Skip to main content

Part 1: Are My Expectations Too High?

Jonathan Riley

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are” – Donald Miller

Navigating our culture’s mixed messages can often feel like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. We’re praised for not settling for less, yet asking for emotional support is often viewed as a weakness. This puts us in a tricky spot: Is it really settling if we stay in a relationship where our emotional needs are continually ignored? Are we being too needy? If we stick with someone who genuinely tries to meet our emotional needs but sometimes falls short, are we still settling, or are we just asking for too much?

These seemingly simple questions lead us down the complicated path of determining the line between healthy and unhealthy expectations in our relationships. A popular narrative in our society often casts high expectations as a negative trait – a sign of being excessively selective, self-centered, or burdensome. While in some cases, this portrayal may hold true, it’s critical to understand the nuances involved. For instance, what may seem like high expectations could simply be reasonable requests that are being sidelined by a manipulative person.

If you frequently feel misunderstood, isolated, and without support, it may be time to consider your emotional needs and the state of your current relationships. Often, the charge of “having too high of expectations” arises from a subconscious realm filled with unresolved past traumas. These unaddressed wounds are unwittingly projected onto our current relationships, leading to situations where we set lofty expectations for others.

This subconscious environment may breed insecurities, causing you to be overly critical of others, whether you’re dating or in long-term relationships. You might find yourself being easily put off by potential partners or expecting them to tick off an exhaustive list of criteria. Alternatively, you might develop a tendency to seek substantial comfort and security from your partners, a pattern often rooted in unmet childhood needs stemming from experiences of neglect, abandonment, or abuse.

Regrettably, these subconscious processes tend to work against us, triggering a self-fulfilling prophecy of disappointment and rejection. This can start a vicious cycle that causes internal turmoil and puts a strain on our relationships. You may find yourself caught in a whirlwind of negative emotions, changing between guilt, anger, resentment, and depression, trapped in a crippling cycle of loneliness and disappointment.

So, how can we identify if our expectations are disproportionately high in a manner that’s harmful to our emotional wellbeing and relationship health?

Here are some potential red flags to consider:

  • You have a past marked by painful experiences that you’ve yet to fully address or overcome.
  • You find yourself frequently disappointed with others, more often overlooking their efforts and focusing on their shortcomings.
  • Feelings of disrespect and disregard are common companions in your interactions with others.
  • You’re regularly repulsed by people’s attitudes or actions, viewing most people through a lens of disgust.
  • Compassion is often a scarce commodity, especially towards those who’ve hurt you or acted in a way you consider “wrong.”
  • You’re prone to judge others harshly and are excessively self-critical.
  • You grapple with self-soothing, finding it difficult to rationalize or quell fears of rejection, abandonment, or non-acceptance.
  • Comfort seems like a distant dream, even when you articulate your needs explicitly.
  • Happiness feels elusive and short-lived, making it difficult to cherish joyful moments.
  • You’re a perfectionist at heart, expecting others to match your exacting standards.
  • You believe others should behave according to your wishes, leading to friction and discontent.
  • Forgiveness and empathy are challenges, as giving people the benefit of the doubt doesn’t come naturally to you.
  • Feelings of resentment and anger towards others.
  • You expect people to mirror your treatment of them, creating unrealistic reciprocity standards.
  • You’re prone to nit-picking and find it hard to let go of issues.
  • You harbor beliefs in the existence of a perfect relationship, setting unrealistic relationship goals.
  • You rarely give yourself the grace of making mistakes or having off days.

To sum up, high expectations in relationships aren’t inherently harmful, but they can become so if rooted in unresolved traumas or if they are persistently unfulfilled. If the above indicators resonate with you, reflect on your emotional needs and healing processes. Aim for supportive, understanding relationships built on empathy, compassion, and reasonable expectations. Your emotional wellbeing and the health of your relationships are invaluable.

Untangling the intricate web of emotional needs and expectations in relationships often requires professional help. At My Practice Counselling Melbourne, we provide the support you need to navigate these challenging terrains. We assist you with grappling with high expectations and the emotional distress that accompanies it. Our objective is to help you understand your needs better, fostering healthier and more fulfilling relationships.