It is a difficult reality to reconcile how much you value a person when the same person does not value you. The longer you remain in a relationship that is not serving you, the easier it becomes for you to abandon your own beliefs and values concerning the soundness of relationship-building. You essentially abandon yourself.
You abandon your capacity for thinking through a situation, your ability to resolve problems, and your inclination to call something what it really is. You eventually give up. Even if you remain in the relationship, something in you has died. It becomes easier to let the relationship ride itself out, whether it continues or fails, than to decide to end it because it is simply no longer working. The relationship has become dysfunctional, but you struggle to put that label on it because you hold out hope that it will, indeed, become functional again.
However, there is never a guarantee that a dysfunctional relationship will return to its proper function if this is not the original goal. The initial goals you set for a romantic relationship matter. For example, if you begin a relationship and/or marriage with the idea that if it doesn’t work out, you can simply leave, then you will create situations to facilitate and further this argument.
If you begin a relationship and/or marriage with the idea that if your wife or husband does not do what you want that you will just get somebody else, even still keeping the relationship, then your focus will be on finding that person. You will position yourself around who you think is the “right candidate” to fulfill this goal. Until you locate the person, you will keep your current relationship at arm’s length. You will do the push away to pull back technique with your current partner because you do not plan to stay in that relationship. In your mind, you just haven’t found the right person, but the one you’re with now will do.
If you begin a relationship believing that only your needs are important, as in projecting traditional values where the woman does not have a voice, then you will create an environment indicative of hostility and toxicity. The person upon whom you are projecting these ideals will resent you, especially when the idea of traditional values should be mutual. It is not just one person serving the other. It is both parties coming together to serve each other, the relationship, and God if you believe in divine marriages.
When you discover that the relationship you are in is not one that is conducive for long-term success, or you did not set it up for long-term success, then you must return to the reasons and justifications you placed on the relationship to make it matter to you and your partner. It is hard to conduct a self-reflection exercise while you are in the relationship. In some ways, it is much easier to be out of the relationship and look back on it than to be in it and look back on why things are not currently working.
People love to survive but not overcome, so it makes it easier to continue what is not working in the relationship (surviving) than to address issues before they become perpetual problems (overcoming). To address issues is to suggest that problem-solving is at the heart of relationship-making. You cannot get through a relationship without understanding challenges may arise but that you have the capacity and communication styles to meet and resolve those challenges. If you do not have experience recognizing and resolving challenges as an individual, you will definitely have issues resolving challenges while you are in a relationship.
There are different personalities at play. While you may be a conscientious person, your partner may not really care to be so focused. You may be routine and predictable, but your partner might like risk. You may be anxious over finances, but your partner may not care about having a six-month emergency savings plan.
These are some of the ideas that form the basis of many problems when they are moved to the forefront. If your household account doesn’t have the money it needs to pay basic shelter costs, then somebody in the relationship has a financial management problem. That truly needs to be resolved before it becomes a greater problem that leads to you both becoming homeless.
Establishing the initial goals for a romantic relationship involve each of you understanding your individual standards, boundaries, and expectations. If you are still in a relationship that you have labeled consciously as toxic, then you are choosing to remain in that relationship for whatever reason.
Thus, this article is about establishing standards, boundaries, and expectations, or SBEs, prior to engaging in a romantic relationship and/or marriage. Without appropriate individual SBEs, you, your partner, and the relationship will struggle. The article explores different examples applicable in every romantic relationship.
You must establish individual standards. What are standards? Standards are something established by custom and/or general consent and that serve as a model or example, such as a direct point of reference. When you are forced to make a life-altering decision, your standards should be your point of reference, which is used to judge or evaluate something else.
For example, you are faced with a decision to move in with your boyfriend when you really desire to marry before shacking up. The standard in this situation is that you do not want to engage in a pre-marital, live-in arrangement. You may not have a problem with pre-marital sex, but you believe that if you live with your boyfriend, there is a chance that it will not convert to marriage.
Therefore, your standard is to judge and evaluate the decision based on the belief system of your boyfriend who does believe in pre-marital shacking. When you are contemplating the decision, think about these questions:
- What do you do?
- Do you agree with your boyfriend?
- Do you maintain your standard?
- Do you support your belief system over your boyfriend’s belief system?
This is your dilemma. For you, this might be a character dilemma. This might be a spiritual/faith-based dilemma. This might be a traditional values dilemma. This might be a dilemma that you believe has no resolution, especially if you think that not moving in with your boyfriend will cause him to leave you.
But the question you have to ask yourself is also this: Why can’t my boyfriend respect my wishes about moving in together? To answer this question, you must also consider your boyfriend’s standards.
He believes in living together before marriage. Therefore, why don’t you respect his wishes about moving in together? In other words, this issue can go both ways. He could say that you are pressuring him into marriage. You could say that he is pressuring you into waiting on marriage.
