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Deal-breakers and Relationship Commitment

Everybody has deal-breakers, AKA non-negotiables. You have them and your partner has them. Non-negotiables are extremely personal, and if you like, quirky. If you want to have a happy life and relationship, do not give in to the temptation to test your partner’s love for you by creating a situation in which (s)he must choose between the non-negotiable and you.

For example, if your spouse has to have a cat, and you develop an allergy to the cat, don’t make her choose between you and the cat. Here’s why. She may “do the right thing” and get rid of the cat because you are more important, BUT ten years from now, she may leave you because that cat was part of her soul, and that wound never healed completely. If your spouse has to have a certain amount of quiet time, and you force him to choose between you and time to himself, he may “put you first”, BUT five years from now, he may leave because he just can’t take it anymore. What is “it”? Having to respond to needs from people in the household 24/7 – not having a crucial non-negotiable 15 minutes of down time a day protected. The funny thing about non-negotiables is that they sound “unreasonable”, and if you like “selfish”. It is unreasonable to have a cat in the house once your spouse or child becomes allergic. It is unreasonable to need quiet time with toddlers, teenagers, cats and dogs and a busy spouse who simply can’t pick up all the slack.

In order to live together with your spouse and children, you will, of course, have to adapt, have to negotiate, and have to give up lots of things. It’s not all about you after all. There are others to consider. Only you know if you are being stubborn and selfish or if something is truly non-negotiable for you. Be honest about it. If you allow your cat or your quiet time to be ripped away from you and do not explain that you simply will not be able to function without them, shame on you for not protecting your relationship and family from the ensuing damage that absolutely will occur. It is YOUR job to know yourself, and to honor your soul. YOU need to know the difference between not getting everything you want, and a true non-negotiable. And then you need to let your spouse know, and go through the potentially unpleasant process of someone else not liking your boundaries.  It is better to have a territorial conflict than set the stage for a situation in which there is no possibility of peace.

Conversely, do what you can to accommodate your partner’s non-negotiables. (S)he may not have the language to explain how important something is to him/her. Pay attention and ask questions. And above all, even if it is highly inconvenient, do all that you can to honor and respect your partner’s non-negotiables. Non-negotiables are almost always strange, and do not make sense to other people. That’s just their nature. All the world is strange but me and thee, and sometimes — I worry about thee a little.