Why it’s Good to Have Expectations in Your Relationship

Have you ever heard of the “nocebo effect”?  No?  Me neither.

Have you heard of the “placebo effect”?  It’s the phenomenon where if you believe you are being treated for something, you feel the effects of it.  For example, if you are told the pill you are taking will cure your headache, you take it and assume your headache will go away.  When it does go away, you think nothing of it, except when you are told the pill you took is a sugar pill.  That’s the placebo effect.

Well, apparently the same goes for the opposite of the placebo effect – the nocebo effect.  If you believe that something is not going to work, it doesn’t.  If you are told the aspirin you are about to take is a dud and won’t work, it doesn’t – even if it’s the same kind of aspirin you always take for your headaches.

Can you imagine how the nocebo effect could affect your relationship?

Let’s say the laundry is starting to pile up in the back room. You go to bed with the expectation that your partner will not do the laundry, and it will still be there in the morning to haunt you; this is a nocebo.  Why?  Because if they actually don’t do the wash, just as you expected, you are now unknowingly creating a negative cycle in your relationship. You assume your partner won’t do the laundry, so you don’t have a conversation about how you expected it to get done.  Now every time the clothes don’t get washed, your frustrations continue to bubble up and your partner has no idea.  You are self-fulfilling your nocebo.

So how do you combat the nocebo?  I was always under the impression that no expectations are the best kind of expectations.  If you have no expectations, then there is no way you can be let down, right?  When it’s typed out, it seems like a pretty pessimistic view on life.  Especially when it comes to relationships.  If I never expect my partner to show me affection, how can I create a foundation of what I need in a relationship?

Studies show that it’s actually good to have high expectations when it comes to your relationship.  It’s healthy to have expectations of respect, affection, intimacy, time together, etc.  Being in a healthy relationship means you are getting your needs met by a person you love and trust.  If your needs aren’t being met, and you are under the expectation that they should be met (which they should), you are in a place where you and your partner can talk about what you need.  This sets you up for continuous strong communication and, hopefully, a thriving relationship.

If you receive love through acts of service, it’s important to talk to your partner about it.  Give examples, be open and honest – set yourself up for high expectations.  When you go to bed, assume your partner will wash and fold the clothes because you have talked about how important that is to you.  Then when they do, you can receive love in your love language.  If they don’t, then it’s time for another conversation.

It’s good to have expectations.  It’s your decision what to do if your expectations aren’t met.  For example, I best receive love through physical touch.  I expect that my partner and I will kiss when one of us leaves for work.  My partner and I have communicated that when I do not receive intimacy my needs are not being met.  If we don’t kiss before we leave for work, I feel forgotten.  One evening, my partner left my place for work and we did not kiss – I festered about it the rest of the evening.  But because of my expectation, we were able to have a conversation with him about how I felt.  It’s not to say that our relationship is perfect because of our communication, but we are able to be open with one another and continue to grow into the people we want to be for each other.

What do you need to feel loved?  Share your expectations with your partner.  If you find that there is a big discrepancy between your expectations and your partner’s, then it’s the perfect opportunity to have a conversation. You will likely learn more about each other’s needs, what makes each of you feel loved, and what’s important to each of you. Through discussion, you can hopefully come to an understanding in which you are both of your needs are being met. Don’t let the nocebo effect and the fear of being let down prevent you and your partner from continuing down an exciting path of growth.

6 thoughts to “Why it’s Good to Have Expectations in Your Relationship

  1. Thank you for a good explanation about expectations. I was in deep with my last boyfriend and he told me to lower my expectations. I could not even begin to fathom what yhat might mean except less time together… and dont even think about a conversation. I had another fellow courting me and … red flags and so i stopped it. My girlfriend who introduced us questioned my expectations. I have struggled with this concept and what to say in response. From what you’re saying i need to be in a relationship that have conversations about and clarify… negotiate… express positive energy. 😀

    1. The writer of the article is correct, but it is assumed that those expectations are reasonable. This is where it can get sticky. Reasonable for one person may be unreasonable for another. So yes the idea of having conversations, and many of them is a good idea before you get in too deep with anybody. The expectations between couples can be influenced by culture, upbringing, socio-economic class and status. Just because you have differing backgrounds and expectations of your partner doesn’t mean it can’t work. It just means that you have to really decide how much work do you want to put into understanding your partner’s perspective, and how much work is he willing to put into yours. That is one of the most important conversations you will ever have, because that will determine the level of commitment to problem solving that will be involved in the relationship. The rest will come once the commitment is there.

      1. Omgosh !! You are so right !! I just had a light bulb moment . I now understand why I have the issues I do with my significant other . Thank you for posting , I needed this clarity .

    2. I still think that expectations in a relationship puts a burden on the other person. What we, as individuals, require in terms of affection, dividing up chores, etc., are more like needs. Yes, conversation and expressing what our needs are is great – keep the lines of communication open. But the expectation that another will fill our needs will lead to frustration. What I see in Carol’s situation, is that her boyfriend’s way and view of life were just too different and he didn’t want to make an effort to give her what she needed. Which is fine. But she shouldn’t be afraid of walking away from him and opening herself up to a new experience. I believe that we need to meet our own needs first and foremost. That way, we don’t need to look outside of ourselves for anything.

    3. Amen!!! What a great read.
      Reasonable expectations are only inconvenient for people who aren’t all in on the relationship or are looking for something casual and trying to dress it up to get you to buy in.
      Expectations = standards. Rise up or get out of the way for someone who is willing to do the work

  2. I was always a strong believer in expectations, having a business background. My relationship with friends, family, and lover never understood me until I was able to figure out the relationship terminology. Which is love languages and how expectations create a strong foundation.
    This article helped me to better articulate that information to them. How you expect to have your basic needs met and if they aren’t than you must deal with it accordingly, if the person isn’t willing to make it a priority.

    Thank you.

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