6 non-negotiable boundaries every couple sets in a committed partnership

I think that the best preparation for a relationship happens when you’re single. 

Most people don’t realize how valuable singlehood can be as a precursor to partnership because they’re too busy swiping left, right, and center on dating apps so that they find someone pronto because who wants to go to their girlfriend’s wedding this June alone, right?

Wrong. 

You can use your singlehood to sit down and really reflect on what you want and need from a relationship; in other words, your non-negotiables. 

Being set on boundaries and non-negotiables now can save a whole lot of heartache later on. 

Having this foundation for yourself and only dating people who meet your relationship requirements will set the stage for things like a healthy amount of autonomy, for example. 

You’ll also reduce codependent habits and give yourself a sense of empowerment and self-respect, says the staff at HelpGuide

“Without healthy boundaries, your relationships can become toxic and unsatisfying and your well-being can suffer. You might feel taken advantage of…or overwhelmed by stress if you feel the need to solve all of your partner’s emotional problems.”

So what are some basic non-negotiables that every couple should set in a committed relationship?

Here are six to get you started. 

1) Safety first 

Safety in a relationship doesn’t only imply physical safety but emotional safety as well. When you feel safe with your partner, you trust them wholly, says Noah Williams from Marriage.com

“You become vulnerable and comfortable with them, as it should be.”

A safe relationship makes you feel valued, loved, and trusted, William adds. 

Musical artist Billie Eilish has admitted in the past that one of the times he felt most trapped in her life was when she was “in a relationship that was very emotionally abusive.”

A few years ago she told British Vogue that her song “Your Power” was penned about that relationship and she said the lyrics were “an open letter to people who take advantage—mostly men.”

You have the right to be genuinely happy in any relationship, so feeling safe in a relationship—both physically and emotionally—should be a priority, emphasizes Williams.

2) Mutual respect is a must-have

Respect is what makes a relationship—romantic or not—work, says Preeti Serai from LovePanky

“Without respect, a relationship cannot last. Although this should be non-negotiable for everyone, it can be hard to admit to yourself.”

This is because you might be comfortable in a relationship, and over time respect can be lost, but both partners don’t see it. 

I think it can also be “the devil you know” kind of thing. You know the relationship is not the best and could use a lot of improvement, but living with it seems easier than taking a stand for yourself and inviting conflict. 

“If your partner puts you down, overlooks your feelings and opinions, or is even rude, it is time to decide if your relationship can be fixed or if you should move on,” says Serai. 

Point blank, mutual respect should be non-negotiable. 

3) You have to have honesty and trust 

You should never have to be suspicious of your significant other, says Rachel Pace from Marriage.com

“You don’t need an accounting of how they spend their time when you are apart. You trust that they will be there for you through thick and thin [such as] illness, and other life challenges.”

Honesty has to be the foundation of every relationship, adds the staff at Well Being Center

“Without honesty, then it is only a matter of time before the very structure of the relationship crumbles, no matter how much time, effort, and resources have been invested.”

Honesty doesn’t mean you have to divulge every insignificant detail of your past or present life, but it does mean you both desire to tell the truth without deceit or distorting the facts. 

4) Reliability is also a prerequisite 

if someone displays these traits theyll never give up on a relationship 6 non-negotiable boundaries every couple sets in a committed partnership

Sometime last year, I took my mom to a medical clinic for a routine colonoscopy. My mother was called in, and I was sitting with my coffee in the waiting room, checking emails on my phone. 

I was sitting close to the receptionist’s desk and I remember a woman who walked to the desk to check in. Since the woman walked in alone, the receptionist reminded her that she would need someone to drive her home after the procedure (because of the anesthesia, a patient couldn’t drive for about a day). 

The receptionist asked the woman for the telephone number of the person she wanted them to contact to pick her up. 

The woman’s response: “Here’s my husband’s number. I hope he comes, but unfortunately he’s not very reliable.”

I remember the receptionist staring at the woman for a second. 

I also remember exchanging a surprised glance with the woman sitting across from me. 

Moral of the story: if you can’t rely on the person you’re in a relationship with, what’s the point?

Reliability is consistent positive behavior you can count on, says Stacy Whaley from Fire Up and Lead

“It means keeping your word, coming through on your promises, and doing what you say you will do.”

I would add that if you’re part of a couple, it also means doing things for your partner that are important, like driving them home from a health procedure. 

“Reliable people are dependable and safe to be around,” says Whaley. “They are easy to build trust with because you know you can count on them.”

Unreliable people, on the other hand, are hard to build a relationship with because you are never sure if you can trust them. 

“They don’t keep their commitments, they are not dependable, and they don’t follow through on what they say they will do.”

5) Of course, faithfulness has to be foremost 

This one may seem obvious but some people might be tempted to “bend” the fidelity rules because in their mind they’re not “technically” being unfaithful. 

You know what I’m getting at: sexting, having a “friendship” with someone they’re attracted to that really goes beyond the lines of friendship, etc. etc.

For many—if not most—people, being faithful in a relationship means being faithful to body, mind, and soul. 

Before getting into a relationship, it’s wise to have a discussion on what fidelity means to the both of you so that you’re on the same page.

6) You both can’t be the be-all and end-all of each other

A couple of years ago, I interviewed Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist Lynsey Addario whose images you have probably seen in The New York Times and National Geographic. 

In her memoir, It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War, Addario talks about how her work was her life and she truly believed that she would never marry because of how committed to her passion for photojournalism was. She’s photographed conflict areas from Afghanistan to Iraq to Ukraine and more.

When she met her now-husband, she said he was as obsessed with his work as she was with hers—something she appreciated.

“I started anticipating his calls,” Addario wrote in the book.

“I felt a flutter when the phone would ring in the early evening, knowing he had carefully calculated my time zone and when it would be convenient to call within my work and sleep schedule. I had never dated anyone who understood how my work and personal life were intricately bound.”

Yes, a partner is an important part of your life, and you theirs. But they can’t be the reason for your existence. 

Your most significant relationship will always be the one you have with yourself. So to feel a sense of purpose and self-worth, it is essential to explore and develop and live out your own passions and interests. 

Boundaries are not always this black and white…

Boundaries are a bit like the wind: we know they exist, but they can be hard to detect, says clinical psychologist Dr. Carla Marie Manly.

“Without awareness or consideration, they can be crossed, forgotten, overlooked, or rejected. This can, in turn, make us feel invalidated, confused, hurt, or all of the above.”

Manly says that when this happens long enough, these moments can alter our reality and affect the relationship that we have not only with our partner but with ourselves as well. 

There will be times when things are inconsistent, when boundaries are crossed, and when mistakes are made, adds therapist Maria G. Sosa

“[But] if these are happening frequently and the norm instead of the exception, maybe it’s a good time to pause and assess if this the type of relationship we’re wanting for ourselves.”

Manly says that with time, you can develop the non-negotiable boundaries to create a sense of internal and external security—essentials for a happy and healthy life. 

“While some boundaries may be rather flexible in nature, our non-negotiable boundaries are absolutely essential to our sense of being honored and respected.”

Don’t let your fears get in the way of setting boundaries, says Manly. 

It’s natural if there are a few minor hiccups along the way. But it’s important to try not to let your fears dictate how flexible your non-negotiable boundaries can be. 

Picture of Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash

Pearl Nash has years of experience writing relationship articles for single females looking for love. After being single for years with no hope of meeting Mr. Right, she finally managed to get married to the love of her life. Now that she’s settled down and happier than she’s ever been in her life, she's passionate about sharing all the wisdom she's learned over the journey. Pearl is also an accredited astrologer and publishes Hack Spirit's daily horoscope.

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