21 Important Non-Negotiables to Establish in a Relationship

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Getting along with people can be a challenge, but when you have to get along with your relationship partner, it can become a disaster when you don’t have some common ground you agree on.

In fancy terms, these are the non-negotiables in a relationship, which help keep you away from each other’s throats and minimize some relationship conflict. 

While you may still fight over whether the toilet seat should be up or down, you know that there are some things you both agree on, which are almost sacred to keeping the relationship on track and safe. 

Knowing what to identify as a relationship non-negotiable is essential to making the most of these sacred points in your relationship. 

When my 20-something niece recently moved in with her boyfriend, they soon discovered the value of having these common points that provide structure to their relationship.

But what are good relationship non-negotiables, and how do you set them? Let’s find out.  

What Is a Relationship Non Negotiable?

A relationship of any kind is based on negotiating what you want. If you want more money from your partner, then you should discuss it. Likewise, there are also some things that are rooted in your core values, which will determine whether they are negotiable or not. 

These are boundaries you won’t cross, and you won’t let others cross with you. The non-negotiables in your relationships help you and the people in your relationships know exactly where they stand. It brings structure, predictability, and accountability to your relationships. 

Known as the relationship non-negotiables, these points in your relationship go without saying as being laid in stone. You won’t budge on them, and your partner should respect and uphold them in their words and deeds. 

Your Relationship Type and How You Decide on Non Negotiables

Of course, not all relationships are the same, and this may mean that one non-negotiable in a particular relationship will not be valid in a different relationship. Your work and romantic relationships won’t necessarily share all the same non-negotiables

How you decide on what is a non-negotiable will also depend on your own personal non-negotiables

Here are a few of the relationships in your life and what may determine which non-negotiables feature in that particular relationship and why. 

The Relationship with Yourself

In your relationship with yourself, you would set non-negotiables that involve your personal values.

You may decide you won’t do things that are against your personal beliefs and morals, that you won’t let others treat you with disrespect, and that you won’t let yourself treat you with disrespect. 

These non-negotiables are decided by you, for you, and because of who you are

Romantic Relationship Non-Negotiables 

When you find a partner, you have to set up new non-negotiables or expand your personal non-negotiables to now include an extra person.

In a mature relationship, you and your partner would discuss what you both see as non-negotiables. Now, you need to include what goes and what doesn’t based on both your unique non-negotiables

In time, those may change as you face situations where your beliefs and values are challenged.

Ultimately, your romantic relationship non-negotiables aren’t set by you alone, and it’s about negotiating these, so you are both respected and valued, creating a peaceful and meaningful relationship. 

Family Relationship Non-Negotiables 

Your family will also discover there are some non-negotiables in their relationship with you.

Perhaps you have firm boundaries on your interactions with them, especially if you have a toxic family. Or you may have no-go areas in the relationship that cover things you won’t let them discuss, such as your personal life

You set the non-negotiables with your family as it’s mainly about protecting you within the family unit and securing your independence and security. 

Work Relationship Non-Negotiables 

Another important relationship in your life is the work relationship. Whether with your boss or coworkers, your work relationship has its own set of non-negotiables.

You mostly determine these in response to the workplace’s impact on your own needs, values, and ethics. 

If your colleague keeps infringing on your non-negotiables, you’d have to discuss these with them or take action to remove their impact on you. 

Friendship Relationship Non-Negotiables 

Your friends are another pivotal relationship that is part of your life. As the saying goes, “good friends lead to great support, while bad friends lead to your decline.”

It’s up to you to determine how you will structure friendships, use non-negotiable boundaries to protect yourself, and what action you will take when friends push on your no-go areas

Friendships can be very influential in our lives, and you can find that certain friends may make you relax your boundaries and cave on non-negotiables, so be wary. 

Casual Relationship Non-Negotiables 

Another type of relationship you have daily is with the casual people in your life. Yip, the doorman at your apartment, the baker you buy a bagel from, or the coffee shop barista you greet each morning when you get your latte are all people you have a casual relationship with. 

