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Unrealistic Expectations in Relationships


By Jim Hall, MS, Love Addict Recovery Specialist

Insecurely Attached Love addicts often enter romantic relationships with unrealistic expectations

As human beings, we live our lives with certain expectations. For emotionally healthy individuals, expectations are more likely to be realistic and rational -- based on reality.

For individuals whose emotional health is less-than-healthy, expectations are often unrealistic and impractical – and this certainly is the case for the love addict in an addictive relationship.


Realistic expectations help to form the basis for healthy love. One of the unhealthy core issues for the love addict, which contributes to a great deal of dissatisfaction and disillusionment, stems from entering romantic relationships with unrealistic expectations about their partner and how the relationship could be or should be.

Here are a few examples of unrealistic expectations common for love addicts:

  • My partner should always give me unconditional positive regard and constant reinforcement to feel worthy, valuable, and loved.
  • My partner should continually take responsibility for my feelings, happiness, and well-being.
  • My partner should always compliment me and tell me he/she loves me.
  • My partner should be the person I imagine him/her to be- or- the person I want him/her to be (think fantasy).
  • My partner and I should have the same likes, beliefs, wants, and needs.
  • My partner should be able to know what I am thinking and feeling and always know my wants and needs.
  • My partner should spend all of his/her free time with me- never apart.
  • My partner should be sexual - all the time- anytime.
  • A relationship should always have passion and excitement- never boring.
  • When I assign all my attention, value, and time to my partner, he/she will reciprocate.

Love addicts tend to expect too much, too soon, and presume their partner will live up to their fantasy expectations of what love "should be"--- to be the King or Queen; Savior; Rescuer who will provide purpose and aliveness, meet all of their needs; and take care of them emotionally, physically, and/or financially.

Most common unrealistic expectations for the love addict

The most significant impossible expectation love addicts tend to have is the expectation that their partner is the one person (and is responsible) who will provide them continual unconditional positive regard and reinforcement-- since love addicts, internally and falsely believe, "I need you to make me feel worthy, valuable and lovable."

What's more - expecting a love-avoidant partner and particularly a narcissist to live up to IMPOSSIBLE expectations! It is senseless!

How is it possible to expect emotional connection and closeness from someone whose most prevalent fear is intimacy and who enters relationships with idealistic expectations? It is not possible.

Lofty and out-of-reach expectations in ANY relationship inevitably lead to disappointment- again and again. Furthermore, expecting a person to live up to the impossible standards will result in him/her feeling emotionally bankrupt, smothered, and resentful.

It is simply unfair and dishonorable when we expect anyone to meet magical unrealistic expectations, and in particular, it is immature and childlike when holding a person responsible for our emotional wellbeing.

Are there realistic (healthy) expectations we should have in romantic relationships?

Absolutely- YES! Here are a few examples of realistic expectations:

  • To be treated respectfully
  • To have a partner who is caring, supportive, loyal
  • To share common interests (not all)
  • To compromise and negotiate when problems arise
  • To feel safe, secure
  • To respect personal feelings
  • To be trustworthy and honest with each other
  • To be empathetic or sympathetic 
  • To be connected/close, more often than not
  • To have a satisfying sexual relationship
  • To be emotionally and physically faithful
  • To not abuse alcohol or drugs
  • To feel like best friends

Part of our recovery journey is understanding that expectations play a large part in determining the health of a relationship.

Healthy relationships (like healthy living) contain the component of "reality"- and expectations based on reality, not magical thinking.

We cannot expect a person who has a history of abuse or cheating to live up to any healthy expectations when you come along. We cannot expect or demand a person to be who we 'think' they should be; or live up to the 'potential' we think they have. We cannot expect a fulfilling, loving relationship with a love avoidant or narcissistic.

Expecting the impossible is wasted time and energy. You can and deserve to expect the possible-- for YOU to demand nothing less than setting high-realistic-healthy expectations of and for yourself and expecting people in your life who can meet them. And if they can not- you move on until you find people (partner, friends, etc.) who can and will honor these expectations.



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