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What Are Non-negotiables in a Relationship? (25 Things that Are Non-negotiable)

Last updated on November 20, 2022 by Danielle Harrison

In any romantic relationship, you’ll have to be flexible and make some compromises. No one is going to tick off all of your boxes. Maybe he’s not as tall as you had imagined for your ideal man to be or maybe he isn’t as cultured as you had hoped. Those shouldn’t be absolute deal-breakers.

That said, having some non-negotiables is important so that you stay true to yourself and can avoid getting into a relationship that isn’t right for you.

What Do Non-negotiables Mean in a Relationship?

Non-negotiables in a relationship are core values, characteristics, and behaviors that you won’t compromise on no matter what. It’s important to establish these deal breakers so you don’t fall in love blindly, only to find that you’re not compatible in the long run.

With nearly 30% of first marriages in the US ending in divorce1, knowing your deal breakers is more important than ever. 

Some of the most common reasons for divorce include financial disagreements and lack of communication. Both of these can be avoided by considering your non-negotiables ahead of time.

Figuring Out Your Non-negotiables in a Relationship

There are some non-negotiables that everyone should have, like honesty, trust, mutual respect, and not tolerating abuse. There are also some non-negotiables that may be more unique to you, such as living close to your family or not smoking. 

Not everyone will have the same deal breakers.

Everyone has different beliefs or values that are important to them. Consider what your ideal relationship looks like. What things do you need in order to feel happy and fulfilled? What do you desperately want to avoid?

You should ideally figure these out while you’re still single, so you’re not blinded by a new love interest. Spend time identifying why your previous relationships ended and what you would like to see in future relationships.

When you do start dating again, it’s important to discuss your non-negotiables with your potential mate early on to make sure your values are compatible and ensure a successful relationship.

So what are some non-negotiables in a relationship? Check out the following 25 common examples to get an idea of where to start.

Examples of Non-negotiables in a Relationship

1. Respect

Mutual respect is key in any healthy relationship. It’s a non-negotiable that your partner is respectful to you and other people. 

While respect can mean different things to different people, it generally includes not being overly critical or judgmental and consulting your partner on important decisions that will affect you both.

Establish what respect means to each of you and how you expect to be treated in your ideal, loving relationship. It’s also important that you both have self-love and respect yourselves before you’re truly able to meet your partner’s needs.

2. Monogamy and fidelity

Monogamy isn’t for everybody, but you both need to be on the same page about what you want this to look like in your relationship. If you do decide to agree to a monogamous relationship, then staying faithful is definitely a non-negotiable.

Still, you need to define what infidelity means to you and make sure that lines up with your partner’s view. For example, does flirting count as cheating in your mind? How about a deep conversation with another woman? Establish where the line is for you.

3. Financial values and goals

Finances are one of the biggest causes of arguments2 in relationships, not to mention divorce. Spending habits, financial stability, financial responsibility, and savings goals are all important to talk about when starting a new relationship. 

If he spends recklessly, but you prefer to save for the future, that’s a pretty good sign that things won’t work out in the long run. Being careless with money could also be a good indicator of how he approaches other areas of his life.

Pay attention to your partner’s spending habits and views on finances in the early days to make sure you’re a good long-term fit. It can be uncomfortable to talk about, but it’s so important.

4. Children

The decision to have or not to have children is huge in any serious relationship. If one partner really wants them and the other doesn’t, it’s not going to end well. It could also be a problem if one person wants to adopt and the other wants biological children.

It’s a non-negotiable to have the same goal here.

You should also discuss how many children you each want to have. While you may be able to make a small compromise here, if one person wants one child and the other wants five, neither partner will end up happy.

Happy-family

5. Politics

Politics may or may not play a big part in your life. Still, it’s important to talk about them. You need to know where you and your romantic partner stand so you can determine whether your differences are compatible or whether they’re going to cause issues down the line.

You don’t need to have the same political ideologies, but it’s helpful if you have similar views on the issues that are most important to you. 

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Likewise, it’s helpful to have similar levels of political activity. Someone who doesn’t believe in voting may not be compatible with someone who is extremely involved with their party.

6. Religious beliefs

You don’t need to share the same, exact religious beliefs if that’s not important to you. Still, it’s important to have the conversation. Can the other person see themselves marrying someone with different beliefs? Will their family accept you? 

Are your religious beliefs compatible enough? Do your religious beliefs of what’s right and wrong line up well enough that you can live your lives without compromising either person’s values?

