25 Non-Negotiables in a Relationship

What are some non-negotiables for a relationship?
on November 23, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

We all have non-negotiables in a relationship, and even though it may seem like we’re building a long list — it’s actually a very healthy practice in any partnership. 

While some of us have certain ‘icks’ or deal-breakers, non-negotiables go a little further than that. Even though we often advocate for compromise, these are the issues where that kind of conversation doesn’t even come into the equation. 

So, how do you define your own non-negotiables in a relationship? And how do you move forward if your partner isn’t willing to accept these terms? Before you laminate your list of terms, you’re going to want to take our expert advice on board. 

What are non-negotiables in a relationship? 

Whether you’re seeking a romantic partner, or are in a long-term relationship, everyone has some non-negotiables when it comes to love — even if you may not realize it! 

Similar to deal-breakers, these are the things that you cannot compromise on, no matter how you may feel about the person in question. While you may have preferences for your partner, a lot of things are open to negotiation when it comes to a relationship. However, if you’ve decided that something is non-negotiable, you can’t be moved on the matter.

Everyone has a right to non-negotiables in a relationship and it’s important that you’re clear on these from the outset of your romantic relationship. 

While people may have a range of different deal-breakers, and some of them may seem more quirky than others, there are some relationship non-negotiables that everyone should share. 

What is an example of a non-negotiable?

There are various examples of non-negotiables in a relationship, as everyone has different boundaries and preferences. 

For example, some people may not be willing to negotiate on the prospect of marriage or children. While others may not be willing to compromise on certain shared interests or living arrangements. 

Are non-negotiables important in a relationship? 

Even though it may seem tedious to write out a list of non-negotiables, it might save you a lot of heartache down the line. 

While you don’t need to outline your non-negotiables from your first date, it’s likely that these things will naturally come up over time. If your preferences align, it indicates your overall compatibility and signals a healthy relationship. 

It’s important to not confuse compliance with compatibility. For example, if your partner mentions that having kids is non-negotiable for them in the future but you never wanted to start a family — don’t just agree for fear of losing them. When it comes to these dealbreakers, it’s best to be completely honest about what you will and won’t accept in a relationship, or else what’s the point of the list in the first place? 

How do you make a list of non-negotiables in a relationship?

Every person has their own list of non-negotiables — while some lists may be longer than others! 

Whether you’re already in a relationship, or thinking about settling down, it’s helpful to define your own non-negotiables and set healthy boundaries in place. It can be overwhelming to consider all of these things at once, but taking this time for self-reflection can help you down the road. 

Even though it feels like these non-negotiables should be set in stone, it doesn’t have to be that way. As we mature, our wants and needs might shift and that’s okay! However, putting your non-negotiables in place can help you make decisions about what you want for yourself — even if things might change in the future!

You can always revise the list! 

What should be your non-negotiables in a relationship? 

As we’ve said everyone is different, and everyone has different barometers for what makes a successful relationship. 

Even though a lot of things come down to preference, there are a few things that are essential to make a relationship work and should rank somewhere on everyone’s list. A lot of these center around your own personal and emotional well-being, and these non-negotiables should be well, non-negotiable. 

In order to foster a lasting relationship, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important things to consider on your own list of non-negotiables. Remember that none of these requirements make you too demanding, as especially in a new relationship, it’s important to build the groundwork early on! 

1. Mutual respect 

Every relationship should be founded on mutual respect, as without respect, there is no solid foundation for a successful partnership. 

This basic requirement should not be overlooked in a relationship and should not be up for negotiation. After all, if you and your partner don’t respect each other it could lead to very toxic behaviors down the line. 

2. Honesty 

We’ve learned this one since we were children — honesty is the best policy

While we’ve all told a few white lies to protect our romantic partners (“Yes I did remember that we’re having dinner with the in-laws on Saturday”), this shouldn’t be tolerated as a common pattern of behavior. 

If you find your partner is consistently dishonest with you, this could be a non-negotiable offense in your relationship. 

3. Mutual support 

A relationship is about two individuals coming together, and while each person may have different interests and goals, requiring their support isn’t too much to ask for.

Supporting your partner in all of their endeavors is a healthy aspect of any relationship and something that you should not have to do without. 

4. Accepting differences 

While it’s important to define your non-negotiables, it doesn’t mean that your partner has to be a carbon copy of you! 

