Funny thing about romantic relationships - people fall madly in love, move in together or get married, and settle down for what they believe will be a lifetime. Given that the divorce rate is at about 50% (and we don't really have stats on non-married breakups) a romantic relationship may certainly not end up being permanent.
Some people (usually the rich ones) even have pre-nuptial agreements - contracts that establish the rules if a partnership or marriage should fall apart - who gets what of the assets.
What about pre-nuptial or pre-partnership agreements for romantic relationships? After all, a healthy relationship should be steeped in mutual commitment, plenty of communication, and shared expectations. These things can only happen if both partners agree on some "rules of the road" that must be set in stone - they are non-negotiable for a loving relationship.
So just what are these relationship non-negotiable rules that each romantic partner should agree to? There are seven of them, and they are unpacked right here.
Both partners must agree to be truth-tellers. And this goes for the big and small things. In a world full of disinformation and lies, a romantic partner has the right to feel safe in their relationship. And that safety comes from honesty - the knowledge that their partner will always be truthful, even if such honesty should cause some hurt. Here are some big and small examples of honesty:
One partner really dislikes a friend or family member of the other. They need to express that.
One partner has blown some of the savings at a casino or bar - they need to fess up
One partner has been unfaithful - it's a biggie but the truth must be told. Chances are the other partner will eventually find out anyway. Being honest upfront can let healing begin
One partner is not fulfilled in the bedroom. It's time to have some real talk about sexual needs
One partner feels her lover does not support the goals they have set for their own life. Again, it's time for some real talk
Honesty builds trust, and trust is absolutely essential for any healthy relationship. When trust is lacking, a long-term relationship is impossible.
If your partner cannot be honest in all things, you will never feel comfortable in the relationship. It's time to get out and look elsewhere
This is something that couples entering a serious relationship don't always think about because they are so "over the moon" in love. But not setting these boundaries can cause conflicts, not to mention a nasty breakup.
Each partner has their own goals for personal growth; each partner has their need for space and time to pursue their interests and hobbies; each partner may have a need for time with their own friends; each partner might have goals for financial stability or career pursuits. To make a relationship work, both partners need to lay down these boundaries that the other should not cross.
There are other boundaries too. What's okay and not okay in the bedroom? What's okay and not okay when you socialize with others? What's okay and not okay to reveal to others about your personal life?
All of these boundaries may not come up in the early days of relationships. But as they do, they need to be addressed and the lines clearly drawn.
Abuse does not have to be physical (but if it happens, you are out of there immediately!). There is emotional abuse that should be a deal-breaker in any long-term relationship. Any of these behaviors on the part of a partner should be a sign that they are not right for you:
They criticize or put you down when you are with friends or family
They find fault with even small things that you do - what you cook for a meal, how you do laundry, how you dress, etc.
They criticize your friends and try to separate you from them
They try to control your daily activities
They dismiss your attempts at self-improvement as unimportant
They insist that if you love them their satisfaction should be your top priority
In short, your mental health and your self-love are at stake here.
Respect is all tied up into every other non-negotiable that can be mentioned here. When there is respect in a long-term relationship, it means that there is honesty, there is support for a partner's personal values and goals, there are boundaries that won't be broken, and any decisions made by one are not made without consulting the other. Here are a few examples of this:
Both may have pooled some of their financial resources for long-term financial stability. Neither one of them will make a decision about investing or divesting any of these monies without talking it over
Neither one will make plans with others (friends or family) without both of them agreeing to these commitments
Partners will honor and support the individual needs and goals of each other and their right to a life outside of their relationship, so long as that life does not violate any of the other non-negotiables
A good relationship that has every chance of moving forward and having lasting love is based on equality. What does equality mean to each of you? Each of you has a sense of what equality in a relationship means, and it is important to make these ideas clear going into any dating relationship that may go forward into a commitment. While the discussion may result in flexibility on some specific areas, the final idea of equality must be completely agreed upon before both of you accept one another as a potential mate. Here are some examples of equality:
You will share equally in the costs and the work involved in living together. Now, this may have modifications if, for example, one works, and the other does not.
Both of you have the right to pursue your personal goals and to spend time pursuing them
Both of you have the right to your religious beliefs, to your outside interests, and to your career pursuits. If you have major objections to one another's core values, then happiness will not be long-lasting. Better to break it off now rather than let such differences run their course and end up with a more painful split down the road.
You are equal in all decision-making that impacts your life. Suppose, for example, that one partner has been offered a job in another town or state. Both of you must decide about your future together and must include such critical things as where you live, if you plan on children, if you will purchase a home, and any other major matter.
In the rush of new love, couples are often willing to overlook some incompatibilities they may have. Some of these are not deal-breakers, such as diets, fashion choices, and such. After all, every person has the right to decide on these small life choices.
But there are core values that every person has as well. And most importantly, every person has some core values about which they are passionate and uncompromising. Before you jump into a serious relationship with another person, it will be important to explore those values to see if you are both feeling the same way about them. Here are some examples of core values that most people have:
Religious or spiritual beliefs: These may range from strict religious affiliation to a more generalized spiritual belief system. But if one partner is passionate about their spirituality and the other isn't, it could spell trouble ahead.
Physical Fitness: Yes, one person thinks fitness is absolutely essential not just for themselves but for their partners too. It is a core value, and they want a partner who feels the same way.
Empathy for Others: this is one of those qualities that can easily be observed, even in a short period of time. If one partner strongly believes in kindness and understanding and is patient with others (e.g., wait-staff, store clerks), and the other doesn't seem to have these qualities, the result will be criticism and arguments.
Political and Social Views: Lots of people are passionate about their views on local, national, and international affairs and have very strong opinions. They also may be passionate about certain social causes - the climate crisis, LGBTQ+ equality, poverty, unequal justice, for example - and if your love interest does not share your views or holds the opposite ones, your ability to make the relationship work is doomed.
Before you move headlong into a partnership, make sure that your new relationship shares the same important qualities.
When two people genuinely love one another, they must be able to depend on each other, both in physical and emotional ways. This is an important quality, and it means accepting responsibility for each other's well-being and happiness.
Can you count on each other to be where they say they will be when they say they will be there? Or do they leave you waiting and wondering without even a phone call? This is a sign of selfishness and lack of empathy and can create a situation that carries over into other aspects of your lives together. Another minor, but often significant sign of lack of dependability might include such things as agreeing to share in household expenses and chores and then not following through. This will create tension and disagreements.
How much support will you get from your significant other and give to that person during the hard times? How much support will you get and give when either of you faces crises in your personal or professional life? How much support will you get and give when either of you is not satisfied with all the aspects of your lives together? If you can't count on your love to help you work through all of these things and you are not willing to do the same, then your partnership is in trouble.
You may actually have more than just these seven. But they are a starting point for you to consider those things that you cannot compromise on when it comes to a love relationship that you want to be permanent. Above all, you do not want to get into a situation that is unhealthy for you or your significant other. As Kemi Sogunle, clinical psychologist and relationship coach says, "Staying in an unhealthy relationship that robs you of peace of mind, is not being loyal. It is choosing to hurt yourself mentally, emotionally and sometimes, physically." This applies to both of you.
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