7. Future goals

Your goals in life may change over time, but your core goals for the future should still line up with your partner’s. What do you and your partner want your life together to look like? Where do you want to live? What career goals do you have? These are all important things to discuss.

It might also be a non-negotiable if your partner lacks ambition and isn’t goal-oriented. Someone who is complacent or apathetic will eventually wear on you and make you feel resentful if these are things that you value.

8. Loyalty

It’s important that your partner has your back and prioritizes the relationship. It’s a non-negotiable that he is there for you unconditionally and keeps his promises. Loyalty also means compromising on the small things and making small sacrifices here and there.

9. Honesty

Honesty isn’t always the best policy, but it’s an important quality in a healthy relationship. Both partners need to tell the truth so the other person feels safe within the partnership

You should never have to worry whether you’re being lied to. Honesty is necessary for building trust, which is another non-negotiable in a relationship.

10. Trust

In a healthy relationship, your romantic partner needs to be able to trust you. You don’t want someone who’s carrying trust issues from past relationships. A small amount of jealousy is normal, but constantly questioning where you’re going or who you’re talking to is not.

Likewise, you need to be able to trust your partner. If you know they’ve lied or cheated in past relationships, it might be hard for you to trust that they won’t do the same to you.

11. Intimacy

While sex isn’t the most important thing, intimacy and chemistry are still absolutely essential for most people to make a good relationship work. So you should make sure that your sex drives line up at least somewhat so neither of you is left feeling unsatisfied or guilty.

Moreover, you should feel comfortable talking about your sexual needs with each other. Do you need more passion in the relationship? Do you need to switch things up? Let him know and encourage him to speak up, too.

12. Physical affection

In addition to sexual intimacy, it’s vital to be on the same page as your partner when it comes to how physical you’d like to be in your daily life. If one of you highly appreciates PDA but it bothers the other, that could lead to problems down the road.

If you love to cuddle, but your partner really appreciates having his own space, you may feel unsatisfied in the relationship.

Couples-hugging

13. Commitment

If you’re looking for a serious relationship, your potential mate needs to be ready for commitment too. If he’s just looking for a good time, you’re going to end up with a broken heart. 

That’s why it’s so important to discuss this towards the beginning of the relationship.

It’s also important to note the difference between becoming exclusive with you and actually committing to making the relationship work. Most importantly, he should be willing to work and grow with you and prioritize the relationship.

14. Support

Supporting each other is key to a strong, loving relationship. Your partner should be dependable so you know you can count on them to be there for you when you need them most. 

This includes being there for you emotionally during difficult times, as well as sharing your excitement during the good times.

This also means that your partner needs to have the ability to demonstrate empathy. They should be able to listen to your feelings and concerns with compassion. They should never minimize what you’re experiencing.

15. Independence

You and your partner need to be on the same page on how you view personal freedom within a relationship. It’s important that you each have your own independent lives and time for personal development and growth. However, it’s also important to be included in the most significant aspects of your partner’s life.

Find out where your partner stands. If they don’t want to spend as much time with you as you’d like, that can limit your happiness in the relationship. Conversely, if they don’t want to spend time apart, you might feel claustrophobic and like you don’t have enough space.

Setting healthy boundaries can help you both find the sweet spot between personal growth and your growth as a couple.

16. Abuse

Abuse is never okay in a relationship. Period. You need to be able to feel safe. That means any kind of abuse is an absolute deal breaker, including physical, mental, or emotional abuse. If your partner shows any sign of current or past abuse, it’s a good idea to walk away immediately.

17. Open communication

Although being a strong communicator is often a skill that can be developed, someone who’s too closed off or unwilling to open up to you is definitely a relationship non-negotiable. 

Vulnerability is key to healthy relationships. You should both feel comfortable to talk about anything in order to foster a healthy bond. You shouldn’t have to keep secrets from each other.

This also includes knowing how to fight fair without shutting down or attacking your partner. You should communicate freely, but respectfully. Both parties should be willing to work on healthy communication techniques, like using “I” statements.

18. Saying no to toxic behavior

It’s important that you identify any toxic personality traits that you want to avoid in a potential partner. These might include consistent negativity, selfishness, being overly critical, rudeness, or ignoring boundaries. 

These toxic behaviors will eventually start to weigh on you and compromise your happiness.

19. Drugs and alcohol

It’s absolutely essential to see eye to eye on substance use. If you’re recovering from alcohol addiction, it’s probably not a good idea to be with someone who drinks a lot. 

