10 Healthy Relationship Expectations You Should Set To Create the Love You Deserve

by | Last updated Apr 17, 2024

Setting healthy relationship expectations is one of the most important aspects of establishing a strong and lasting partnership. But with so much conflicting advice on what constitutes healthy relationship expectations, it can be hard to know where to start. What are realistic relationship expectations, and how do you set standards that promote growth instead of resentment?

In this article, we’ll break down the essentials of healthy relationship expectations, how to set realistic expectations in a relationship, and how understanding healthy expectations in your relationship can set you up for long-term success.

What are healthy expectations in a relationship?

Healthy relationship expectations are standards you hold for yourself and your partner. They encompass the kind of treatment, behavior, and emotional connection you desire in your relationship. These expectations act as a roadmap, guiding both partners towards a mutually fulfilling dynamic.

It’s important to distinguish between healthy and unrealistic expectations. Healthy expectations are realistic, promote growth, and foster a sense of security and support. Unrealistic expectations, on the other hand, often stem from a desire for perfection or the need to control, ultimately leading to resentment and disappointment. You can learn more about unrealistic expectations in my earlier article: Unrealistic Relationship Expectations and How to Overcome Them.

Understanding what constitutes a healthy relationship expectation is important when considering what to expect from your partner. It empowers you to communicate your needs clearly, build a foundation of trust, and experience the joy of a balanced and fulfilling partnership.

How to Set Healthy Expectations in a Relationship

Setting healthy relationship expectations is imperative in romantic relationships. Here’s a guide to setting expectations that nurture your relationship, rather than burden it.

  • Start with honest communication. Talk openly about your relationship needs and wants. Don’t expect your partner to be a mind-reader. Clear communication lays the foundation for understanding and avoids later disappointment. A relationship expectations worksheet can be a helpful tool to guide these conversations.
  • Examine your past. Past relationship experiences can shape our expectations, sometimes in unhealthy ways. Be mindful of your attachment style, patterns you may be repeating, and distinguish between realistic needs and echoes of past hurts.
  • Prioritize respect. Mutual respect is a non-negotiable healthy expectation in a relationship. This means honoring each other’s feelings, boundaries, and differing viewpoints.
  • Be realistic. No partner can fulfill all your needs 100% of the time. Understanding that everyone makes mistakes is crucial for having realistic expectations in a relationship.
  • Embrace flexibility. Relationships are dynamic. Be prepared to adjust your expectations as your relationship evolves. For example, couples often need to re-examine their expectations when they get married. Rigidity leads to resentment, whereas flexibility allows growth.
  • Seek a balance. A successful relationship involves both giving and receiving. Ensure your expectations are balanced and reciprocal, fostering a sense of mutual contribution.

Remember, setting healthy expectations in a relationship is an ongoing process. Open communication and a willingness to adapt will guide you and your partner towards a stronger, more fulfilling connection.

10 Healthy Relationship Expectations for a Stronger Partnership

Knowing what to expect in a healthy relationship is the first step toward fostering a strong and lasting connection with someone. This list lays the foundation for how to set healthy expectations in a relationship.

1. Feeling Safe, Not Scared

It’s healthy to expect your relationship to be your safe haven, a place where you feel emotionally secure without constantly worrying about your partner’s reactions. This doesn’t mean there will never be disagreements or that love is perfect. Rather, it’s about knowing that your partner won’t resort to harsh judgments, sudden outbursts, manipulation, or making you feel dismissed. Love should be a comfort, not a constant state of anxiety.

2. Respect is Non-Negotiable

Respect is an expectation that underpins the entire dynamic of a healthy relationship. It manifests in many ways:

  • Valuing your feelings: A respectful partner understands that your emotions are valid, even if they don’t fully agree with them. They don’t dismiss your concerns as “overreacting” or “being too sensitive.”
  • Respecting your boundaries: This goes for both physical and emotional boundaries. Your partner shouldn’t push you into things you’re uncomfortable with, guilt-trip you, or violate your clearly-stated needs in the relationship.
  • Disagreeing without disrespect: Conflict happens. But a respectful partner won’t use harsh insults, name-calling, or intentionally target your insecurities during arguments.

3. A Teamwork Mentality

Relationships shouldn’t be like that dreaded group project in school where one person does all the work. Both people should invest in a sense of balance and fairness. Whether it’s divvying up chores, making decisions, providing emotional support, or even remembering birthdays, a “teamwork makes the dream work” attitude ensures no one feels overburdened or taken for granted, and is a healthy relationship expectation to set. It can be easy in relationships to get into a tit-for-tat mindset but instead think about how your contribution can positively impact the “collective we” and shift the system into a place of support rather than negativity.

