Expectations In Marriage – What’s Realistic And Unrealistic

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expectations in marriage

To make sure your relationship remains the best it can be, high expectations in marriage must be kept locked away, just like the fancy silverware you said you’ll use when guests come over but end up forgetting about altogether. Even so, since it is human nature, expectations do find a way into everyone’s lives. So the question arises, what are the expectations of a spouse in a marriage? What does the “expectations in marriage” list constitute? Are we expecting too much? If so, how do we find out? How do we differentiate between unrealistic and realistic expectations in a relationship?

To understand what expectations are and if we’re expecting too much in our modern, fast-paced relationships, we need to take a trip down memory lane. By comparing the stark differences between the two eras, you’ll be better able to see just why we might be expecting too much without even realizing it. High expectations in relationships invariably damage them, but if “do I expect too much” has never crossed your mind, read on to find out just how everyone in today’s world might be guilty of doing so.

What Are Expectations In A Marriage?

Think of wives in the ‘70s. They had their friends for long girly chats, and sisters-in-law to analyze what their mother-in-law was up to. They had their brothers and fathers with whom they discussed, understood, and planned their monetary concerns. Some neighbors filled them in on how to handle the family, while another taught them how to make the best pancakes or get the right color on the apple pies.

They had a convoy of women to help with child-rearing duties and they had their husbands to giggle with and snuggle up to in bed. The men too had a fleet of people they shared their responsibilities and needs with. They had their men-only clubs, societies, and organizations where they could seek solace and advice. Till modern times, most occupations were male-only and workplace camaraderie was an often-sought escape from domestic squabbles. And, of course, they were free to share their issues with their mistresses.

Today, it seems as though all our needs are parked with that one lover/spouse. They must be our parents and lift us up when we are down and they must be our man, who ravages us in bed. They must be our friends and listen to our woes about colleagues. They must be attractive to us in the evening and mysterious and romantic over the candlelight dinner we prepared at home.

They must mentor us when we feel lost and they must provide for the education of our children. They must rebuild our faith in a crisis and be socially successful. All our needs – sexual, emotional, and material – must be met by the one and only. We too must be the one-stop answer for their needs. That’s pretty much what expectations in a marriage have come to mean. Are they realistic or unrealistic? Read on to understand the difference between the two and whether we expect too much in our relationships.

Realistic Expectations In A Marriage

Everyone harbors hopes and expectations in a relationship. After all, who doesn’t want a happy and fulfilling marriage? However, sometimes couples fail to understand the difference between unrealistic and realistic expectations in a relationship, which eventually leads to disappointment and hurt. If you want to strengthen your bond with your partner, you have to adjust your expectations so that you are better equipped to deal with the common marriage problems that come your way.

Realistic expectations are those that can be fulfilled. These are expectations that can be discussed and agreed upon. You and your spouse might have to compromise on a few of them but these are mostly expectations required to build a healthy and happy marriage. These could be anything – household chores, finances, sexual intimacy, trust, mutual respect, supporting each other’s goals, shared values, parenting, etc. Here is a list of realistic expectations in marriage:

  • Share responsibilities: A marriage is a partnership. Never forget that. Both partners need to take initiative and put in an equal amount of effort to make it work. It should not be the responsibility of only one partner to manage everything, be it household chores, finances, or children. Share your duties and responsibilities
  • Trust and respect each other: This should be on the top of your list of realistic expectations in marriage. Mutual respect and trust are crucial and a solid foundation for any marriage. Any marriage that lacks these two crucial elements will cease to exist or turn into a toxic relationship for either one or both partners
  • Agree to disagree: Just because you’re partners doesn’t mean that you have to agree on everything. It is practically impossible for two people to agree on everything. But what is possible is to respect and accept your differences. Respect your partner’s opinion even if you disagree with it. Don’t dismiss or shoot them down. You each have your own mind and that’s okay
  • Support each other: Be supportive of each other’s dreams, goals, and ambitions no matter how different they might be from your own. That’s what an equal and healthy relationship looks like. Encourage each other to chase your dreams. Be that pillar of support that you are expected to be, that your spouse can lean on when the going gets tough
  • Show love and affection: This is again one of the most important marriage expectations. Sometimes, spouses forget to tell each other how important they are to them or how much they love them. Verbal affirmation of love and affection strengthens the bond between couples. Just a simple “I love you” can work wonders
  • Be happy and content on your own: Always remember that you have a life outside of your marriage. Besides your spouse, there are other important people and things in your life too – friends, work, family, colleagues, and most importantly, you. Be responsible for your own happiness. You must feel content and whole on your own

