Expecting too Much from People?

by Andrea M. Darcy
Reviewed by Dr Sheri Jacobson

Been told you are too demanding? That you are critical and want too much from others? It might be time to take a good hard look at your expectations.

Do you even know what your expectations are?

Sit down and take an ‘expectations inventory’. Write down the names of the important people in your life, and under each name write what you expect from them.

Put the big things as well as the small. ‘Unconditional love’ is an expectation as much as ‘to take out the rubbish without a single complaint'.

In fact it’s the small expectations that often get us into the most trouble in relationships. They build up and turn us into a criticising, nagging or passive-agressive partner or friend.
  • Are the lists long? Longer for some people than others? Do you expect far more from, say, a partner than a friend? Why is that?
  • Can you look at some things and see why the other person might find it demanding?
  • For the people the list is longest for, if you then write a list of what they in return expect from you, is it equal? Or are you indeed the one asking more?

5 signs your expectations are a relationship killer

1. You attract the worst people when it comes to dating.

Have your checklist of your perfect partner at the ready, but can’t quite seem to find him or her? Feel like you attract a constant stream of losers instead? If your expectations are unrealistic, you will be so geared to see what is wrong you’d notice a flaw in the most perfect person on earth. This is actually also a perfect way to keep people at bay so you can hide a fear of intimacy.

2. If you are in a relationship, there is constant conflict, or your partner stonewalls you.

Expectations make you that person who is always criticising other people, even in the guise of ‘humour’ and little comments. Eventually, with enough criticism, the other person revolts and fights begin. And because expectations can make the other person constantly feel not good enough? They might shut down and stop sharing at all.

3. You always feel let down by everyone. This is the classic sign you suffer from unrealistic expectations. Even if you meet someone who at first you adore and put on a pedestal, they will eventually fall off. You seek perfection, but humans aren’t perfect. So you are left always lonely and letdown, unable to see it's not other people but your own warped perspective.

4. People hide things from you.

Friends didn't invite you to a night out? Partner has a secret hobby and you had no idea? High expectations, and the critical comments you make because of them, mean people might not trust you, or will even secretly be a little afraid of you. They might not ask you out as they fear you will upset or intimidate others with your perfectionism and complaining.

5. You can never relax in relationships.

High expectations are a form of negative thinking. Our mind constantly seeks what isn’t working, what if flawed. And it’s really hard to have fun and enjoy people if your mind is busy seeking the bad stuff. Even a perfect weekend away can be ruined if you can't stop talking about how the hotel was a letdown, or the food not good enough.

How can I lower my expectations?

Gratitude is a good start. Try to really recognise what each person in your life does for you. Let them know that you notice, and thank them. Constantly seek to seek how people are on your side instead of against you, and how they are helping you.

Compassion is another useful tool. And the best place for it to start is with yourself. Often all these high expectations can come from a place of low self-esteem hidden behind having high expectations of yourself. How can you be easier to yourself? Treat yourself more like a friend? Notice what you do right instead of wrong?

Finally, it’s a great idea to seek some support with all this. If we demand too much from others it’s often because we felt deeply let down as a child. Our repressed rage against the people who let us down then turns us into an adult who projects those emotions and unfulfilled needs onto those around us.

It’s deep stuff, and can be tricky to navigate, and a good therapist can create a safe space and wise sounding board for you to do so.

Ready to stop with unrealistic expectations and let more love into your life? Book a therapist now at a price you can afford and get talking.

Get a personalised therapist recommendation for help with relationships

If you'd like a therapist recommendation from the team just sign up below and we'll be in touch shortly:

Need a Therapy Session ASAP?

Here's who's next available...

See other available therapists ›
Are you a therapist?
Apply to be on the platform  ›