Personal relationship rules are created based on personal experiences. Examples of dating rules could be if we don’t meet in two weeks, I move on, or I don’t sleep with someone before we are exclusive. Examples of relationship rules for couples could be I get 20 minutes of alone time when I get home from work, or I need to be told when I did something that bothers you when it bothers you. And, if someone breaks a rule, it is often a critical discussion, depending on the impact; but not typically a reason to automatically end a relationship. I am sure there are a bazillion rules in the world.
Pet peeves can be difficult to swallow but are not standards or rules. Pet peeves such as wearing cut-off jeans rather than shorts in the summer, using prepositions at the end of a sentence, or having weird food issues- don’t keep you from being in a relationship. These simply give us a sigh, eye roll, or ew factor. Ok! They give me an eye roll.
Standards are the things you leave people over. Relationship standards can be unique to an individual. However, some standards are more universal. When someone meets your standard level, it is an understanding and provides equality (or growth) in the relationship. If we make an exception for a standard and lower it, it lowers our happiness threshold and satisfaction level, not the other person’s. You may think that you are giving in because you care for the other person, and compromise is part of making a relationship work. This goes wrong nearly every time if we are talking about standards. Compromise here does not equal happiness.
Three non-negotiable standards
1. The primary standard I hold for myself and introduce to clients is to be with someone who cares. This seems to be the one standard that others benchmark from. So if you need to focus on only one, choose this one. Cares for me as in “has a working give a shitter,” as my friend Elise would say, is critically important and easily duped. People can show a caring act for you to meet their needs. It is really all about their need, not really yours. If someone has a “functioning give a shitter.”
- They seek to understand your perspective, not deny it.
- Fixing things, cooking, bringing things to you, having encouraging words. They help take burdens away. Another way to say it is that this person makes life better.
- They treat you in a way that will not harm you, such as Not talking poorly about you with others, not cheating, not diminishing you, talking about disagreements, including you in plans…
2. RESPECT is the second standard. If you have respect, you also have trust and beneficial communication. If contempt is the biggest evil in a relationship, respect would be the most advantageous. If you are splitting your respect up and trying to make it work, manifest it or recreate your views, stop it. You can respect someone as a parent, professional, or community advocate, etc., and in turn still not respect them as a partner. You must respect a partner’s actions and behaviors to have a relationship on solid ground. Granted, this is a human, so you may not appreciate a decision or a position 100% of the time. However, the further you get away from 100%, the shakier the ground your relationship is perched on becomes. Once you no longer have global respect, it’s time to consider your options.
3. The last standard is shared values. For this purpose, it doesn’t matter what the values are, only that you share them with your partner. If you value a religion, your partner should also value the same religion. That doesn’t mean they practice it. It simply means they value the benefits for you and the community. If they value it, they don’t diminish it and actively encourage you. This is not a way to say that you perfectly align because that is boring. Clones have nothing to learn from each other and nothing to gain in the relationship. Instead, if you share significant values, you aren’t having the vast debates over things where you can’t begin to see their point or comprehend why they value that. The significant values are religion, political beliefs, health values like not smoking, human values like racism and sexism, etc.
Sorting through our thoughts can get a little tricky because many of our rules and pet peeves come from our standards. When I work with my clients, we work on identifying their standards and at what level that standard is essential, and identifying those behaviors associated with supporting the standards. It is a part of being transparent in where we are headed and what is healthy for us. So the investment in time is worth it. Where you place, your focus starts and ends with standards.