- Do you maintain your standard?
- Do you maintain his standard?
Of course, only you can answer this question(s), but if you are willing to change your standards, then this means that you do not have a standard regarding the issue of moving in together before marriage. This further means that it is not a standard and that it is truly an option, if you give in to your partner’s demands.
The alternative to changing your standards about pre-marital shacking would be to exit that relationship and choose a relationship that supports your standards. If your romantic partner is unwilling to agree to your standard, then that is your own bet. It comes with a risk of losing the partner and/or the partner feeling like you are placing an ultimatum on him and the relationship, but you must maintain your standards. It doesn’t make sense to have standards and not maintain them.
You must establish individual boundaries. What are boundaries? Boundaries are defined as understanding that you are two separate individuals with differing needs and wants. This does not mean that you perceive yourselves and the relationship as two separate entities. This just means that you come into a romantic relationship with needs and wants and desires, and it is important to outline those needs and wants and desires to determine both connection and compatibility.
This is why sitting down with pen and pad and outlining what are considered your boundaries is definitely important before you make any romantic decisions and definitely before you engage the mating market. Determining what your boundaries are very early while you are single is your priority next to establishing and securing yourself financially.
For example, there are different types of boundaries that you need to become familiar with and to set. There are sexual boundaries. There are family boundaries. There are financial boundaries. There are spiritual boundaries. There are career-based boundaries. There are drugs and alcohol boundaries. There are health and physical boundaries.
If you find yourself overindulging in anything to the point of excess, then you struggle with boundaries. If you expect your partner to maintain solid boundaries while you cross boundaries, then the relationship would be headed for that eventual brick wall. Each party to a relationship needs to establish firm boundaries, two of which are discussed within this section: sexual and family.
Sexual boundaries are important. Whether you are single or married, it is crucial that you set the right sexual boundaries for your sexual and physical capacity. I do not advocate pre-marital sex, but if you are going to pursue this option, then definitely consider what you are and are not willing to do. You are under no obligation to perform what are really considered wifely duties outside of marriage, but I also understand that people will do what they feel is best for them. I did in my past, but I do not advocate this option today.
Therefore, discussing the types of sexual acts you will facilitate and perform with your partner is an important discussion. Too many times we jump in before we understand the dynamics of who we are, what we what, what we are willing to do, and how long we are willing to entertain the option. You need to be just as upfront about what is important to you sexually as the man.
In addition, a man should not surprise you about what he wants on the day you both engage sexually. You should not be surprised that he wants a certain sexual act and put you on the spot to commit to the act before you are ready.
This means that communication is key!
In addition, remember that a man will want the world from you in the bedroom, i.e., your entire soul, but that does not mean he will commit to a romantic relationship. If you desire a romantic relationship, then reconsider your sexual boundaries.
Family boundaries must be preserved. It is clear that there are mama’s boys and mama’s girls or daddy’s girls, but when you marry someone that marital partner becomes priority. Family members, who are typically women including mother and sisters, are usually the ones who interject and project their ideals onto “your relationship” with your partner. I am all for respecting my man’s mother and her sister and the family in totality, but I am not for a man placing me on a lower rung and assuming that he will be made a priority without consequence.
Getting together with your partner to discuss family boundaries should be part of a pre-marital counseling session discussion. You need to be able to iron out what is important to you as a romantic partner, what you are willing to compromise on when it comes to his mother and family, and how to reconcile pressing issues that are family-related, especially when it comes to finances.
Whether his or your mom or other family member needs extra money is a discussion you need to have because if your partner gave his mother money every month while he was still single, then what would be the expectation going forward while he is married? Does this obligation continue? Is there any room for flexibility? Can the amount change? These are questions deserving of answers, and these questions also apply to you if you are giving your family members money of any kind.
The last area of boundaries is dealing with your partner’s exes as well as dealing with your own past ex issues. I do not believe in maintaining contact with ex-boyfriends. I have never had a husband, so I don’t need to reference an ex-husband. But I do not believe in keeping friendships with someone who is no longer with me. I also do not have kids, so the exception where the ex-partner is concerned would be the kids’ mother or father. Even with that situation, there still needs to be boundaries. Exes with kids will always be a tricky situation until that child turns 18 years old.
Regardless, maintaining friendships with ex-girlfriends or ex-boyfriends is likely worse than dealing with the family directly because an ex-partner is always territorial and believes he or she still has claim to your partner. Ex-partners think that your partner has a duty to them and the relationship. For example, my ex-partner struggled to leave his ex alone. She didn’t want him, but he still struggled to end things with her. Therefore, I had no choice but to end things with him.
During “our relationship,” she would call him, claim she didn’t want him, tell him that he still had a duty to her, never told him where she moved to, and had a new man in her life that she bragged about to him. He still kept running emotionally back to the source of his pain, and she never let him go until I let him go. Then she no longer wanted him. Dealing with exes is a major discussion opener because there are so many triangulated relationships and people generally like to keep their exes at arm’s length that such a decision will definitely have a negative impact on your relationship with your partner.
If your partner is cheating, which is a sign that the person wants to exit the relationship, then you have to make a decision about whether to stay in that relationship. You have to set this as an individual boundary before you enter a relationship. Once you are in relationship with someone, and you discover cheating, it is hard to exit that relationship immediately. You may still leave it, but there are so many emotions involved that you reason staying to fix something that might be irreparably broken.
It takes a lot of foresight and forethought to cheat. Nothing just happens. People have to think about cheating to cheat. If you know this beforehand, then determine the best solution for you to the problem of cheating. Just remember that if you stay, you are permitting the violation.
Therefore, the alternative to maintaining your boundaries is to permit the violation, i.e., to shift and/or change the boundary line to fit whatever situation you are in with your current or future romantic partner. This means that you will never have peace in that relationship despite your many attempts, facilitations, prayers, and decisions. That is the cost you must count before you decide to enter that relationship.
You must establish individual expectations. What are expectations? Expectations are defined as the strong beliefs you have about the proper way someone should behave or do something. Expectations are not always personal and/or individual. Expectations can be cultural.
If you grew up in a two-parent home where dad worked and mom stayed at home to nurture and raise the kids and maintain the home, and this is a family dynamic that you believe worked for your family, you would be hard-pressed to abandon or throw away this expectation. It is what you know. It is what you experienced. You feel your parents had success with this dynamic. After all, they are still together!
However, not all people grew up in a two-parent family dynamic. In fact, most people have been raised in a single-parent home. This is what they know. For all intents and purposes, they find this dynamic successful. The single-parent home encouraged the children to attend college, be successful in their individual lives, be hard workers, and contribute back to their communities. This was an initial goal set for the family, i.e., parents work to send their children to college. The children fulfilled their part of the bargain.
This is the bargain a person who comes from a single-parent home understands while a person from a two-parent home understands that the mother stayed home. That is the bargain from that family dynamic. Therefore, if your partner expects you to stay home and not work, and you come from a family dynamic of hard workers, the expectation that you stay home might conflict with your own expectation to pursue a career. Why else did you attend college? Just to stay home and not do anything with the degree? Not to pursue a career at all? These are some questions you might ask your potential partner or if you are married, your husband (or wife). What matters to you might not matter to your expected partner.
Outlining expectations is the most important aspect of pre-marital counseling. If you are already married, there is always room to discuss expectations, especially as they relate to roles. It is an issue that needs resolution, and the longer you struggle to discuss expectations, the easier it is to enter a state of anger, frustration, and subsequently bitterness.
The alternative to changing your expectations, when considering the expectation that your husband or wife might want you to stay home and tend to the kids, is to find a partner who is fine with their partner pursuing work outside the home, whether male or female. This is only necessary if you as a woman want to work and your partner does not want you to work.
If he does not want you to work, but you decide to work, then you run the risk of having a disagreement that will affect the family dynamic and the romantic relationship. This is why discussing family dynamics is just as important during the pre-marital counseling phase of the relationship as discussion about any other aspect of the romantic relationship. The more communication, the better the peace.
These are the standards, boundaries, and expectations that are deserving of both an individual and collective discussion with your future partner. Once you understand what you are willing to accept or reject as an ideal, belief system, and/or personal philosophy, then it should be easier to vet the right partner appropriate for you. Knowing these ideas also helps you to discern if you are appropriate for someone else.
If you are struggling with your finances and you have not adopted a strategy to resolve that issue but your partner is financially sound, then you may not be appropriate for that person either right now or ever. You cannot bring past ideas into a new situation. Past ideas can infect the relationship, thereby making it dysfunctional on its face. This means that you still need to do your individual work so that you and your future partner can align in interests, desires, wants, needs, standards, boundaries, and expectations.
Couples do not always last because they don’t love each other. Couples do not last because each individual, separate from a relationship, has not done their respective work, has not determined whether he or she is truly compatible and ready for relationship-making, and has not established a firm life plan that reflects appropriate standards, boundaries, expectations. In other words, each person does not have the necessary consciousness to navigate their own life, let alone a romantic relationship.
The alternative to setting standards, boundaries, and expectations is to move through life without limits, with too much risk, and no fixed philosophy and/or belief system. You must have a guiding light. Whether you believe in God or not is your personal preference, but you still need something that provides direction, instruction, correction, and leadership. Instead of choosing the alternative path, choose life. Choose to create standards, boundaries, and expectations so that you can measure personal and professional success.
Thank you for reading.
Regina Y. Favors, Owner/Operator
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