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How to Set Realistic Expectations in a Relationship


Georgetown Counseling and Wellness provides marriage counseling and couples counseling to help relationships thrive

Relationships are fun and exciting. They also take a lot of work sometimes. Being able to maintain a healthy relationship, especially over the long run, comes from having healthy boundaries and expectations.


Expectations don’t need to lead to disappointment. Not if you take steps to establish and manage them appropriately. Having respect for and honesty from your partner are simple, but significant factors.

There are unrealistic expectations and realistic expectations. Being able to differentiate between the two and act on the more productive side can lead to a flourishing relationship.

Discuss Your Expectations With Your Partner

Never expect your partner to be a mind reader, no matter how long you have known each other. Whether the relationship is new or old, it can be healthy to identify your expectations with your partner.

Having this discussion can allow you and your partner to identify whether or not your collective expectations are realistic. It can also put the important topics out into the open sooner rather than later.

Allowing you and your partner time to digest these topics can bring you closer and also provide an educated opportunity to decide if this relationship will meet each of your needs.

Have An Open Mind

You may find that your expectations and your partner’s expectations do not perfectly align; this is okay. It gives you an opportunity for growth if you so desire.

You likely come from different backgrounds and upbringings. Working through the mismatch is a good exercise in compromise and can help create a more solid relationship. You may find that both of you are more willing to bend on things that aren’t as important and find a great common ground on things that are.

Being unreasonable in this instance will only lead to disappointment. You’ll face unmet expectations and have a potentially unhealthy and unhappy relationship going forward.

Don’t Be Harsh

Going along with that, when you do discuss matters with your partner, you shouldn’t dictate your wants, needs, and expectations. Have a productive conversation that is exactly that, a conversation with equal weight.

When you want something or feel strongly about something, it’s easy to take on a harsh tone if there is any disagreement. You want to make sure you’re not being controlling.

Don’t Compare Yourself

Society, in general, makes this hard. Between rom-com movies, social media, and talking with friends, it can be quite difficult not to acknowledge all the opportunities for comparison around you.

Just remember two things, rom-coms are fictional for that exact purpose, and influencers on social media have a flair for curating their pages. Avoid that comparison.

As for friends, use them as a sounding board, but don’t compare apples to oranges with your relationships. What they have established as expectations for them may not apply to you, no matter how good it might sound.

Don’t Be Afraid To Pivot

This can be a twofold point. Say you set expectations with your partner and at some point, they are no longer fully applicable. Don’t be afraid to regroup and open that conversation back up for discussion. What once served you may no longer serve you down the road.

Think of managing expectations as a continuous process. Change isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

The other part of this is pivoting from a stagnant routine. Relationship ruts will happen. Have options on the table to improve matters when action is needed. Take up a new hobby together, plan date nights, go phone-free at specified times when together, complete couple activities…whatever suits the need. Discuss ideas together.


If you are having difficulty setting healthy expectations with your partner, or are not sure how to start this process, schedule a consultation with us today!






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