Relationships: Have You Discussed Your Non-Negotiables?

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What’s on your non-negotiable list?

Have you fallen “in love” and much further into the relationship found a few flaws in your partner’s character or behaviors that you judged to be show-stoppers? Did the person you thought you would likely spend the rest of your life become the person with whom you could not imagine spending another night? An answer of “yes” is not uncommon, and for some feels like a regular response when they jump from relationship to relationship hoping to find the right one for them.

Why the common pattern? I would wager that the relationship demise is not attributable to any one person changing, but instead the inevitable collide of non-negotiables. For those not familiar with the terminology, non-negotiables are those attitudes, personal characteristics, and behaviors that are incompatible with a person’s expectations in how his or her partner should conduct themselves within and outside the relationship.

When people don’t take the time to define their relationship non-negotiables, they can’t evaluate their dating partner against them early in the dating process. Without an understanding of objective non-negotiables, the “love” chemicals dominate their thinking and rationalization. As the chemicals fade, the issue of non-negotiables naturally come to the forefront. I encourage everyone, regardless of age, to have a list of non-negotiables, even if they change based on accumulated learnings and experiences.

You may be sold on the concept but unsure of what qualifies as non-negotiables.  First, there are no right or wrong, better or worse answers.  Second, the list should be rooted in core values and deep-seated preferences.  My husband had only two for the woman he would marry: (1) high self-confidence, and (2) a shared faith and love for the God he served.  He felt he could work with anything else.  On the other hand, my list was much longer and included: (1) never lay a hand on me, (2) be a financial provider for the family, and (3) maintain a family life where no one walks on egg shells.  Although the list is short, the conversations are long with regards to unpacking what each of these looks and feels like in daily life.

As you may suspect, many of our non-negotiables were derived from prior experiences that left a prominent mark in how we expected to live our lives in the future. The list encompassed what we determined was intolerable or a “must-have.” If you have not yet written your list, I encourage you to carve out the time to create one. Although there are no minimum number, if you find yourself with a grocery list of non-negotiables, you may be describing wants and not just non-negotiables.

144-2 - CopyAbout the Author: Sandra Dillon is a professional leadership coach with an extensive background in premarital and marriage coaching, education, and mentoring. She coaches individuals, and couples, as well as facilitates relationship workshops.  She has a passion to help people experience outstanding marriages and relationships.  You can learn more about Sandra by visiting her website

One thought on “Relationships: Have You Discussed Your Non-Negotiables?

  1. So glad our “non-negotiables” were addressed so early in our relationship! That should be a “must” for all budding relationships!


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