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Healthy expectations in a relationship

Learn what to expect in a relationship – and what to forget

Pointless arguing in a relationship: Many people do it but most of us don’t understand it and are perplexed by it. Everyone knows a couple who constantly bickers or has conflict – maybe that’s even you and your partner. Maybe you argue so frequently that it’s become the norm. Is this really what to expect in a relationship that’s supposed to bring you joy and companionship? 

What if you could solve arguing in your relationship almost immediately? It’s possible. Expectations in a relationship form the basis of whether or not the partnership works for both people. By shifting your mindset, your relationship can become happier, more peaceful and more productive.

What is the difference between standards and expectations in relationships?

Standards are guidelines about what you will accept in the present moment. They represent what you want in a partner: sense of humor, similar values and beliefs, attitude and perspective on life.  Expectations are what we want to happen in the future – certain actions we wish someone would take or an event we wish would happen. When what we expect to happen doesn’t, we feel disappointed, sad and even angry.  

Standards are behind the power of proximity or the principle that we are who we surround ourselves with. That’s because we’ll automatically hold ourselves and others to higher standards if those around us do. We’ll dream bigger, work harder and believe in ourselves more deeply.

There’s nothing wrong with raising your standards – in fact, learning how to accept nothing less than the best is key to building the life of your dreams. And if someone doesn’t meet your standards, you’re absolutely allowed to move on. However, your partner can meet all of your standards and still fall short of meeting your expectations in a relationship. It’s these expectations that get relationships in trouble.

Why expectations in a relationship can cause problems

We first have to start with the “why.” Why does bickering happen in the first place? The short answer is expectations. What we presume a relationship will look like shapes our contribution to the partnership. Expectations in a relationship are subjective, biased and can differ from person to person. Some may expect their spouse to take out the garbage and they, in turn, may expect you to have breakfast on the table every morning. But if both people assume the other person knows this automatically without ever having a conversation about it, it can lead to tension in the relationship.

The problem with expectations in a relationship is that they’re just like an opinion: Everyone has one – and they don’t always match up to the other person’s thoughts. This is the birthplace of bickering, and it’s where knowing what to expect in a relationship comes into play. When you’re both on the same page about what a healthy relationship looks like, you’re ready to take action and create reasonable expectations in a relationship. When you’re able to articulate your respective needs, you’re in a place to make those expectations work. 

What are reasonable expectations in a relationship?

It’s important to realize that in talking about how mismatched expectations can lead to fighting, we are not saying you don’t have a right to expect anything out of your partnership. The opposite is true: You deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and so does your partner. Expect intimacy and passion. Expect unconditional love and support. These are reasonable expectations in a relationship and fall more under the category of standards than expectations.

Unrealistic expectations include things like wanting your partner to change their values, be the source of all your happiness or go against their natural masculine or feminine polarity. Don’t expect your partner to react or feel the same way you do. And never expect perfection. As Tony says, perfection is the enemy of good.

How to manage expectations in a relationship

Fortunately, there is a solution for dealing with mismatched expectations in a relationship! When our focus is centered on our differences in expectations, rather than our appreciation for the things the other person does “right,” conflict is inevitable. The way any two people decide to fold towels, for instance, will probably differ, but does that make one of the ways wrong? Of course not. Expectations with no appreciation leads to nagging, which leads to frustration, which leads toyou guessed itbickering.

Think about the things you and your partner have fought over. How many of these fights are actually over something important? Have any of them had a productive resolution? Most likely, the answer is no. It’s often said, “We argue about the smallest things.” Consider your expectations in a relationship. Are the towels worth the emotional turmoil? Probably not. Why not spend your time doing something that’s not only productive, but more beneficial to the strength and longevity of your relationship?

