On Relationships and Expectations

The first time I heard the sentence “expectation is the mother of miracles”, it was during a mid-week service in my undergraduate student fellowship. It was one of those “deep things” everyone seemed to agree upon. We were taught that without expectations, we would not be able to receive the miracles that we desperately desire. However, when it comes to relationships, everyone seems to flip the coin on expectation. I have come across many blog articles, seminars, that advise friends to have no expectations of each other for the fear of disappointment and heartbreaks.  In relationships, it would seem that instead of birthing miracles, expectations birth frustration.

“When we have no expectations, we are reducing those we relate with to the status of savage animals from whom we can expect nothing…no loyalty, no reasoning, no companionship, no honesty, no relationship.”

Should we really not have expectations?

The trending advice is if you want a happy relationship, do not have expectations. However, I come from a different school of thought. I believe we should have basic and reasonable expectations in healthy relationships! Parents who have done a great job at parenting should expect their children to be well behaved, honest and faithful partners should expect trust from their partners, loyal friends should also expect loyalty from their friends, honorable husbands should expect respect from their wives, dutiful employees should expect their employers to follow through with agreements. When we fulfill our end of the bargain in a relationship and do not see our expectations met, our expectations are not the problem, the other party is…

When we have no expectations…

When we have no expectations, we are reducing those we relate with to the status of savage animals from whom we expect nothing…no loyalty, no reasoning, no companionship, no honesty, no relationship. Even dog owners, who have grown a relationship with their pets, have expectations of their dogs. They expect loyalty, they expect them to bark when they see intruders on their property. So, why should we not have expectations from fellow humans who can be reasoned with and have a better relational capacity?

“Having reasonable and communicated expectations is one of the indices of a healthy relationship and we should be wary of deepening ties with anyone who encourages us to have no expectations of them.” 

When expectations birth frustration…

Expectations birth frustration when you expect the right thing from the wrong person

Let us stop for a minute and ask ourselves. Why do we believe that having expectations of God, will birth miracles but having expectations of other men like us will birth frustration? It is because God is constant. He is consistent. He is faithful. A natural man (a person who has not allowed his faith in God to influence his character) on the other hand, can say one thing but mean another, his feelings are fickle, he lies, he cheats, he holds others to standards that he does not keep. In short, he cannot be trusted.  So, I believe the first step to avoiding deal-breaking frustration in a relationship is by carefully choosing your friends and those you eventually let into your inner circle. 

Expectations birth frustration when they are not clearly stated and managed

Except the person you are relating with has mind-reading super powers, when expectations are not clearly spelt out, they lead to frustration. Your friends may assume many things about your likes and preferences when you choose to say nothing expecting them to just know. A husband whose love language according to Gary Chapman’s love languages is “Words of Affirmation”, may keep affirming his wife but she on the other hand, gets frustrated because she prefers “Receiving Gifts” instead. Hence, communication about wants, preferences, fantasies, and goals can help reduce frustration deriving from unmet expectations in relationships. 

Unreasonable expectations birth frustration

The following are instances of when unreasonable expectations birth frustration. 

  • When they are not in touch with reality. It is reasonable to expect to be treated to date nights with your spouse but if you are married to someone who does not earn so much, and you expect that he takes you to monthly dinner dates that cost half his salary, that is an unrealistic expectation and you are bound to get frustrated. If you expect your children to never make you feel anger, that is an unreasonable expectation. Children, especially when they are younger can get under your skin even when they mean no harm. 


  • When expectations are not in tandem with your behavior. It is reasonable to expect trust from your partner in a romantic relationship. However, if you are dishonest in a relationship and you expect your partner to be trusting of you, it is an unreasonable expectation. Trust, like respect, is earned not demanded. Trust doesn’t just come. It has to be earned – even if you have done nothing to break it. 

In my opinion, having reasonable and communicated expectations is one of the indices of a healthy relationship and we should be wary of deepening ties with anyone who encourages us to have no expectations of them. 

Disclaimer: I am not a relationship expert and this is only my opinion. 

4 thoughts on “On Relationships and Expectations”

  1. Very well said Pelumi! I agree wholeheartedly. But having reasonable and clearly communicated expectations requires a lot of maturity as well as self-awareness. Very often, people who advise other not to have any expectations have been disappointed by friends and partners and react by trying to keep people out. How can you build a strong relationship without expectations? How does a person go from being a stranger to becoming a friend? Besides having common interests, what makes a difference is being present when needed and acting according to the expectations we form about them. If I never know how a person will react when I get in touch can I ever consider them a real friend? If I cannot expect a friend to be available when I need her, is she really a friend or only an acquaintance? Thanks a lot for this very interesting post Pelumi, I am looking forward to reading more!

    1. Thank you Khady for reading and for your detailed and interesting comment. I totally agree that maturity and self-awareness are essential to having reasonable and clearly communicated expectations.

  2. Hi Pelumi,

    It’s a very relatable post! I enjoyed the breakdown. My addition would be on clarifying expectations. The next level on that would be learning how to frame your expectations properly. In a case where you want a luxury dinner your partner can’t afford, it may not be that you really want luxury. But that you want to see some level of “extra mile”, attention and affection from your partner. And you may not be communicating that properly.

    I am very much in support of lavishing ones partner with love and good things as Christ does for us. However, you may have a luxurious dinner but still feel disconnected. So the art of learning to communicate your emotional needs and not necessarily “activities” may just be something that would save your relationship.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: