Plan For A Perfect Relationship By Determining Your Non-negotiables!


The problem with dating today is that it can be very superficial. People find themselves attracted to looks, money or status, but they often overlook the other, more important things that hold relationships together. Eventually this oversight ends up being unavoidable, which is one of the factors that influences the huge divorce rate world wide.

It’s clear that breaking up is with someone you care about, or committed a lot of time to is never easy. Frankly it can result in a severe emotional shock which can carry over into other aspects of life, as well as future relationships. Why not avoid this pain? Seems easier than having to break free when a relationship is crumbling.

One of the secrets to creating an extraordinary relationship is to know what you’re getting into before making a huge commitment. As a person you have certain goals, morals and ideals for the way you want your life to go. Some are flexible, while others are non-negotiable.

If we could determine what each others non-negotiables are before jumping into a commitment, then surely we could avoid some of the pain that is involved in breaking up. Dating serves as an interview process for marriage. In one sense we are dating to find out what we like, and don’t like. On the other hand, we know what we like, more than we are willing to admit. Write down you non-negotiables, and discuss them within the first couple of dates.

Keep reading to find out more about non-negotiables.

Dating To Commit Rule #1: Put Your Non-Negotiables On The Table

  1. Children. Do you want them? How many? What kind of lifestyle do we need to have, and how are we willing to adjust in order to give the kids enough love and attention? Who will raise the children? Will they be raised with a religious affiliation?
  2. Demographics. Where do you plan to live? Where do you plan to work? How do you feel about relocating?
  3. Finances. Who will be the bread winner? What will the money be spent on? What kind of lifestyle are you expecting to have? Who will control the finances?
  4. Sexuality. How do you feel about and view sex? Are you open to experimenting?
  5. Communication. How do you deal with arguments? Will you argue in public and in front of your children (if you have any)? How often do you need to talk to feel reassured? Is there anything you need to tell me, in order for me to understand you better? Do you need a cooling off period, space, to talk things out?
  6. Parenting. Where will the kids go to school? How will conflict be handled in front of the kids? How will they be disciplined? What would you like to provide for them? School, private education, cars, extra-curricular activities?
  7. In-laws. I heard an anecdote not too long ago about the difference between in-laws and outlaws. The difference is between the two is that the outlaws are wanted… (back on topic now) Will the in-laws live with us? Will they help in raising the children? How often will we visit them? How close will we live to them? To what extent are you willing to take advice from the in-laws?
  8. Leisure time. What is your ideal way to relax and blow off steam? How many vacations do you want and where? Do you want to travel the world? How do you like to spend your days off?
  9. Spirituality/Religion. Are you actively observing a religion? Which part of your participation in your religion is a non-negotiable? Do you need me to convert to your religion? Do you like to take part in yoga or meditation? What religious values will you instill in your children, and will you be willing to raise the children with mixed beliefs?
  10. Expectations. Income, status, lifestyle, sex, love, pets?
  11. Chores. How do you want to distribute the chores? How will these ideas be instilled in our children?
  12. Morals. Do you consume alcohol, drugs, tobacco? Are you willing to stop? What do you feel about abortion, euthanasia, medical marijuana? Are you willing to live with someone who may have different views?
  13. Affection. Do you like to be kissed, cuddled, massaged, bathed, spoken to in a particular way, etc?

Now you might find that you don’t have answers to these questions, or are very flexible. That just means it’s a non-negotiable for you. On the other hand, you might have some non-negotiables that are not on this list. Please share them in the comments section!

If you like this post, please give it a stumble. I appreciate it! =)

Photo by banoootah_qtr.

Credit: I first learned about Non-negotiables from Kimber Sherman, at which point Marina and I brain-stormed to give you this list. We didn’t talk about our non-negotiables when we first met, but lucky for us we’re very compatible!

Posted by in Relationships | March 4, 2008 | Digg | | Stumble | Print | 15 comments

  • Alex Shalman

    I realize the comment box is kind of broken. I’m not sure how to fix it, but I’ll be working on it over the next couple of days. If you have any questions, or know how to fix this, feel free to e-mail me via the contact form.

    • Alex Shalman

      All fixed due to my buddy Nate Whitehill of Unique Blog Designs… This is what I mean when I say he goes above and beyond!

  • Adam

    I had never really looked at it that way Alex. I guess when my current wife and I were dating we did kind of do that. Perhaps with my first wife, due to the rampant hormones, the non-negotiables were overlooked.

