A Therapist Gives 3 Tips For Managing Unrealistic Expectations In Love

Having unrealistic expectations of your partner can lead to disappointment, frustration, and even the end of your relationship.

By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | January 24, 2023

Many people come to therapy wondering why they struggle to keep healthy expectations in their romantic relationships. They ask questions like:

  • "I know it's not fair, but I often find myself expecting my partner to read my mind."
  • "Why do I feel let down when my partner doesn't meet my expectations?"
  • "Why do I have a hard time accepting my partner for who they are?"

If you can relate to these questions, know that you are not alone. Unrealistic expectations can put a lot of strain on a relationship, but with a little work, you can overcome them.

One of the main reasons why unrealistic expectations can be so damaging to a relationship is that they often stem from unrealistic beliefs about relationships themselves. For example, many people believe that once they are in a relationship, they will no longer feel lonely or unfulfilled. Others believe they will never argue or disagree with their partner.

These unrealistic beliefs can lead to disappointment and frustration when reality doesn't match our expectations. When this happens, it's easy to blame our partner for not meeting our needs or for not being the person we thought they were.

The key to managing unrealistic expectations in romantic relationships is to recognize when our expectations are unrealistic and to take steps to adjust them. Here are three ways to deal with unrealistic expectations and have more fulfilling romantic relationships.

#1. Communicate openly, honestly, and collaboratively

Findings from a recent study published in Personal Relationships provide excellent insight into the role communication plays in successful relationships. The research explored the communication tendencies of heterosexual couples and found that those who communicated efficiently and collaboratively reported higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

Engaging in collaborative conversations where both parties feel heard and respected is a great way to ensure that no unrealistic expectations are introduced at any stage of the relationship.

When it comes to communicating your expectations to a partner, it's important to be open and honest with them. It's also important to listen actively to your partner's needs and wants and to be willing to compromise. By communicating openly, you can avoid misunderstandings and unrealistic expectations.

#2. Be realistic and flexible

A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that having realistic and flexible expectations in relationships is associated with greater relationship satisfaction. Alternatively, people who believed in 'relationship destiny' (i.e., believing you're either meant for each other or not) were less likely to have success in long-term relationships.

Being realistic means acknowledging that no relationship is perfect and that there will be challenges and difficulties to overcome. Being flexible means being open to change and being willing to adapt to new situations.

You must be willing to accept that your partner is not perfect and that there will be times when they will disappoint you. It also means being willing to adapt to new situations and to change your expectations when necessary.

#3. Practice self-reflection and self-awareness

Self-reflection means taking the time to think about your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Self-awareness means being aware of your own needs and wants.

According to another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, self-reflection and self-awareness are positively associated with relationship satisfaction.

Taking the time to examine your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors allows individuals to better understand how these things might be influencing their relationships. This awareness can help you recognize your expectations for your relationship and help you identify the changes you need to make in order to improve it.

Being cognizant of your needs and wants is also important because it helps ensure expectations are realistic and fair, thereby helping foster a healthier dynamic between you and your partner.


Managing unrealistic expectations in romantic relationships is crucial for maintaining a healthy and satisfying relationship. By communicating openly and honestly, being realistic and flexible, and practicing self-reflection and self-awareness, you can avoid disappointment and frustration and enjoy a fulfilling relationship.