressing love in a different language, and while you think they aren’t meeting your expectations, they could actually be. 


Unless you’re in an open relationship, it’s reasonable to expect your partner to commit to you. This means you’re the only person they’ve committed to being in a relationship with. Therefore, they have time for you and validate your feelings. 

And remember, if you expect them to commit and you two have talked about it, it’s also fair that you do the same.

Realistic Vs. Unrealistic Expectations in a Relationship

Realistic Vs. Unrealistic Expectations in a Relationship
Realistic Vs. Unrealistic Expectations in a Relationship

While having expectations in a relationship is essential, sometimes we set unrealistic expectations that jeopardize our relationships. 

Most of what we’ve covered are realistic expectations, as they are not only sensible but also practical, which means they can be achieved. So that’s basically what and how expectations should be.

When whatever you expect from someone is attainable because you can also give them whatever you’re asking for, that’s reasonable and realistic.

However, sometimes we have unrealistic expectations in a relationship, and often, they jeopardize our relationships. Unrealistic expectations are impractical, so they can’t be attained. 

They may also have limitations on the other person’s freedom. For example, while you expect your partner to be faithful, it’s unreasonable to expect them to only hang out with friends of the same gender.

That not only limits their freedom but also makes them think you don’t trust them. Of course, they expect you to trust them, and they start questioning the relationship when doubts arise. 

Often, unrealistic expectations lead to disappointment and jeopardize relationships. Healthy relationships should include realistic expectations.

Are Expectations Good in a Relationship?

Yes, as I said, expectations set the basis for the right treatment in a relationship. Setting healthy expectations is a whole journey of self-appreciation because you know your value and know how you should be treated.

And so long as you are meeting your end of the bargain in terms of expectations, it’s healthy to have expectations in a relationship. You know what to expect because you know your value, and if you’re not getting the proper treatment, you walk away.

It’s worth noting that expectations are only good in a relationship if they are reasonable and not selfish. This means before setting expectations, you should ask yourself if you’re asking too much and if you can give whatever you are asking for.

In addition to personal expectations, like expecting your partner to respect you, certain relationship expectations should be communicated. Some of these expectations align with personal expectations but can only be met through communication. 

For example, while it might be fair to expect your partner to satisfy you sexually, it’s wise to communicate your likes and dislikes in the bedroom, as this will help them meet your desires.

Money is another aspect of a relationship that requires communication. Such things may seem trivial, but they may cause severe damage if left unsaid. 

Is it Normal When Your Expectations don’t Align with Your Partner’s?

A woman sad because of her partner
A woman sad because of her partner

In a relationship, two people with different personalities try to make things work. As such, you don’t expect to have everything in line because you have different priorities and experiences in life.

So yes, it is very normal when your expectations don’t align with your partner’s, provided they are realistic expectations. 

That’s why communication is a fundamental tool in every relationship, as that’s how you align expectations and help each other meet your expectations. 

You should also know expectations change with time, especially in the beginning of dating and then transitioning to the likes of marriage and having kids. It is sometimes simply time, growth, and change, rather than transition periods.

Even those who have been married for ten years don’t know everything about each other. People change with time, and so do their expectations, so you adjust accordingly.

So while your expectations may not align with your partner’s, strive to align them through communication. It is also not a must that they align, but through communication, you learn each other’s expectations, and as long as they are realistic, you do your best to meet them. 

Wrapping Up

Expectations in a relationship are things you expect from your partner and the relationship. You might expect them to appreciate you and treat you right.

When you have expectations, you settle for precisely what is right, provided your expectations are realistic. People say that when you expect too much, you get disappointed and end up hurt. 

However, when your expectations aren’t out of this world and someone doesn’t meet them, you know they don’t value your presence in their life and can leave soon enough before they hurt your feelings.

Photo of author


Over the years, Stephanie has had her fair share of dating experiences. While some turned out great, others weren't so great. She believes that relationships are meant to be fun, exciting, and full of laughter. She wants to help men and women become confident, attractive, and successful in their romantic relationships.