4. Open Communication (Without the Mind Games)

Nobody can read minds! Communication is the lifeblood of a strong relationship but it needs to be honest, clear, and kind. A healthy expectation in a relationship should be:

  • Feeling heard and understood: Your partner should actively listen to you and try to see your perspective, even if they don’t always agree.
  • Saying what you mean: Drop the passive aggression, the silent treatment, or expecting your partner to pick up on subtle hints. If something’s bothering you, healthy communication involves being able to express it clearly.
  • Receptiveness to feedback: We all make mistakes. A good partner is willing to listen to gentle feedback, course-correct when necessary, and apologize sincerely when they step out of line.

To help facilitate these healthy communication patterns, consider incorporating regular couples check-in questions into your routine. These can create a safe space for open dialogue about expectations, needs, and any areas for improvement.

5. Space to Grow, Not Stagnate

The best relationships celebrate and encourage individual growth. A healthy partnership leaves room for:

  • Individual passions and goals: Whether it’s a career goal, a beloved hobby, or nurturing friendships, both partners support each other’s pursuits outside the relationship. It’s important to allow each other space to be your own individuals, while still moving as a system.
  • Evolving as individuals: We change as we experience life. A healthy relationship makes room for this evolution without feeling threatened by it or resorting to controlling behaviors.

6. Cheerleading, Not Sabotage

Your partner should be your biggest fan! Celebrate your wins, be a listening ear during setbacks, and motivate you to reach your goals. Of course, a bit of playful teasing is harmless, but watch out for:

  • Constant competition: Does your partner seem more focused on one-upping you than genuinely celebrating your successes?
  • Undermining your achievements: Do they minimize your accomplishments or focus on flaws, rather than being happy for you?
  • Stifling your potential: A supportive partner wants you to thrive. Anyone trying to limit your aspirations or make you feel less-than does not deserve a place in your life.

7. Fun, Laughter, and Friendship at the Core

While relationships often tackle serious topics, they shouldn’t feel like all serious business. A healthy relationship expectation is for a partner who:

  • Makes you laugh: Even when things get tough, those moments of humor and genuine connection are priceless.
  • Is someone you enjoy spending time with: A strong relationship should be built on a foundation of friendship. Do you look forward to spending time together, or is it starting to feel draining?
  • Shares your sense of fun: Do you have mutual interests and activities that you both find enjoyable? A relationship shouldn’t feel like work all the time!

8. Compromise Isn’t a Dirty Word

Relationships are about building a life together. Sometimes this requires finding a middle ground. What healthy compromise looks like:

  • A “we” mentality: Decisions shouldn’t always be one-sided. A healthy relationship fosters a sense of “what’s best for us,” rather than a constant power struggle.
  • No scorekeeping: Don’t fall into the trap of keeping track of who gave in last time. True compromise involves a willingness to be flexible for the benefit of the partnership.
  • No resentment: Sometimes you may not get your way completely, but that’s ok! In a healthy dynamic, you feel understood and valued even when the decision doesn’t favor you 100%. Lingering resentment is a sign that compromise needs work.

9. Support Without Suffocation

Being your partner’s rock is great, but there’s a fine line between support and codependency. Expect your partner to:

  • Encourage your independence: They should feel confident and secure, even when you’re doing your own thing, pursuing goals, or spending time with friends.
  • Be there without taking over: They offer advice and a shoulder to lean on, but ultimately trust your ability to handle challenges and make your own choices.
  • Accept that you don’t need to be “fixed”: A good partner loves you for who you are, flaws and all. They shouldn’t pressure you into changing your personality or trying to mold you into their ideal.

10. The Effort is Obvious

Love is a verb! While grand gestures have their place, it’s the everyday consistency that signals a partner who’s truly invested. This shows up as:

  • Making time for you: Life gets busy, but they still prioritize quality time. This doesn’t mean elaborate dates every night but finding a way to connect regularly.
  • Little acts of kindness: Whether it’s an unexpected text, taking care of a task when you’re tired, or just remembering your favorite coffee order – these little gestures show they’re thinking of you.
  • Putting in the work, even when it’s hard: Expect a partner who is willing to put in the effort even when things get tough.

For more in-depth discussion topics, check out our list of premarital counseling questions. Don’t let the name fool you – these questions are valuable for any couple wanting to explore their expectations and build a stronger foundation for the future.

Let’s Change the Narrative on Healthy Relationship Expectations!

Let’s change the conversation and celebrate what healthy, fulfilling relationships look like. Having a better understanding of what healthy relationship expectations look like can be a springboard for reflection, a way to assess your current relationship, or simply plant a positive seed for the kind of love you deserve.

Remember:

  • Expectations are a compass, not a checklist. Every relationship is different. Some of these points may resonate more deeply depending on your personality, past experiences, and priorities.
  • Don’t settle for less! These are not “extras,” but the basic building blocks for a relationship where you feel safe, loved, and respected.
  • Communicate your needs. Your partner isn’t a mind reader. If you feel like your needs aren’t being met or your feelings aren’t acknowledged, have a healthy, heart-to-heart conversation. Be honest about what a fulfilling relationship looks like to you.
  • Be the partner you want. It’s easy to focus on what we want from others. But remember, these expectations work both ways. Strive to give the same respect, kindness, and support that you would like to receive.

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