The Importance of Non-Negotiables in a Relationship

For a relationship to be healthy and satisfying, it must cover the needs, desires, and preferences of both partners. Therefore, you need to find out what your non-negotiables are.
The Importance of Non-Negotiables in a Relationship
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 03 December, 2022

Being in a relationship can be a wonderful experience, as long as both you and your partner  undertake it consciously. In other words, the relationship must nurture and contribute to both of you, and shouldn’t ever be a source of suffering. For this to be possible, you must identify your non-negotiables. These are the red lines that should never be crossed, and the aspects of the relationship that you consider to be essential.

These non-negotiables aren’t a list of demands you give to your partner. Nor are they a series of requests that you give them or certain conditions that you impose on them. On the contrary, they’re the points that you must be clear about when selecting a partner, and those you must be governed by when deciding whether to continue or end your relationship.

In short, non-negotiables don’t mean getting your partner to conform to what you want. They mean being faithful and making coherent decisions. Let’s see what these aspects involve and how you can identify yours.

couple talking
Non-negotiables are necessary to enjoy a relationship.

Non-negotiables in a relationship

As we mentioned earlier, non-negotiables are those aspects that are essential if you’re to enjoy your life together. Some of them are extremely common. In fact, they’re the basic principles of humanity, respect, and coexistence (even though we often overlook them). Others are individual and refer to each partner’s own scale of values.

Let’s start by looking at some examples of the red lines that should never be crossed:

Sincerity

Honesty is essential for building trust in a relationship and feeling safe and connected. If your partner lies, hides information, or distorts it, it can cause you high levels of stress and keep you constantly on your toes.

When this happens, you feel jealous and distrustful and suffering becomes more prevalent in your relationship than enjoyment. If you don’t want this to happen, sincerity must be a maxim that must always be respected.

Respect

Respect implies consideration for other people. It’s manifested by treating others with dignity and value. Physical  or verbal aggression, humiliation, blackmail, or threats have no place in a relationship. Neither does indifference or contempt.

Regardless of the context (even in the middle of an argument) and the degree of commitment you have, you always deserve to be treated with humanity and you should accept no less.

Empathy

Empathy refers to the ability to connect with the mental and emotional world of another. In a relationship, it means stepping out of your own shoes for a moment into those of your partner. This is a fundamental process. That said, it doesn’t always occur. However, if you want to bond with your partner it’s essential.

In a relationship, you must feel listened to, cared for, accompanied, and supported. It’s important that your partner knows how to validate your emotions, that they don’t minimize them, and that they stay by your side even when you’re at your lowest. Although this may sound like a privilege, it’s a basic matter, and you shouldn’t ever tolerate its absence.

Assertiveness

Finally, when choosing a partner, you should prioritize their emotional maturity and communication skills.  Indeed, the person with whom you’re going to share your life should know how to express their opinions, needs, and desires when it’s necessary to do so and in an appropriate way. They should be willing to listen, negotiate, compromise, and calmly resolve conflicts. This skill will avoid the kinds of misunderstandings, arguments, and hidden frustrations that end up wearing you both down.

What are your non-negotiables?

As well as these basic non-negotiables, there are others that are exclusive to each individual. They depend on your own scale of values, personal needs, and preferences. They’re not whims, but elements that you really need in your partner if you’re to feel an affinity for them and be able to build a life together.

Here are some common non-negotiables.

The language of love

Each individual expresses and wishes to receive love in a different way. Some people are really physical, while others long for and appreciate words of love. Others might express their affection by making life easier for their partner.

It’s important to identify your own language of love and communicate it to your partner. You must also know theirs. Remember that there are many ways to show love, and knowing the preferred methods of you both will ensure you feel loved.

Ideology

Ideology is a point that can unite or divide a couple. For this reason, it’s advisable to look for a partner who’s in tune with you. For instance, a really logical and scientific person will probably end up clashing with someone who’s really spiritual. The same happens with political or religious ideologies.

Commitment and type of relationship

You should also consider the degree of commitment you want and the type of relationship. For example, a monogamous relationship isn’t the same as an open one. And a short-term lighthearted relationship is completely different from one with the view to a long-term future.

You must determine what you want and need in this regard, what serves and works for you, and make sure that whoever you’re with has the same expectations and purposes.

Values and lifestyle

Finally, ask yourself what lifestyle you’d like your partner to have. Maybe you prefer a traditional, home-loving person or more of a carefree and freewheeling individual. On the other hand, perhaps it’s important to you that they’re ambitious and dedicated to their career, or that they’re a fitness fanatic and prioritize taking care of their body.

For some people, these aspects may not be too important, but for others, it can make a difference when it comes to admiring their partner and getting along with them. If these elements are important to you, don’t be afraid to clarify what’s important and find someone who fits your criteria.

Adult couple drinking coffee
Having similar lifestyles and habits helps partners achieve  happiness in a relationship.

Non-negotiables in a relationship lead the way

You should take your time in identifying your non-negotiables. In addition to allowing you to be clearer with your partner, the process will help you to get to know yourself better. You’ll also learn what you’re looking for, and what you want and need in a partner. In fact, you’ll have a clear reference point to work from and won’t waste your time linking up with everyone to whom you feel the slightest attraction.

If you keep your non-negotiables in mind, they’ll be really useful. Indeed, they’ll help you to avoid the kinds of relationships you just don’t want. Moreover, if you’re already in a relationship, they’ll bring you closer to a fuller and more satisfactory union, both for you and your partner. For this reason, you should always keep them in mind. Then, if at any point you notice that they’re not being covered, you can confidently take the appropriate action .

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  • Cuervo Rodriguez, J. J. (2013). Parejas viables que perduran en el tiempo. Diversitas: Perspectivas en psicología9(2), 257-270.
  • Chapman, G., & Campbell, R. (2016). The 5 Love Languages: the secret to love that lasts. Moody Publishers.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.