A healthy marriage is based on mutual love, respect, trust, and commitment. Partners want the best for each other and themselves. You should be able to grow individually as well as as a couple, and trust and rely on one another. Realistic expectations in a marriage include knowing that you stand as one unit in the face of conflict and changes. It is the faith in one another to communicate and arrive at a mutual understanding during disagreements. It is sharing the same set of beliefs, values, and ethics. It is honoring and respecting each other with all your flaws and imperfections.

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Are We Expecting Too Much In Our Relationships?

When modern relationships are compared with love in the 70s, it’s clear to see that expectations of a spouse have changed without us having much say in the matter. “I don’t expect too much from my relationship at all,” you might have thought, but without even knowing it our expectations in relationships have skyrocketed.

Dr. Salony Priya, a marriage therapist based in Calcutta, cited single- or two-child families with extra-doting parents as one of the attitudinal issues in contemporary marriages. She says, “Emotional skills are extremely important: handling your own emotions and trying to get a sense of your partner’s. Now, especially in urban India, we have this new generation of couples with one or two kids. Parents want to fulfill their child’s every single need and desire.

“The underlying theme is instant gratification and pleasure. Besides, these children are seen as the trophy generation ­– everyone’s a winner, everyone is special. This leads to a sense of entitlement, a culture of ‘I want’. There is little or no discipline for poor behavior. ‘Chill’ has replaced ‘accountability’.

“These kids grow up and marry people (like themselves) they love and care for, but no one can replicate the reality their parents have created for them by fulfilling every need or wish that escapes their lips. They have no patience to wait – for anything. They have little tolerance. They demand instant results. This generation not only wants it all from one person, but it also wants a lot more from that one person. We need to rethink our entitlements. The need to be balanced has never been more urgent than it is now.”

As you can see, never has so much been demanded from one relationship. Even if we think we never expect too much, just taking a look at how things used to be versus what our expectations of a spouse have come to now will show us that we all need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Am I asking for too much in my relationship?”

We lived in involved communities, and extended families where religion and elders automatically filled many gaps. Networks and ties were not just expansive but stronger, and people were more interactive in a very everyday, physical sense (not just on Facebook and WhatsApp).

Whether it is the modern city life, compact houses, and schedules or the ideal of individuation that has led to the disintegration of these communal and familial bonds, the fact is that we were far richer in terms of human resources then than we are now. The expectations of a wife from her husband have increased, the opposite holds as well.

Thus, there is even more dependence on that one relationship than ever. We have elevated ‘love’ to extreme heroism and it is crumbling under the unbearable burden. Love is in fatal danger today under this severe pressure. It seems as though “am I expecting too much” isn’t even a question you need to ask anymore, the question now has become how to manage expectations in your relationship.

How can one person address all our needs and quirks? We need a Jinn for that, not a human. “Besides,” says clinical psychologist Kalpana Khatwani, “Unlike the West, we are essentially a collective nation. In the US or Europe, even when couples come together and marry, each still has a separate life in which each does what he or she wants. They are individualist countries whereas India is a collectivist nation. Everything here has to be done jointly.”

