Relationship Non-Negotiables

communication dating friendships Oct 04, 2021

I saw something circulating on social media a few weeks ago about non-negotiables in relationships. The comments on these posts led me to understand how many people are finding the notion of something being non-negotiable based on attraction, chemistry, love, money, etc. very novel.

The lists I saw floating around were awesome, but they weren’t truly ideal fo me or my lifestyle or relationships, nor were they translated easily to many types of relationships rather than specifically heteronormative monogamy. 

Here are my personal nine Non-Negotiables in my romantic/sexual relationships. Please feel free to adopt these boundaries in your own dating and romantic life if you feel it would serve you well!

1. Substance Use  — As the Adult Child of an Alcoholic (ACA), something I am very sensitive to is alcohol use and abuse. Some of us are in recovery ourselves and need to be on the same page as our partner because it affects our serenity and sobriety. But even if you don’t have a trauma history with substances, aligning on what you are comfortable using, when, how often, where, etc. is important. You may not think you need to lay out that you will not be used a sober driver to and from out-of-state cities so that your lover and their friend can get rip-shitty drunk and then be out of hand the entire way home. But. You do. Dating in 2021 leaves no room for ambiguity on the things that really matter to you.

2. Covid-19 Precautions — Speaking of the things that really matter to you in 2021…Covid-19 is an incredibly important facet of life to align on. Choosing vaccinations, wearing masks, staying out of high-transmission areas (there aren’t any in this country anymore, but…maybe there will be one day), testing frequency— all of these things should be fully discussed, and pretty early in the contact. 

3. Monogamy / Non-Monogamy — It happens all.the.time. Every non-monogamous person I know has people who believe in their own exceptionalism enough to delude themselves and attempt to change the mind…and relationship foundations…of the non-monogamous. Or, a monogamous person wants to be with a new lover so much that they agree to non-monogamous parameters with (predictably) heartbreaking results. Get clear with yourself about where you are, and find ways to clearly communicate that.

4. Cohabitation — Are you wanting someone with whom to share space, or not so much? Is that something you are desiring to do without regard to whom would be moving? So often we get caught up in the delicious, all-encompassing love cocktail our brains create when we are falling in or newly in love, and we allow those chemicals to influence our decisions. Resist! Get clear on this before seeking meaningful relationships. There is an incredible delusion that comes from the cocktail that tells you the things that drive you bananas somehow…won’t…drive you bananas? If you split the rent? No. Don’t fall for it. Towels on the floor at their house will mean towels on the floor at your house. You need to be fully OK with the towels (or they with yours!) if you intend to cohabitate.

5. Parenting — If you want to have children, stop falling in love with people who do not share that desire and intention. If you do not want to have children, don’t think that falling in love with someone who absolutely does want them will change their mind or won’t break your heart. Be mindful first of the desire for children, or the acceptance of already-existing children. Then be mindful of the approaches to parenting and children you both exhibit. Do you want a co-parent? Do you emphatically not want a co-parent but do want a lover? Either way, you need to set that intention. 

6. Kinks / Fetishes — First, let’s differentiate between the two. A kink is something that is not normative or is considered deviant that appeals to someone who desires that act/thing. A fetish is something upon which sexuality is predicated; sexual pleasure in general is derived from this specific thing. Consider the difference between “want” and “need,” and that’s a good baseline for kink vs. fetish. Second, we can infer that people’s fetishes do not go away, and should not be disregarded when developing new relationships. If my fetish is a hard no for someone, we will not be a sexually compatible match. I’ve seen several times people sacrifice their ultimate desires for the hope of them going away, or their partners eventually becoming amenable to them, or going in fully intending to lead a double life. It always results in pain and logistical Hell. Let’s just not. 

7. Animal Respect — If you own cats, you can’t get down with someone who actively hates cats. If you’re vegan for ethical reasons, you’re not going to align with a buck hunting champion. This is going to be a point of contention. So are any allergies or phobias. So those questions about puppies & kitties may seem sort of eye-roll-y in the beginning chat phases, but they matter, so get ‘em out of the way and move on.

8. Politics / Praxis — Yeah, James Carville and Mary Matalin have been walking the walk of divergent political opinions in the same household for almost thirty years. They’re also wealthy enough to have resources most of us don’t have access to in order to bolster their bonds. The rest of us with normal people resources need to be careful about building long-term partnerships with people who have political beliefs and praxis that endanger and otherwise subjugate us and/or our loved ones. Especially if you choose to incorporate a co-parenting relationship with someone, your political praxis pretty much sums up what your family values are. If they’re too dissonant, that will be impossible to come together on.

9. Duke’s Mayonnaise — This should be obvious and I hate that it’s not. You should agree on mayonnaise, which is to say that the only mayonnaise is Duke’s and any other substance in the fridge is grounds for divorce and compensation. 


There you have it, my non-negotiables as they apply to my life and lifestyle. If you find them useful as they are or as a springboard for creating your own, I invite you to do so! And…

Another major thing I noticed with the posts I saw circulating is that there never seemed to be a supplemental discussion of relationship Negotiables! All these examples of places where you can choose not to compromise…but what about the myriad ways you can and should come to agreements and be flexible within those relationships?

Flexibility when it’s called for is a big indicator of the success and strength of any relationship. We have to be careful that we aren’t being set up to exclude people who don’t fit a very specific…perhaps unattainable…mold. 

Stay tuned for next week’s discussion on the items you can and should negotiate in your relationships!

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