Healthy and Unhealthy Expectations for Relationships

In any relationship or friendship, there’s always some form of expectation due to the closeness of the relationship. You expect this person to know you inside and out, know your next step and meet you there, know what you’re thinking and how you would love for them to act toward you within your relationship (i.e. friendship, siblings, parents, colleagues, etc.). 

The problem with the expectations being put on someone else- without their knowledge most of the time- is that we’re the only ones who come out of the situation disappointed. Multiple expectations should and shouldn’t be put on any relationship, and I hope my personal ideas & experiences would shed light on the damage that can be done by holding such high expectations in relationships with those we love, as well the benefits of having healthy expectations for those you love.

One of my Unhealthy Expectations

A prime example of an unhealthy expectation that I placed on someone was expecting a conversation to go a specific way, and at the end of the day, it was probably the most disappointing conversation I’ve ever experienced.

The conversation was supposed to be me apologizing to this person for being upset at them for (in her eyes) “looking out for me”. I was going to apologize (which I did) for being upset with her about the whole situation and wanted to squash things. I expected that she would say, “No problem. I know sometimes we lose ourselves and sometimes we just need a little breather. Let’s continue our friendship, and pick up where we left off.” What happened was a cold, “I’m not sure what you want me to say. What exactly are you trying to accomplish with this conversation?” while she took a sip of her coffee. 

I walked into that conversation with high hopes and expectations that things would be the same after the meeting. I wanted to enjoy her company, her friendship, her wisdom, but that’s not how things turned out. 

To place an expectation on someone who isn’t aware that it’s been placed on them only hurts the one who placed it there.

Unhealthy Expectations

There are multiple unhealthy expectations that we can put on others that are unfair.

  • Time. We expect others to be there for us when WE need them. Yes, this should be a part of a relationship, but something I learned over the years is that everyone has their life going on. Sometimes they have a ridiculously busy schedule. Expecting them to drop EVERYTHING at the drop of a dime is unrealistic and selfish. Just because you might be the person who would do that for others, doesn’t necessarily mean they’d do the same.
  • Priority. This is not to say any of you or myself are not important. This is me saying that sometimes others need to tend to their family or personal needs before yours. Just because you may think you should be a priority in that person’s life doesn’t justify you being upset when you realize that you aren’t.
  • Gifts & special occasions. STOP EXPECTING THEM! Some people are wonderful and consistent at this but don’t ever EXPECT these things. The minute you start expecting it and don’t receive it is when the disappointment and hurt feelings creep in. Just appreciate who the people are and hold onto the relationship with them. Let them gift you something from their hearts, and show your gratitude and appreciation for their efforts when it does take place.
Healthy and Unhealthy Expectations for Relationships

Healthy Expectations 

Now on the flip side, there is a healthy form of expectation, and I think that all of this goes without saying. 

Any relationship should be expected to be filled with certain qualities that better the two people or a group of people in the relationship.

Some healthy expectations that can be put on any relationship are: 

  • Respect. Being in any relationship calls for respect from both parties. No person should be disrespected in any way and should never feel as though they are less than another flawed human being. Each person has a unique purpose in this world to bring light into the world, and nobody should ever snuff out that light. Mutual respect between a group or just a couple of people helps the other(s) grow and develop into the person they’re supposed to be.
  • Understanding. Yes everyone has their belief system, but sometimes others just don’t understand why this person does certain things a certain way. Well, as someone who has gone without the understanding factor, in multiple relationships, let me tell you that each person is entitled to what they strongly believe regardless of what I think. Expecting anyone to think and be the way I am, displays my selfishness and lack of understanding about where this person is coming from. Take a step back and try to see things from their point of view.
  • Love. This is key. In any relationship, if you love someone, sister, friend, mom, brother, neighbor, colleague, you will easily be able to respect and understand them. When we allow others to love us, we can’t set expectations that they need to meet in order to prove that they love us because, when you take a closer look at that concept, that does isn’t love. If someone truly loves us, we can expect love to be the driving force of all that they do, but also be realistic and don’t allow #relationshipgoals on social media to become what you’re expecting.
  • Communication and authenticity. These two go hand in hand with having healthy expectations in relationships. To communicate is to say, “I care enough to let you know what’s going on in my mind and to listen to what’s going on in yours.” Being 100% authentic with others creates connection, and allows for communication to be double-sided. Just be real in all that you do in relationships to keep the expectations at a healthy level.
Healthy and Unhealthy Expectations for Relationships

Balancing Expectations

After I wrote Big Lesson in Marriage: Expectations, I realized that with EVERY relationship, there needs to be a balance when it comes to expectations.

No, we shouldn’t expect people to read our minds and then become upset because they couldn’t read our minds. But we need to communicate what’s on our mind in regards to the relationship to be open and authentic with the said expectations.

Just because you would do something for someone or treat someone a certain way, doesn’t mean that they would do the same. Each person has a different love language, and I think in doing a little research about that concept can move mountains for any relationship. Some people like gifts, others don’t, some like time spent while others would rather some simple words of affirmation. Each person is different, and that’s something we all need to be conscious of.

We may spend any spare time we had to go visit someone, but we can’t always expect the same in return because they may have a different schedule than ours. 

We may buy a birthday gift, a graduation gift, a baby shower gift, a friendship gift, or a just-because gift for someone we love, but we can’t expect someone to do the same due to a probable lack of funds. 

My advice to each of us is this; CHECK YOUR HEART. We need to figure out why we might continuously feel disappointed in our relationships. Are our expectations in a healthy or unhealthy category? What can we do to change our expectations? How can we change our actions to be geared toward what WE can do for OTHERS, instead of the other way around?

An unhealthy expectation in relationships is expecting another person to read your mind. A healthy expectation is communicating clearly.

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