In this study, we investigated the association between clients’ initial outcome expectations and their subsequent perceptions of the expanded therapeutic alliance. Romantic partners (N = 252) who received at least four sessions of systemic couple therapy from thirty-one therapists from the Marriage and Family Therapy Practice Research Network (Johnson et al., 2017; www.mft-prn.net) completed an outcome expectation measure before session 1 and a therapeutic alliance measure before session 4. Results showed a strong association between expectations and alliance (r = 0.51). While fourteen per cent of the variability in session 4 alliance scores was uniquely attributable to therapists, 31.6 per cent of the variability in the expectations/alliance association was uniquely attributable to couples, with only 6.1 per cent uniquely attributable to individual clients. Taken together, these results suggest that, while some therapists are better at developing strong alliances, couple and client factors associated with expectations for therapy set the stage for how the expanded alliance develops.