How you interact with these people and the extent of the relationship is determined by the non-negotiables you set. 

21 High-Value Non Negotiables in a Relationship You Should Establish

My niece asked me about a few non-negotiables that she and her boyfriend should discuss, and this got me thinking.

What are the non-negotiables in our relationships, and why do we uphold them? Plus, how do we ensure those non-negotiables aren’t broken?  

Knowing what your non-negotiables are, why you have set them, and how to enforce them helps you maintain your integrity and not cop out to pressures.  

Here are 21 of the most important non-negotiables in a relationship to establish for positive growth and security.

1. Honesty 

Applicable to: All relationships

Honesty is often touted as a high virtue, but do you really understand what honesty is? To be honest means to act inline with your character, true to your values, and synchronous with your word.

It means that if you said you’d do something, you keep to it. You are honest, and that’s your non-negotiable.

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Whether it’s family, work, or romantic relationships, you should have clear channels of communication or open communication between you and the people in that relationship.

In relationships, honesty has real and lasting value as it establishes your credibility, and if you break it, you destroy your reputation and people lose respect for you. 

The opposite of honesty is to lie to people. Lying happens quicker than you can imagine, and it’s often down to a momentary lack of mindfulness and you act in a way that’s convenient for you, forgetting your word. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Ask yourself before each action if it’s in line with your personal view on the world and how you see yourself. If not, don’t do it.

2. Financial View 

Applicable to: Romantic relationships and friendships

Your view on money and finances in your relationships is also a non-negotiable you should stick to. If you are someone who believes in saving money, you should continue to do so and not allow other people to jeopardize this view. 

In romantic relationships, money is often a shared responsibility, and it’s important to set clear boundaries on your money views with your partner. Do you share all? Is it true that what’s yours is yours and what’s mine is mine? When this arrangement is breached it can lead to serious conflict.

How to Enforce It? 

  • Be clear about what your money expectations and philosophies are. Write down who will pay what, and set boundaries for paying for the other person. If your friend goes for coffee with you, and you pay, then they should pay the next time. 

3. Clear Channels of Communication 

Applicable to: All relationships

Whether it’s family, work, or romantic relationships, you should have clear channels of communication or open communication between you and the people in that relationship. It’s a non-negotiable that you talk with each other about issues and communicate about expectations. 

Many work relationships suffer because there are no open communication channels, which means there’s a lack of information and poor sharing of ideas and expectations. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • When there are no existing communication channels, propose that a regular meeting or check-in be arranged. Suggest that there is a weekly check-in with each other and discuss what’s going on in the relationship.

4. Zero Tolerance for Jealousy  

Applicable to: All relationships, but especially romantic relationships

The saying “jealousy makes you nasty” is really true. It should be a non-negotiable for everyone to never succumb to jealousy and not be manipulated by someone who is jealous. When there’s jealousy, love and respect fly out the door. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Establish a clear zero tolerance for jealousy policy, which also means you aren’t allowed to submit to jealous feelings either. When someone acts with jealousy, you should firmly let them know you won’t be part of any such a relationship.  

5. Religion and Views on Faith 

Applicable to: Most relationships

Your views on religion and personal faith are central to who you are, and when people challenge this or disrespect your belief, you have to choose between reaction or action. You can get upset, or you can take the higher ground. 

It’s incredibly difficult when someone makes fun of your beliefs or disrespects you based on your religion. It can happen in the workplace, in relationships, and even on the street with casual interactions. 

You should set it as a non-negotiable that you will or won’t react. Only you can know what is the best choice for you. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Stand your ground on what you believe, and if you choose not to engage in senseless debate, then do so with dignity. If you feel the need, you have legal recourse if your religion has been mocked or you feel personally slighted. However, it shouldn’t be your recourse to retaliate – instead, turn the other cheek. 