Opposites attract and it’s likely that your partner will have differences to you, whether that’s due to how they were raised or their own preferences. Whether it means they don’t eat Turkey on Thanksgiving, or always open their presents on Christmas Eve, it’s important to accept these kinds of differences and adapt to create a life together. 

5. Goal-oriented

It’s important to feel like you can chase your dreams with your partner. Being in a relationship with someone who is ambitious and goal-oriented can be incredibly rewarding, as they will likely push you toward your aspirations too!

The desire for drive in a relationship can be considered a non-negotiable for many people, especially if they are very goal-oriented themselves. 

6. Passion 

It’s not a crime to want a passionate relationship!

For many couples, passion is something that they couldn’t live without and if it wasn’t present, would have to leave the relationship. While passion isn’t everything when fostering a serious relationship, it could be a dealbreaker in many scenarios — especially if you imagine yourself with this person long-term. 

7. Core values

Depending on the culture you grew up in, you may have different religious beliefs or values from your partner. 

While some people are happy to be malleable on political beliefs, it’s essential to have compatible core values. After all, if you can’t align with your significant other on a moral level, it’s very difficult to proceed with the relationship.

“Oftentimes, individuals might feel like they are arguing about core values when it is really just a preference, something you like, such as fishing,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, a licensed marriage and family therapist and In-House Expert at Paired.

“The deeper core values would be feeling connected to the earth, being able to discuss climate change, and being proactive about humanly treating animals. So you both don’t need to know how to fish, but you desire to know you both respect fish and the planet, even if you are catching them. 

“Why is this distinction important? Well, core values are the deeper drivers around many of our choices, how we spend our time, and how we treat each other. When the core values do not align, it might not even be a personality clash, but it could impact you in major ways, especially in more stressful life chapters.” 

8. Dependability 

No matter what, you should be able to rely on your partner. 

For example, if your partner promises to be there for you, they should be there — and you shouldn’t be worried that they’re going to break their promise. For many people, this dependable nature is a non-negotiable factor in their relationship as no one wants to feel constantly let down by their loved one.

9. Respect for boundaries 

We can never emphasize enough the importance of boundaries in any healthy relationship. 

If your partner doesn’t have any respect for your boundaries, this could lead to a very toxic dynamic in the future. For example, if your partner refuses to acknowledge your boundaries around privacy or personal space, it could indicate their own trust issues or desire for a codependent dynamic.  

10. Future plans  

Compatibility works on a number of different levels, and one of the main things that unite couples is their desire to work towards a future together. 

If your idea about your future differs dramatically from your partner's, this could be a non-negotiable aspect of your relationship. For example, your partner wants to move back to their hometown and you don’t want to. Or, they never want to adopt pets or don’t see kids in their future.

A lot of issues are negotiable in a relationship in order to achieve compromise. However, if you’ve decided on certain aspects of your future plans and your partner doesn’t agree — it could be a deciding factor in your break up. 

11. Financial goals 

Not every couple likes to discuss money matters, but sooner or later, it’s likely to come up. 

Some people want to have shared financial goals with their partner, so they can both save for what’s important in their relationship. For example, you might want to start saving for a house together or putting money aside for your wedding. 

If your partner doesn’t want to save for the same things or doesn’t share the same financial goals, this could be considered non-negotiable. 

12. Empathy

If you’re planning on being with your partner long-term, you’re going to hit some bumps in the road. No matter what you’re going through in your personal life, it’s normal to want someone to hold your hand through the tough stuff.

Having a partner who is incapable of this kind of empathy or affection could be considered a non-negotiable trait, especially if your attachment style requires this kind of support.

13. Intimacy 

There are many different types of intimacy in a relationship, from cuddles and physical affection to sexual intimacy. 

As human beings, we naturally crave this kind of affection and many people see it as a non-negotiable aspect of a relationship. 

14. Trust 

Trust is everything in a relationship, and if you don’t trust your partner, what’s the point of it all? 

Mutual trust and respect should be non-negotiable in your relationship, as without trust there is no foundation for a future together. 

15. Sense of humor 

While people joke about the idea of ‘laughing someone into bed’, a sense of humor is an important aspect of a relationship. 

When the going gets tough, you want someone that you’re able to laugh with and who can make you smile no matter what. It’s not a bad thing if you’re not willing to sacrifice your funny bone for the sake of your relationship — and it’s a perfectly acceptable one to add to your list!