  • Jennifer Mannion

    Hey Alex,
    Yep, these are ALL so important to talk about BEFORE walking down that aisle. I know many couples that wanted to avoid these topics but just the fact that you think you should avoid them probably means they should be faced head on! Ray and I had talked about all of these topics and that’s part of the reason we will celebrate 11 years happily married this July! GREAT advice and I wish all couples would have this guidance before making that next step! Excellent post! Jenny

  • Dean

    You are so right about non-negotiables.

    Giving in on one, (let alone three for whatever reason) puts one in a bad relationship.

    My non-negotiables were, and once again are:

    1) Not to marry anyone under the age of 28. Too immature.
    2) Not to marry anyone I’ve known less than one year. To get to know them.
    3) Not to marry anyone who I got pregnant. Just the wrong reason to begin with, no matter how honorable.

    Well, I ended up marring some 21 years old with bipolar disorder and passive aggressive personality. (Both she and her mother and all her friends told me, so I’m not making this up.) Our first kiss was on the morning of June 1, pregnant in July, married in October and our daughter was born in March. It was all downhill from there.

    I’m not even going to share the heartache I’ve gone through since the seperation and divorce.

    Just a friendly statement…Keep you non-negotiables, non-negotiable.

    • Alex Shalman

      Wow that’s rough Dean. The advice I’ve listed here is just common sense, and is something that has worked for all the married couples in my life. I’m not married, but I have a girlfriend, and upon writing this article (which she helped me write), we discussed all our non-negotiables.

      At least we’re good with that… I don’t think she has any mental illnesses I don’t know about (hope she doesn’t read this hehe). =)

      On a serious note… I’m sorry you had such a heartache and loss in learning this lesson, but I’m sure you have a story of how this has made you a stronger person.

  • Anonymous

    I feel as though you think of dating as the only form of finding your ideal partner. In many instances, a relationship evolves from compromising things like expectations, demographics, etc. if the person is right for you. Finances are another major aspect that develop over time. People who come into relationships already established tend to have higher standards thinking, “I’m a good catch, I don’t need to settle for anything less than perfection.” However, if two people support and motivate each other to become successful they always remember that they did it together. Non-negotiables MAY change with the person you are with. My wife and I, for example, knew each other since high school. We, nicely stated, hated each other. But, over time, being around one another, we realized that we in fact were perfect for one another. How could that be? She wanted 5 children, while I wanted one. She wanted to work and have a babysitter take care of the kids, while I wished for her to stay at home. Little did we know, everything we felt originally CHANGED and molded into actions which we could not even imagine. We ended with two kids. She works 5 days a week. Honestly, most of the “non-negotiable” issues that you discussed came up as a surprise, which we worked our way through.
    The relationship two people hold together is not defined at the start, nor should it be. A true friendship and love of one another is being able to face differences, and resolve them as they come along. Without this ability, marriage may come, with both parties thinking that they are safe since “all” their issues have been established, and defined. Yet without the ability to work through new issues (which always arise) a horrible divorce (not minor break up) will occur.

    • Alex Shalman

      I don’t think that dating is the only form of finding your “ideal partner”, there are also arranged marriages. By dating, I mean meeting people, having conversations, getting to know them, and seeing if you are compatible.

      While finances may not be a non-negotiable for you, and I’m by no means saying you are right or wrong, they may be a huge non-negotiable for someone else.

      Being able to handle ‘differences’ as they come up is obviously very important, but there are certain things a person would rather not budge on. I’m not sure the number of children is really the best non-negotiable, since after the first one I would image your whole opinion of children changes. However, many of the non-negotiables I did mention are very much worth the effort of inquiring into before getting serious.

      Thanks you for commenting, your story was very interesting. =)

  • James

    Interesting idea. It’s a bit too late for me to implement this or judge how it would work, because I’ve already been in a relationship for 7 years. Missed the chance to start laying down non-negotiables a long time ago 😀 A lot can change over the years especially in a relationship so while it’s a good idea to know where both partners stand I can’t envisage many things being truly non-negotiable though. There has to be a bit of give-and-take from both sides.

    James, Organize IT

  • Rebecca

    While I’m not sure I’d choose (or be attracted to) a “Non-negotiable” approach, I heard this author on Oprah speak of this topic a while back. Here book is called “Lies at the Altar – Truths about Great Marriages.” Here’s the amazon link: Lies At The Alter
    I gave it to a friend for her Shower gift. It caused some gasps of shock, but it turned out to really help her and her fiance talk out issues. They were on the same page and now happily married, so far!

  • Debo Hobo

    This is a fantastic article: Dating is an interview for a future relationship and should be negotiated as if it were the job of your life, because if you get married you will be working for and with the other person to maintain the commitment.

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