Compromise is always important to a healthy relationship. But what happens when compromise feels wrong, and you no longer want to negotiate? What are the non-negotiables for your relationship, and how do you talk to your partner about them?
What Are Non-Negotiables in a Relationship?
Non-negotiables are values and life factors that are most important to you and your relationship. These are things that you either do not want to live your life with or without. Non-negotiables are often considered deal-breakers.
Non-Negotiables Are Healthy in a Relationship
In a long-term relationship, knowing your non-negotiables is a good thing. They help you pinpoint what your real needs are. And they help you communicate, focus, and to work fairly with your partner.
Ways That Non-Negotiables Can Be Problematic in Relationships
Non-negotiable goals that include your relationship are typically healthy to set, but they can become problematic. Through a compilation of studies, surveys, and the project, The Great Realization, Northwestern Mutual identified a strong desire among Americans to pursue their dreams now, rather than waiting for them to happen someday. This compilation sheds light on how people feel urgent about pursuing their passions in today’s culture.
The results from one of the surveys, conducted with people 26-57 years old, identified two goal-achieving elements that we feel can affect long-term relationships:
- Nearly three-quarters (69%) worried that if they did not act on their life goals in the next 12 months, they might never get around to them.
- The top goals that the respondents wanted to achieve within two years: travel for extended periods of time (30%), purchase a dream home (27%), have kids or grow the family (21%), and start a new passion project (21%).
These are huge goals that are often quantified as non-negotiables, which can be problematic when life changes occur, such as finances, health, career, and the economy. They also become problematic when set on unrealistic timeframes.
In the PsychCentral blog post, “11 Relationship Flags and Why We Ignore Them,” Sharon Martin, MSW, LCSW, licensed psychotherapist and author, explains numerous ways in which over-compromising can be problematic for relationships.
Two main ways are:
- Conceding rather than compromising – Conceding regularly can lead to an unbalanced relationship. This means continually giving in (e.g., constantly putting your partner’s wishes above yours to keep the peace, always giving up non-negotiables).
- Giving up on what is important to you – This can happen when you no longer nurture who you are and what is important to you. You give up on your goals, interests, and friendships.
Resentment and feeling unfulfilled can quickly wreak havoc on a relationship when an individual feels that their non-negotiables are being ignored or no longer feel important.
What are the Non-Negotiables for Your Relationship?
As a relationship continues long-term, non-negotiables act as a blueprint. The foundation is set on the goals that the partners have agreed to and the standards by which the relationship is operated. As life changes, the blueprint will also change, but this must happen with equity.
What are the non-negotiables for your relationship? If you don’t know, you may need to list them out.
Start by identifying your values. What are your values and which values are non-negotiable to you?
In her Dare to Lead hub, Brene̍ Brown offers a comprehensive list of values. She says:
“Living into our values means that we do more than profess our values, we practice them. We walk our talk—we are clear about what we believe and hold important, and we take care that our intentions, words, thoughts, and behaviors align with those beliefs.”
Choose ten to fifteen values that are non-negotiables for you and your relationship, and then narrow it down to your top five. Here are some examples:
Do you require complete honesty in both you and your partner? Are little white lies acceptable? What about the big lies, the ones that are hurtful if you or your partner would learn the truth?
- Financial stability
What does financial stability look like to you? Does it mean that you and your partner bring home a certain amount of income? Does it mean that you have money saved in the bank? Does it mean that one or both of you carefully handle the finances and that finances are always an ‘open book’?
What does family mean to your relationship? Is family considered the two of you, or does it include children? Are children non-negotiable? Does family mean Achieving a Work-Life Balance in Your Relationship?
Do you maintain your own spirituality? Do you respect your partner’s spirituality, or must it be aligned and shared?
What does home mean to you? Does it mean that you must obtain a particular type of home by a set date? What are your goals for your future home?
What does respect mean in a long-term relationship? Does it mean that you always use respect when communicating? Does it mean that you respect each other’s personal needs?
How to Talk to Your Partner About Non-Negotiables
Schedule a time to check in and discuss your values, your past agreements, and your future goals. Include non-negotiables but do so in a respectful way.
Talk about this in your check-in:
- What are your values, and which do you feel are non-negotiable to maintain a healthy relationship and honor your well-being?
- What do you want from each value (for you, for your partner, and your relationship)?
- How will you work as partners, as a team, to honor and ensure that neither give up on what is either personally important or important to the relationship? What steps will you both take to ensure that compromise happens (when needed) and that neither partner regularly concedes?
Do You Need Help with Getting Your Marriage on Track?
Sometimes, we feel that we have done all that we can do, and it may feel as if it is not working. No matter how long you have been with your partner, all relationships can benefit from the work that is done in couple’s counseling.
Are you interested in learning more about how This LoveWorks can help you to gain the relationship you desire – with real communication, compassion, understanding, passion, and more?
If you live in Northern Washington state, we hope you reach out today for an in-person appointment. We are also seeing patients via Telehealth.