If a romantic partner smokes marijuana every day and you’re completely against it, that likely won’t work out either. Cigarette smoking is also a deal breaker for a lot of people.

Of course, addiction and substance abuse are also important to consider. If someone is currently in the midst of an addiction, a romantic relationship with them may not end well. 

If they’re currently at the beginning of their recovery, it’s up to you whether you are comfortable starting a relationship with them.

Alcohol and gambling

20. Family

Discussing your future family together is vital. Equally important is discussing how close you expect to be with your own family and your partner’s family. How often do you expect to see your parents, siblings, and in-laws? What boundaries are important to you? How will you care for each other’s parents as they get older?

21. Equality

A healthy relationship requires equality. Both partners need to treat each other as equals and they also need to give and take equally. Equality might mean different things to different people, so communication is key here.

Equality can mean things like not looking down on the other person, sharing the responsibility in the relationship, and making sure both partners’ needs are being adequately met. 

It’s also essential that both partners have an equal say in big decisions that will affect the relationship moving forward.

22. Acceptance

It’s important for your partner to accept you as you already are. They should be free of judgment and offer you a safe space to be yourself to the fullest extent. While it can be healthy to encourage a partner to grow, criticism of who you are as a person is never okay.

At the end of the day, your partner should love and accept your core values and what makes you who you are, instead of trying to change them.

23. Moral values

Most of us have certain core values or morals that we can’t or aren’t willing to see a different perspective on. These include things like basic human rights, equality, and not discriminating against minority groups. It’s important that a potential mate has similar definitions of what’s right and what’s wrong in life.

24. Health

If staying healthy is important to you, it’s essential to find a partner who also prioritizes their health. If you regularly eat a healthy diet and exercise, but your partner prefers to lay on the couch and eat junk food, it’s going to lead to resentment.

Additionally, a difference in views can limit the activities you are able to share together. Working out is more fun with a partner and it’s difficult to have to cook separate meals all of the time.

25. Being open-minded

Another key to lasting love is being with someone who is open-minded. Your partner should have the ability to see other perspectives, instead of being stuck in his own ways. A willingness to adapt is a sign of maturity and being ready for a real commitment.

When you’re both open-minded you can learn from each other and try new things, instead of judging each other and staying in your comfort zone.

FAQs

What’s a non-negotiable in a relationship?

A non-negotiable is something that you won’t compromise on in a relationship. It isn’t open for discussion or ‘negotiation.’ It can be a value, belief, behavior, or personality characteristic that your romantic partner must have (or not have) in order for the relationship to work. 

How do you find your non-negotiables in a relationship?

You can find your own non-negotiables in relationships by sitting down and evaluating what your ideal relationship looks like, and what values are most important in your life. Also, consider the reasons past relationships have failed. Could those relationships have been avoided if you had set some non-negotiables from the start?

What's a deal breaker in a relationship?

A deal breaker in a relationship is any quality, value, or behavior that you won’t tolerate in a potential partner even if you like everything else about them. Some examples of common deal breakers include a lack of financial stability, dishonesty, past infidelity, disrespect, or poor communication.

What are non-negotiable qualities a serious boyfriend or girlfriend must have?

A few key non-negotiable qualities in a serious boyfriend or girlfriend include respect, loyalty, honesty, being goal-oriented, communication, commitment, clear boundaries, and support. These core values are essential. Establishing these beliefs in the early days can help you develop a healthy and long-lasting relationship.

What are things that are unacceptable in any relationship?

While everyone has different values and characteristics that are most important to them when looking for a potential mate, there are some things that are unacceptable in any relationship. These include abuse of any kind, lack of respect, dishonesty, being closed off, trust issues, infidelity, and anger issues.

Conclusion

There are certain core values in a relationship that you aren’t willing to compromise on. These are essential to developing a good relationship and lasting love. 

You can and should compromise on the little things, but differences in these beliefs and behaviors can prevent a relationship from moving forward in a healthy way.

I hope you found this article helpful. Let me know what you think about this topic in the comments and remember to share with your friends!

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Sources:

  1. Chandra A, Martinez GM, Mosher WD, Abma JC, Jones J. (2005): Fertility, family planning, and reproductive health of U.S. women: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth
  2. American Psychological Association. (2015, February 15). Happy couples: How to avoid money arguments
Danielle Harrison
I have been writing for online publications for the last five years, using my background in Psychology to understand human nature. I am also a marketing copywriter specializing in sales funnels. In my free time, I'm usually traveling, hiking, or trying a new kind of tea.

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