can we make out and pretend it’s all there? cause you know, i’ve been waiting for something that hasn’t come through but it might come along soon and until that, you will do.
recently i’ve been thinking a lot about the things i want and need in relationships (in general, not just romantic). and i am reminded of a single, yet overwhelmingly powerful, sentence that i heard last year around this time. it was almost year ago that i had a life changing week at the Smart Marriages Conference. that i was surrounded by others that feel as strongly about the same things that i do. and believe in my ability to make a difference in the world.
anyway. a very smart marriage therapist said quite simply, “you’ve got to know your non-negotiables in relationships.”
what does this mean? well i’ll start with the fact that they say that people with similar backgrounds and values are more likely to succeed in relationships. and, incase putting words to the not so tangible concept of ‘values’ is hard for you i’ll define values: 1. a person’s principles or standards of behavior; one’s judgment of what is important in life, 2. the regard that something is held to deserve; the importance orpreciousness of something.
values are the CORNERSTONE of relationships. yet, when do we really begin to talk values with someone? once we’ve been dating them for a while, or at least hung out a few times. this social norm seems to be contradictory to everything we know to be important to the success of a relationship. shouldn’t we be basing our desire to continue a relationship on the fact that our ’standards of what’s important in life’ are the same? not whether or not we locked eyes across the bar or grocery store. don’t get me wrong, attraction is important. very important. but why do we treat it MORE importantly then values? our principles in LIFE.
have you ever been asked to describe your values in life? i’m not talking about what you’re looking for in the perfect partner (cause that usually goes something like this- smart, attractive, good sense of humor, kind, successful, etc.). i mean, have you ever really said aloud your list of guiding principles of LIFE. most people haven’t, nonetheless even thought through them completely. only after you have consciously decided what you value in life can you really begin to understand what you want and need in a partner and relationship. (remember, i am NOT just talking romantic relationships.)
we all know that i’m big on accountability, and consciousness of one’s actions at all times. so i really wonder how it is that we blindly enter relationships based on attraction, or proximity, and leave the basic building blocks of importance out of our decision to move forward in a relationship. (so, i know i’m leaving out one of my favorite not so little things in life- connection, but i will argue that connection is created with a basic understanding of one’s OWN values…even if it is unconscious.)
i’m not saying that we leave out completely our values in dating. not at all. i’m just saying that it seems like we’ve got the order of how things should go all wrong. doesn’t it seem silly to create bonds and connection based on something other than values, with the possibility that eventually it may come out that our values are not aligned?
i know sometimes i go off idealistically of how we all could have the perfect romantic relationships, and acknowledge that it would absolutely be very awkward socially to discuss values within minutes of meeting someone. i get that. but, have you ever begun dating someone, and start to like them, to then find out that you have very differing views on something important to you. here’s an example. i have a friend that is very very very involved in and passionate about politics. her friends know this, and many parts of her life include political elements. so, she meets this guy through a friend of a friend of ours. and they totally hit it off. are very attracted to one another. they go down the normal path to begin dating. and then she finds out through a friend that he belongs to the ‘other’ political party. and she freaks. why? cause she likes him. and now there is no way they can possibly continue in her mind. and she’s disappointed.
where am i going with all this if i am NOT suggesting a mass social norm readjustment that includes awkwardly talking values at moment one?
right here: know your non-negotiables. it is that simple. ask yourself what you value. write down your guiding principles for life. out of those decide which of these you are not willing to give up or compromise in any, especially romantic, relationship.
do this BEFORE you start dating anyone. if you are currently dating or married to someone. do it now as a DISCUSSION with your partner. if you are single complete your list of nonnegotiables RIGHT THIS SECOND. before you even set eyes on another person. ever have the chance of meeting anyone new.
why is this so time sensitive? why am i urgently asking you to act? because if you don’t do this before you start a relationship the less likely you are to be adamant about deserving those things, or ‘wanting’ or ‘needing’ them in a relationship.
because connection and attraction are important things just like values. and the way society has evolved these things happen BEFORE any sort of value discussion. and when we get to know someone, and connect on other things the more we begin to believe that if we are not getting one of our values, or not aligned with our partner that it doesn’t matter. passion, and love and connection and love and caring screw with our heads. we end up making decisions in relationships (friendships and romantic) that are based on the fact that we care about the other person, not the fact that we need/want/deserve/value something. and in most positive friendships we often give to and care for our partner (friend or dating) as much or more than to ourselves- cause that is love at it’s most basic.
but that is where love will trick you. if you don’t know your list of values, of non-negotiables (the things you are not willing to give up in a relationship) BEFORE you enter a relationship… love will likely cloud your rationale and you’ll be confused as to what you really value because of the connection and care you have between you.
know.your.non-negotiables.before.you.enter.a.relationship. w r i t e t h e m d o w n.
it will save you heartache, resentment, self blame, sadness, disappointment, and lost connection.
i’ll take you to the movies
yell at you when you’re late
you can sigh when i shower for too long
hold up the bathroom so that you have to wait
invite people over for dinner
make up names for kids we could have had
and when we get drunk, we can get it together
go home too early, everyone will say we’re sad
i can’t believe it’s not love!