Clear intentions manifest into better outcomes, so why would we neglect to author ground rules in our most important relationships?
Whether you’re entering a new relationship, or renewing a long-tested one to reclaim the peace and joy you both deserve inside your partnership, here are a few starting agreements to consider as you set the stage for real love.
1. Love ourselves first.
We are responsible for knowing and continually exploring ourselves. We take care of ourselves mentally and physically so that neither is dependent on the other for our happiness or well-being. We enjoy our own friends, solo time and hobbies. We show up honestly as we are and ask for what we want openly and directly.
2. Understand and respect boundaries.
We dialogue about our worries, concerns, hopes and intentions together to identify and commit to respecting one another’s boundaries. We don’t threaten “boundaries” as ultimatums for control, we recognize them as genuine personal dealbreakers, such as monogamy, honesty, or non-violence.
3. Give love (and support, gifts, ideas) freely.
Real love is unconditional and rooted in freedom. This does not mean accommodating everything or tolerating boundary violations. We radically accept one another’s freedom to live our lives as we choose rather than projecting our fears through expectations.
4. Own and tend to our past wounds.
We each take responsibility for understanding and sharing our fears, trauma, triggers, and needs. When the past invades the present, we identify it and take responsibility for the impact and call for self-work.
We aim to share context and motivations behind our decisions, especially around sensitive topics, rather than relying on mind-reading. Rather than make assumptions, we ask.
6. Game plan for conflict.
We openly consider our personal vulnerabilities and fears in conflict and identify best practices ahead of time, revisiting as needed. Some examples:
- If heated, ask for a specific duration of space to cool down and understand the underlying fear that needs to be communicated. It will be less than 24 hours.
- Share hurt feelings by starting with: “The story I am telling myself…”
- Play ball. Listen first. Repeat what was heard. Then respond. Toss the ball back and forth until you both feel heard.
7. Never stop planning for joy.
The excitement and joy that’s present early in a relationship is due in large part to planning and engaging in new, vulnerable and fun experiences together. We will never, ever stop doing that.
A word of caution: Ground rules aren’t tactics to change your partner.
If you don’t want your partner to stay up late, but they choose to do so, you get to either share your desire and then embrace their freedom fully and return to peace and joy, or remain stuck in conflict by making demands based in conditional love.
If your partner violates one of your boundaries, remember that boundaries are agreements with YOURSELF.
If you stick around making ultimatums while the behavior continues, you are your problem. Your partner chose their action freely, knowing the consequences. Boundaries require that you follow through on your agreement with yourself.
If you find yourself stuck in a cycle of relationships that don’t work for you, it’s time to go to the source: yourself.
Find support to do gain understanding about what’s unfulfilled or wounded inside of you still, so that you can heal and love yourself freely, without fear. Then, you can love others – partners, friends, your children – freely.
That is worth every necessary effort, humbling apology, and ungraceful restart.
You deserve unconditional love, and so do the people you wish to love unconditionally.