Your expectation in a relationship might simply be to experience happiness. But just because of how the world has changed and collectively, we’ve started expecting too much from everything, it can result in despair caused by high expectations we didn’t even know we had. There is, then, no single kind of intimate relationship. Many, many different individuals join together, who influence each other’s lives, fulfill each other’s needs, love each other… for a day, for a year, or a lifetime.

Related Reading: What Marriage Means To A Woman? Let’s Find Out

Unrealistic Expectations In A Marriage

Expectations that lead to disappointment are unrealistic. It’s normal to have expectations in a relationship. But when these expectations seem to be unreasonable or Utopian, know that it’s a red flag and can have damaging effects on your marriage. A study in the National Survey on Marriage in America found that 45% of divorcees stated unrealistic expectations as the contributing factor to the end of their marriage.

Unrealistic expectations are those that are unspoken. For example, expecting your spouse to always read your mind or always know what you need is unrealistic. Believing that your spouse will never change is unrealistic. The expectations of a husband or wife are unrealistic when they assume that their partner will manage everything on their own. Here is a list of unrealistic expectations in marriage that can spell doom for your relationship:

  • Expecting your spouse to make you feel happy: If you expect your spouse to make you feel happy or complete, know that you are setting an unrealistic expectation. You cannot depend on your spouse for your happiness. Your spouse can play a role or take part in your happiness but they can’t be the source of it. The things that make you happy can be different from the ones that make your spouse happy
  • Expecting your spouse to never change: As they say, change is inevitable. It is human nature to evolve and grow. People change according to the seasons of marriage and their experiences. Expecting your spouse to stay the same or be the same person for life or through the course of the marriage is unrealistic
  • Expecting your spouse to read your mind: Just because you are married and your partner loves you doesn’t mean that they will always know what’s going on in your mind. They are humans, not mind readers who will automatically be able to figure out what you want and what your likes and dislikes are. If you want something to be done a particular way, tell them instead of expecting them to always understand
  • Expecting your partner’s life to revolve around you: This one should definitely be on your list of unrealistic expectations in marriage. Your partner has a life of their own just like you. Expecting your partner’s life to revolve around you, not look at other people, and always be romantic is unrealistic. Both of you have your own identities and individual personalities. Expecting your spouse to spend all their time with you is foolish
  • Expecting your way to be the only right way: We understand you may feel a sense of comfort in doing things your way but, when it comes to marriage, you need to choose your battles carefully. Sometimes, it is okay to let go of your way to arrive at an amicable solution. You have to discuss and come to an agreement or compromise on how to deal with conflict in your marriage and for that you need to learn to communicate better with your partner

Our expectations are usually based on our experiences, especially during childhood. Expecting your partner to fix you or heal all your wounds is unrealistic. It is important to communicate if you want to manage expectations in a marriage. Unrealistic expectations can wreak havoc on a relationship. Discuss beforehand what you expect from your spouse and accordingly plan to work on them. 

Marriage is the ultimate act of love and commitment. It’s a partnership where both parties need to put in an equal amount of effort. Always remember that you are one team. You have to come together to make the marriage work, which is why you must build a healthy foundation for it. Improve your communication skills to figure out each other’s expectations and needs. Also, remember that expectations change as the marriage progresses, which is why you need to keep the conversation going.


1. How do I stop expecting so much from my husband?

Without even knowing it, you might be expecting too much in your relationship. The only way to find out if you are handling unrealistic expectations is to have a conversation with your partner. Talk to him about what you want/expect and ask what he’s willing to provide. You know what they say, marriage is built on compromise.

2. Is it OK to have expectations in marriage?

Sometimes, having realistic expectations in marriage is necessary. The problem arises when you start expecting too much, more so if you start expecting too much without even realizing it. Try to keep a lid on your expectations of a spouse.

3. How do you know if your expectations are too high?

Ask yourself things like “Am I expecting too much in my relationship?”, or better yet, ask your partner how they feel. If your partner outright tells you that you are expecting too much, you have your answer. The best way to go about it is to have a conversation with your SO.

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