16. Lack of excessive jealousy 

While your partner may struggle with leftover trust issues from previous relationships, it doesn’t give them the right to take it out on you. 

A lot of people hate dealing with a jealous partner, especially if they repeatedly allow their paranoia to push them to cross their personal boundaries. While a little bit of jealousy can be healthy in a relationship, many people run at the first sight of these behaviors — and won’t hang around to chat about it. 

17. Substance abuse 

Many people write this down in their non-negotiable list, as they don’t want to take on such a huge responsibility in their relationship. 

While this may seem harsh or unfair to the person who’s struggling, it’s your right to draw the line before getting involved with them. For example, if your partner previously struggled with a gambling addiction and lied about their continuing habits, this could fall into the non-negotiable territory. 

You never need to make your partner feel guilty for these behaviors, but you do have the right to walk away. 

18. Physical or emotional abuse 

Even though everyone’s relationship advice differs, the subject of abuse is something we can all agree on. Abuse of any kind is a huge red flag and should not be tolerated in any relationship. 

No matter how hard your partner tries to negotiate with you about their abusive behavior, or tries to convince you that it’s acceptable — remember that it’s not. 

19. Independence 

Everyone is entitled to their independence, and even if you’re joined at the hip in your relationship, this fact shouldn’t change. 

After all, if you’re allowed the time for personal growth and self-love, you can bring those learnings back to your relationship — making it even better in the process. It’s important to set this pattern as a non-negotiable in a relationship as it helps to preserve your own mental health and well-being from the outset. 

20. Shared responsibility 

When you’re in a relationship together, you’re partners in crime — taking on the world as a team. 

While this sounds romantic when you’re thinking about the fun stuff, the charm can rub off when you think about the day-to-day tasks. However, the weight of household responsibility should not fall on one person’s shoulders. 

It could be a non-negotiable if your partner isn’t willing for this kind of equal participation in a relationship, especially if this is the kind of power dynamic they expect for the future. 

21. Friendship 

Pull back all the other layers, a lot of people want to find their best friend and their soulmate all in one. 

This isn’t an impossible dream, and if your relationship isn’t providing you with this dynamic, it could be another non-negotiable to add to your list. 

22. Effective communication 

Every relationship thrives on healthy, open, and honest communication. This kind of communication is often seen as a non-negotiable in any relationship, as how can you go on without it?

For example, if your partner can’t cope with a mature, adult conversation then nothing else needs to be up for debate. 

23. Authenticity 

Everyone wants to be able to be themselves around their romantic partner. 

If you feel judged for showing your true colors or corrected for being your authentic self, this isn’t the kind of healthy relationship you should strive for. With such a fundamental issue, nothing further should be up for discussion — you deserve better than having to dull your sparkle for anyone else. 

24. Ability to apologize 

Sorry. For such a short word, it can be very difficult to say. 

While it can be hard to admit when you’re in the wrong, it’s a sign of maturity when you’re able to do so with authenticity and meaning. Desiring a relationship with healthy conflict resolution, rather than screaming matches, shouldn’t be up for negotiation — especially as it concerns your own happiness and well-being. 

25. Open-minded 

After everything we’ve outlined above, this one may seem a bit contradictory. 

However, even though we all have our non-negotiable lists primed and laminated when entering a relationship — it doesn’t mean that you can’t be open-minded, or expect your partner to do the same!

“When your mind is closed you close off the opportunity to be curious and grow,” says Seeger DeGeare.  

“Healthy satisfying relationships are ones that are constantly evolving. So if you’re stubborn in a relationship it better be about having good communication or high empathy and not about learning new things together. Happiness is highly dependent on new experiences, when your mind is closed you close yourself off from experiences that might challenge or change you, in a good way.” 

We may all have things that we’re absolutely set on for a relationship, even if it is just the ‘tall, dark, and handsome’ stereotype. Even with all these things in mind, an innate stubbornness toward certain relationship issues isn’t going to get you very far. While you can be unwilling to negotiate on certain issues (as is your right), compromise for others should still be on the table. 

“Someone who is close-minded to new things could also have a high amount of trauma or deep fears that show up in their romantic relationship,” says Seeger DeGeare. 

“Having open conversations to understand if something is slow moving vs intentionally closed-minded.”

It may seem like a contradiction, but in your gut, you’ll know when to lower the battle armor and let negotiations begin. Or, you’ll know when to walk away. Above all, trust your own opinion and abilities to guide you in the right direction — we believe in you! 

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