UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: The #1 Relationship Killer

Unrealistic Expectations: #1 Relationship Killer

Our first Valentine’s Day together, my husband, Scott, bought me a dozen long-stem roses. We have been married twenty-eight years. Guess how many times he’s bought me a dozen long stem roses? Once.

It’s a good thing I didn’t expect roses every Valentine’s Day, right? Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Scott. After being together over thirty-one years (we dated for three), he’s done plenty of “unexpected” romantic things. That’s one aspect of his personality I love—spontaneity. Plus, roses on Valentine’s Day are too much money!

Where do our expectations come from?

Expectations stem (pun intended) from our thought process when examining evidence combined with personal experiences. They usually come from what we’re used to, our families growing up or our personalities.

We place expectations on ourselves and all our relationships—family, friends, co-workers, bosses, pastors, strangers, and even God.

Let’s talk about the expectations we place on our marriages. We usually draw from two areas:

  • Our dating/courtship experience
  • How marriage was demonstrated when we were growing up.

Dating/courtship can be a mirage. Think about it. We got all dressed up and did fun things together most everytime we met. When we were tired of talking or relating, we went home. We faced our financial issues alone.

All of this changes when you are married.

How was marriage demonstrated when you were growing up? Most likely you either saw it as worth duplicating or you’d rather not.

Even if the marriage we saw demonstrated growing up was full of strife and complications, we might feel it could be different for us. But simply raising your expectations will not make for a strong and successful marriage.

Expectations can be good or bad, high or low, realistic or unrealistic. But usually, unexpressed expectations get us in trouble. And expectations based on assumptions get us into trouble too.

When Scott and I got married, we both had our expectations for each other. Many of them were not discussed until a conflict arose. What I’m going to share with you is a short outline of what we’ve learned through trial and error, but more importantly, through our relationship with Jesus Christ.

How to Form Healthy Expectations

The Bible gives us some principles to form expectations and deal wisely with the expectations of others.


I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Openness and honesty first with ourselves and then with others is a must. We need to take a good hard look at what we expect and discuss it with our loved ones.

No one but God can read your mind

When you communicate:

  • Choose an appropriate time to talk.
  • Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be gentle, be loving, and be direct. Don’t dance around the issue.
  • Ask for feedback to make sure the other person understands what you’ve communicated.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Listen and show you are listening by nodding, smiling, etc.
  • Wait for the person to complete a thought without interruption.
  • If you don’t understand something, say so.
  • Paraphrase what you heard so the other knows you understand.

We all make mistakes (Romans 3:23). We all fail ourselves and others (James 3:2), and we must be able to communicate when we are wrong.


The Hebrews were expecting the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Yet, when Jesus the Messiah came, they had unrealistic expectations of what He would do. When He didn’t fulfill their expectations, they crucified him.

Jesus forgave those who killed him (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgives us for our many sins. And we must forgive others too. This includes our loved ones or friends who harbor anger towards us or have unrealistic expectations of us (or vice-versa).

Unforgiveness is cancer. If allowed to remain in our hearts, like cancer, it will turn to bitterness and destroy relationships, including a healthy relationship with God.

“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8

“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26


“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

To live this kind of love is impossible without the Holy Spirit. As long as we are on this planet, we will be challenged to show love and mercy the way Christ did.

We need to remember that all people are different. It pleased God to make us with differences. As Christ followers, we are obligated to grow in love and grace (2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:9)

If we have created expectations for others that they cannot meet, it’s not their fault.

On the same token, we are not obligated to live up to others unreasonable expectations.

If we place all our expectations and hopes on anything other than God, we will always come up wanting (Daniel 5:27)

When we place our expectations on God and the truth of His word, we will always be satisfied. (Psalm 22:26: 107:9, John 6:35)

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.