6. Your Commitment

Applicable to: Romantic and work relationships

When you commit to something, you give your all, holding nothing back. There’s no one-foot-out-the-door scenario. Instead, you are totally dedicated to the thing you have committed to. 

Commitment is about keeping your word – yip, we’re back to trust – and being honest with yourself and your partner. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Ensure commitment is a lasting non-negotiable in your book. This means you don’t allow yourself to do anything that can endanger your commitments. Avoid temptations and don’t open the door to doubt. Use open communication to ward off challenges and face the future with your chosen partner instead of withdrawing because you doubt your commitment. 

7. Respect 

Applicable to: All relationships

Respect is something you can’t get from someone without first having it for yourself. Yet, without mutual respect in your relationships, you will struggle to work together, love someone, and enjoy healthy relationships. So how do you cultivate respect?

When you respect others, you will find they start showing you respect in turn. However, this may take a while to get, and in some instances, you may never get respect from someone. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Respect is a non-negotiable you should uphold so you can interact with people in a respectful manner. Do this by adhering to your own motto of not sticking around for seconds when respect isn’t served at the table. This means you don’t stay in a relationship that’s not based on respect.

8. Cultivating Open-Mindedness 

Applicable to: All relationships, especially close ones

Being open-minded is about seeing the world for what it is, never imposing your judgments on others, and living with acceptance. It’s not easy to live this way, but once you start, you wouldn’t want to live with judgment and criticism again. Working on being more open-minded can definitely be a worthy non-negotiable. 

You and your partner should make this a non-negotiable in your lives, which means you’ll have a much more supportive and understanding relationship

How to Enforce It? 

  • A fun way to help remind each other to be open-minded is to have a judgment bell in your kitchen or lounge. When chatting, if your partner makes a statement that’s judgmental, you can ring the bell. There’s no need for discussion as this is a gentle reminder. 

9. Trust 

Applicable to: All relationships

When you cultivate trust with someone, you increase their comfort with the relationship. Trust brings dependability and respect. It should be a non-negotiable that you and your partner should trust each other, work to earn each other’s trust, and never break trust. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Communicate often about things that make you feel like your trust is breaking. Self-reflect on what you’ve done lately to maintain trust, or have you jeopardized trust? 

10. Physical Affection 

Applicable to: Romantic relationships and relationships with friends and family

When you start dating, you determine what level of physical affection you are comfortable with. It’s non-negotiable that you decide if or when you want to sleep with someone, allow them to touch you, or show public displays of affection. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Discuss it up front with a date, ensuring they know where your boundaries lie. If they push, you remind them what you allow and what’s off limits. Never get pushed beyond your boundaries. Instead, walk away. 

11. Family Matters 

Applicable to: Romantic relationships

Do you want children? Are you and your family close, and you don’t want to ever move away from your neighborhood?

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It’s non-negotiable that you decide if or when you want to sleep with someone, allow them to touch you, or show public displays of affection. 

These are all things you should discuss with a partner, ensuring you both have the same life view on family. Decide what your family non-negotiables are and stick to them.

How to Enforce It? 

  • Family discussions are important, so have them. Ask the tough questions, and ensure your date knows where you stand before you take things further. 

12. Friendships  

Applicable to: Romantic and friend relationships

Your views on friendships are important to your relationships. Do you allow friends to come and go as they please at your home? Are you a “friends first, lovers second” person?

Discuss the importance of friendship with love interests and reach consensus before moving forward. 

Know what your friendship boundaries are regarding money, time, favors, effort, and more to ensure your happiness

How to Enforce It? 

  • By knowing what you allow, you are better able to decline if your friend wants something from you. Be consistent if you don’t give them something to ensure they know where they stand.

13. Empathy Toward Others and Yourself  

Applicable to: All relationships

Relationships can change us if we’re not mindful. If you are empathic, you need to protect this and set it as a non-negotiable that you will not allow a relationship that threatens your empathy

How to Enforce It? 

  • Reflect often, tell people when you are pushed beyond your limits, and if necessary, leave a situation or relationship that threatens it. 