Overcoming expectations in a relationship starts with understanding what constitutes a quality partnership. As Tony says, there are 10 cardinal rules of love. 

expectations in a relationship

1. Prioritize appreciation over expectations

Learn to trade expectations for appreciation, and your entire relationship – and world – will change. Instead of focusing on the negative, make a point to value your partner’s positive qualities. This will take you much further in your relationship. They may not have folded the towels the way you wanted them to, but at least they made an effort to do their fair share by putting the laundry away. And maybe they did the dishes after dinner or took the dog for a walk because you had a long day at work. If you pay attention, there’s always something to appreciate. What was it that attracted you to them in the first place? It wasn’t their towel-folding abilities. It was their warmth, kindness and love for life.

“Turn your expectations into appreciation and your whole life will change.” – Tony Robbins

That sentiment can apply to anything in life, but if we apply that same thought to our relationships, appreciation can be the trigger that puts an end to your unhealthy expectations in a relationship.

2. Express compassion

Compassion is at the top of the list of what to expect in a relationship. To successfully navigate any relationship, you want to demonstrate compassion by prioritizing your love over your expectations. As important as it is to learn how to manage expectations in a relationship, remember that expectations are there to facilitate warmth. At the end of the day, it’s your partnership that’s most important.

3. Show respect

Respect is the basis of any relationship, romantic or otherwise. To show respect means to value the other person’s perspective and needs – this is the basis of effective communication. To show respect for your partner, never correct them! Instead, seek a playful, empathetic way to redirect an argument. From there, you’re able to find solutions without creating unnecessary tension.

4. Demonstrate consideration 

Healthy relationships hinge on consideration – for your partner, their interests and their relationship expectations. To show consideration, you must make a point to value your relationship over your relationship rules. This is a real stickler when it comes to what to expect in a relationship, since it’s easy to view the “rules” as the basis of your partnership. But when you value your partner over your rules, this paves the way for fulfilling both people’s expectations.

5. Devote time to your partner

Devoting time to your partner is one of the most reasonable expectations in a relationship. Don’t let your partnership become a side note – take the time to reinforce your connection in hard times. When you create rituals and traditions that cement your sense of connection, you demonstrate that your relationship is a real priority.

6. Never question the nature of your relationship

When it comes to learning how to manage expectations in a relationship, one of the worst missteps you can make is questioning your partner’s intent. When you question the very nature of your relationship, it corrodes trust, which takes a toll on even the strongest partnerships. Just because you’re having issues doesn’t mean the relationship itself is a problem. 

7. Avoid repetition

If you’re in an argumentative pattern with your partner, change your approach. If you don’t, you risk creating a circular loop where neither party is heard, leaving both feeling defeated. Take the high road and bow out of an argument. Take a break to regroup and consider what you’re really arguing about. When you make this a habit, you set a high standard for what to expect in a relationship with your partner. 

8. Never threaten your relationship

One of the primary expectations in a relationship is that there will be give and take and mutual dialogue. Threatening your relationship with ultimatums doesn’t help anything, since it shuts down communication. If you’re at the point of threatening your partnership, it’s time to take a break and rethink the conversation. 

9. Don’t stagnate

Learning how to manage expectations in a relationship is not a one-time deal. It’s a continuous conversation where you’re touching base to see whether each other’s needs are being met. Don’t settle for stagnation, assuming your relationship is doing fine because you haven’t argued that day. When you commit to never-ending improvement, you’re able to build an extraordinary relationship.

10. Don’t compare your relationship to others’ relationships

As tempting as it is to use “textbook” expectations in a relationship as a template for your own, this approach doesn’t work. It ignores your unique personality and needs (and those of your partner) without valuing what makes your partnership unique and special. Don’t adopt other couples’ standards and expectations in a relationship – work with your partner to develop your own. 

Building a healthy partnership takes work, but it’s well worth the effort. Master how to manage expectations in a relationship with a special trial of Tony Robbins’ Ultimate Relationship Program, your resource for creating the partnership of your dreams.

Team Tony

Team Tony cultivates, curates and shares Tony Robbins’ stories and core principles, to help others achieve an extraordinary life.

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