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Expectation Pitfalls

January 19, 2023

We all have expectations. Of ourselves, others, of the way life is going to turn out. Expectations are important. They help us set standards and boundaries in our lives, and they go a long way toward helping us reach our goals. When expectations aren’t met, however, they can lead to disappointment, frustration, and even anger toward others.

Fortunately, it’s possible to adjust expectations in relationships, and this can be especially helpful with spouses and significant others. When you learn to set realistic expectations for others and healthy boundaries for yourself, practicing patience and forgiveness along the way, you’ll be happier and healthier.

What Are Expectations?

According to, expectations are the beliefs you have about the outcomes of events. Expectations are important for both determining what will happen and contributing to goal-directed behavior.

Expectations are tricky when it comes to others, because ultimately, you can’t control what other people do. It’s normal and healthy to have certain expectations of people, especially friends and significant others. But unrealistic expectations can be a recipe for disappointment and resentment.

If you find yourself constantly being disappointed by others, it might be worth asking, Are my expectations too high?

According to a study in the Journal of Family Psychology, newlyweds commonly have unreasonably high expectations about how satisfied they will be in their relationship over time. Despite high levels of optimism about marital satisfaction, most couples eventually become less satisfied in their relationships. And those with higher expectations see a steeper decline in relational satisfaction. The takeaway? Expecting too much leads to greater disappointment.

Am I Expecting Too Much From Others?

If you find yourself constantly being disappointed by others, it might be worth asking, Are my expectations too high? It’s good to have expectations in relationships, especially romantic ones. You should expect your partner to bring certain elements to the partnership — love, respect, honesty — just as they would expect these of you. What you don’t want is expectations that your partner can’t meet.

disappointed woman on couch

These questions will help you figure out whether you are expecting too much:

  • How would I feel if my partner had these expectations of me?
  • Do I have the same expectations for myself in this relationship?
  • Is my partner capable of meeting my expectations?
  • Have I clearly articulated my expectations to my partner?
  • Do I overreact when my expectations aren’t met?
  • Do I rely on my partner to make me happy?
  • Am I frequently disappointed in my relationship?

Thinking on the answers to these may help you determine if adjusting your expectations might improve your situation.

What Does Adjusting Expectations Look Like?

If you suspect that you’re expecting too much from others, it’s time to assess those expectations and adjust them to better fit reality. This will help ward off the pitfalls of disappointment, anger, and resentment.

Here are some tips for managing expectations to take the pressure off others to make you happy:

No one else should be responsible for your self-esteem, healing of past trauma, mental health, or happiness.  

  • Have Realistic Expectations

Take some time to step back and look at what you anticipate from others. Ask yourself if it’s fair to expect someone like your significant other to provide these things for you, or if you should be providing them for yourself. No one else should be responsible for your self-esteem, healing of past trauma, mental health, or happiness.

You might be better off focusing on boundaries instead of expectations. While expectations require something of others, boundaries are simply limits for what you consider acceptable. Boundaries focus on your needs, rather than the actions of others.

  • Set Expectations for Yourself

Focusing on your own goals and expectations for yourself will distract you from focusing so much on how others’ actions affect you.

  • Voice Your Expectations

Don’t expect people, especially a significant other, to read your mind. Unvoiced expectations will only lead to disappointment.

  • Quit the Comparison Game

Nothing good comes from comparing your relationship or your partner to others’. Be realistic about what your relationship is, who your partner is, and what you want it to be.

  • Learn to Forgive

No matter how realistic your expectations are, people will let you down. Forgiving others for disappointing you will make life a lot easier.

  • Practice Gratitude

According to Harvard, research consistently shows that gratitude leads to greater happiness. Focusing on the positives instead of the negatives in your relationship will flip those expectations on their head, leading to more satisfaction with your partner.

I’ve Adjusted, Why Am I Still Disappointed?

If you’ve spent the time to assess and adjust your expectations of your significant other and you’re still experiencing disappointment, there could be something else going on. You might have past emotional trauma that has led you to rely too heavily on others for your self-worth and emotional health, and unless you do your own work to heal from that trauma, you’ll keep getting disappointed.

Or perhaps it’s time to take stock of your relationship and ask whether you’re in need of a reset. Without regular maintenance, relationships can get stuck in negative cycles, leading to increasing disconnection and resentment. Here at Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows, our Relationship Reset workshop allows you the perfect opportunity to assess your relationship. By taking the time to work on your most important partnership, this workshop will help you see what needs to be changed in order for you to thrive. To learn more about Relationship Reset or any number of our other workshops designed to help you heal and grow, contact us today.