14. See the Funny in Life 

Applicable to: All relationships

A sense of humor is a secret ingredient in the recipe of life. When you are pressured to stop “being funny,” it’s a sign your relationship isn’t working. A job where you are oppressed to the point of losing your humor is a place you should quickly resign from. We are all entitled to our sense of humor.

How to Enforce It? 

  • Notice negativity around you, and when you feel judged for your humor, you should not simply shrug it off. Let yourself laugh, and if you are somewhere you can’t, then it’s time to move on.

15. Positivity  

Applicable to: All relationships

It’s so easy to slip into a relationship that’s negative. Either you’re with someone who is hypercritical or you end up working in a “serious as death” job, and both these are not good for your positivity. Establish positivity as a non-negotiable for your relationships. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • When you feel exhausted by a relationship, consider whether it’s because of negativity overload. It’s time to leave if you are surrounded by negativity. 

16. Establish Priorities 

Applicable to: Romantic and friendship relationships

Are you important to the people in your relationships? A relationship can’t be one-sided. If your partner or friend can’t see you as important and a priority to them, it’s a sign they are using you. They do more taking than giving. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Consider your partnerships. List whether you are 50-50 on the following aspects of the relationship: joy, sociality, work, effort, time, and care. If there’s a serious difference between your efforts, it’s time to talk or leave.

17. Your Stance on Abuse 

Applicable to: All relationships

It’s vital that you have a zero tolerance for abuse in your relationships. A partner who hits you, speaks disrespectfully to you, emotionally dumps on you, or a boss who acts abusively toward you at work are all no-go’s. Set your non-negotiable that you won’t let abuse into your relationships because you are worthy of respect

How to Enforce It? 

  • Anger is one of the first signs of being abused, especially if you haven’t been conditioned to accept abuse. Notice when you are angry in a relationship. Use that anger to track when you are being abused and stand up for yourself. 

18. Substance Abuse 

Applicable to: Romantic and friendship relationships

If you feel strongly about not letting substance abuse join your relationships, then make this a non-negotiable. Say no to partners and friends who engage in excesses and lack self-control. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • When you notice substance abuse, speak up immediately, confronting your partners or friends. If they show no interest in coming clean, leave. 

19. Goal Support

Applicable to: All relationships

When your partners don’t support your goals and make light of them, it’s a sign your non-negotiables are being challenged. Setting goals is part of personal growth, so maintaining these goals is vital for success. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Identify your goals and consider how you would like your partner to support you. If they refuse or make fun of your goal, you know it’s a sign you should leave.

20. Independence 

Applicable to: Romantic relationships

Just because your part of an “us” doesn’t mean you lose sight of who you are.

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Discuss the importance of friendship with love interests and reach consensus before moving forward. 

Your independence is vital to who you are, and it should be part of what attracted your partner to you. Set not giving up your independence or purpose as a non-negotiable. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • While you still need to be considerate of your partner, you should also check whether they are controlling you. If you suspect they are taking your independence, have an honest discussion. Start by giving each other a “personal” night each week to engage in things that matter to you. 

21. Future Plans 

Applicable to: All relationships

A relationship is flexible, and it changes as time passes. Your view of the future and where your relationship will go is essentially part of you.

That view may change, but it should be respected by your partner. A non-negotiable is that you have a partner who supports that future plan. 

How to Enforce It? 

  • Track your future progress once a month to check whether obstacles are coming from your partner or just from life. If it’s your partner’s interference, you should have an honest conversation. 

Final Thoughts on Non-Negotiables in a Relationship

My niece and her boyfriend have made a great start to their relationship because they know that having healthy non-negotiables in a relationship is essential to a cherished partnership

Non-negotiables set the boundaries in your relationships, protect you, and ensure you can remain true to who you are when you partner with someone else. 

Set your non-negotiables and try out these 54 ways to become a happier person.

And if you want more resources on building healthy relationships or recovering from a bad one, check out these blog posts:

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