While there is much to be gained from being open and forthright about your needs in a relationship, it is equally important to take a critical look at their origins and to ask whether your expectations are realistic.

What shapes relationship expectations?

Events in your childhood and the style of your upbringing can have a huge impact on the worldview that you carry into adulthood. Psychologists from the psychodynamic tradition believe that the way your parents attend to your needs in the preverbal years of your life can prompt an attachment style that may persist into romantic relationships. For example, if your parents consistently made you feel safe then you may well have developed a secure attachment style that allows you to feel deserving of love and respect. Alternatively, if your parents sometimes met your needs but were absent or unresponsive at other times, you may be an ambivalently attached person who constantly expects to discover that your partner doesn’t really love you. However, if your parents barely met any of your early needs then you might have an avoidant attachment style that leads to feeling uncomfortable with commitment and experiencing difficulty revealing emotions.

it’s also worth considering how the relationship between your mother and father may have shaped your expectations. If your parents appeared to be soul mates from an outside perspective, you might expect life with your partner to be perfect. Meanwhile, if your parents were more like strangers than you might expect that your relationships are destined to become flat or bitter. Taking a close look at what your childhood taught you about the benefits, pitfalls and nature of close bonds can help you to gain huge amounts of self-knowledge.

Communicating needs and working with limits

On the one hand, it’s vital for you and your partner to discuss your needs and expectations so that you can understand one another and provide consistent support. However, the other side of the coin is the harsh truth that no one person can meet all of your needs. Your partner is a human being with flaws and complexities, and your relationship can only thrive if you find a way to accept each other’s weaknesses as well as strengths.

One of the keys to a happy relationship is trying to adjust your expectations when they aren’t realistic or healthy. Each time you feel hurt or annoyed when one of your needs isn’t met, try to take a critical look at what has occurred. If your partner is dishonest, self-involved or refusing to engage in open communication, insisting that your needs be met demonstrates appropriate self-worth. However, if you want your partner to be able to read your mind or find yourself expecting your partner to take responsibility for your feelings, this sets up a dynamic that is more like the relationship between a parent and child. In such a case, you may benefit from working to understand and let go of the desire to have your relationship make up for what you lacked in earlier life.


“I’m not in this world to live up to your expectations and you’re not in this world to live up to mine.”  Bruce Lee