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20 thoughts on “UNREALISTIC EXPECTATIONS: The #1 Relationship Killer”

  1. Beckie — Angie and I have been married 30 years and your advice is spot on. Gear advice and I like the way you tie in scripture as a basis — especially Psalm 37:8.
    Nice post and give Scott a break- lol.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Beckie. I like the last point. That we don’t have to live up to other people’s unrealistic expectations. I think a lot of women get trapped trying to live up to some made up standard and end up feeling like they’re constantly failing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pastor Lily,
      I hear you loud and clear. Women want to please and it can become a trap, as you have stated. Freedom from the chains of people-pleasing comes from Christ alone. If we set out to live by His example, we don’t need to worry about pleasing others because love is a natural byproduct of living Christ-like.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Once again, Beckie, you’ve offered masterful advice when it comes to relationships. I especially love the concrete steps you set out in communicating thoughts/feelings. We can avoid so much hurt and misunderstanding when we are patient with the other person and show that we love/care for him or her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Martha,
      It so important to let people know our love needs and understand theirs too. It saves a lot of frustration when we learn to communicate using the examples found in Scripture.
      Blessings to you, Danny, and the rest of the family!


  4. Beckie, I absolutely love this post. “If we have created expectations for others that they cannot meet, it’s not their fault.” Amen! The Lord showed me this truth at a ladies retreat years ago. And I often need a reminder. High expectations on each other seems natural in our flesh. But we find it’s unnatural when we walk in the Spirit. For only God can meet our needs and completely satisfy. His filling us up is 100% satisfaction guaranteed. 🙂 Thank you for this!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Karen,
      I often need reminders of lessons the Lord has taught me. It helps to write them down in a post such as this. Another reason to stay “connected to the vine,” right?!

      Thanks for taking the time to bring confirmation and encouragement.
      Blessings to you and yours!


  5. Marriage is fun. I actually goofed valentines day up for myself. Andrew brought home roses for me one valentines day… but, we were having money issues… AND I kind of might have sorta… well.. made an issue of it. I know, what was I thinking. I wasn’t… I was just freaking out. lol. Anyways… yeah, didn’t get roses again. That wasn’t even the first time I goofed valentines day up unfortunately… the second time, well… I was just not in a good place. Anyways… Now valentines day is pretty much an ordinary sort of day. lol… but I’m ok with that. Easier that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tina, thanks for sharing your funny and not so uncommon marriage story 🙂 It can be a wild and crazy ride, but with God on our side, it’s worth it!
    May the Lord bless you and your husband with many more joy-filled years together.


  7. Hi Beckie, I read an article about this topic this week saying that they feel this is the number one root in marriage troubles. I can see how that would be true. Thanks for sharing your wisdom. We all have examples of this…some we can laugh about now. Like the time my hubby said, “pack a picnic lunch; let’s go looking at land (we were relocating)”
    So, I packed a red and white checked tablecloth to sit on. I packed french bread, cheese, grapes…the whole shebang. I envisioned a romantic picnic discussing the pros and cons of the different options we found.
    The reality was, he didn’t want to stop. the lunch was meant to eat on the fly–going 65 down the highway. 🙂 The crumbs fluttering in the wind, grapes rolling on the floor…
    Expectations. They can look so different from my vantage point.


  8. Beckie, My husband and I have been married 29 years. Your advice is still spot on–for couples of any duration. I wish I had known the importance of your points when we first married. It would have saved us both a lot of heartache. But, thankfully, God is patient with us and blesses us with the ability to learn from our mistakes. Our journey hasn’t been easy, but I’m so grateful that God has been with us to see us through those rough places. Wishing you continued blessings on your journey.


    1. Katherine,
      Oh, how I wish I would have known in my early marriage what I know now. Hindsight is 20/20, right! But as you have said, the Lord used even our sinful, foolishness to draw us closer to Him.I’m glad you found this post helpful. It was helpful and humbling to write.
      Thank you for taking time to comment.
      May the Lord bless your marriage greatly.


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