Why we should all have requirements, not expectations, in relationships
30th September 2022

When it comes to relationships, many people – heterosexual women in particular – are accused of accepting the ‘bare minimum’ from partners.

But for those have been subject to disappointing relationships and situationships, constantly being let down and having their expectations trampled into non-existence, it’s unsurprising that the bar is perpetually on the floor.

According to senior clinical psychologist Gemma Harris, this often stems from low self esteem, anxious attachment styles and people pleasing tendencies, which could be thanks to the way someone was raised or how they’ve been treated in past relationships.

‘These people are  particularly vulnerable to prioritising the survival of their relationship above all else,’ she tells Metro.co.uk. ‘That can result in losing connection to their own needs and desires.’

This lack of self-worth can cause people to dismiss red and amber flags early on in a relationship, setting a precedent that their boundaries and expectations aren’t to be treated seriously. 

Maybe it’s time for a shift in perspective: rather than having expectations in a relationship, we should all be thinking about our requirements – our non-negotiables that won’t be put up to chance. 

Take some time to really think about your requirements: journal, speak to friends and reflect on past relationships to work out what will make you happy – and try not to accept anything less.

This is what Sam calls relational self-awareness. 

‘Relational self-awareness involves understanding what you want out of a relationship and using past relationships and other valid sources of reference to help you determine your standards and boundaries,’ he explains.

‘On a practical level, it’s a matter of reflecting and engaging in deep introspection and writing down key insights and thoughts is necessary to organise and process them.’

Communicate requirements early on

As Gemma notes, it’s much easier to state your requirements at the beginning of a relationship than attempt to constantly negotiate them later on, after they’ve been broken.

‘Try to embark on new relationships being clear about your non-negotiables and be transparent in naming them,’ she advises.

While it may feel a little intense, Sam says that being upfront about your boundaries and deal breakers in a respectful way is the best course of action. 

Crucially, you need to be firm when stating your requirements. 

‘Confidence is key; if you have a requirement, communicate it confidently without feeling the need to over-justify it,’ says Sam.

‘It may help to frame these requirements in a positive light, let your partner know these are things you believe will strengthen your relationship and invite them to share their own requirements too.’

He adds that these conversations should not be accusatory. Instead they should be about ‘creating a safe space to talk and maintaining a collaborative spirit that encourages mutual respect.’

Stick to your requirements

While there are some situations where requirements might not be met (for example during times of illness or injury), for the most part, you should be disciplined in refusing to let somebody disrespect your standards in a relationship.

Sam says: ‘If you view standards as a form of self care and relationship care, you’re less likely to lower the bar, as you understand that doing so is damaging in the long run.

‘For those with low self worth, working with a professional is highly recommended, as having and maintaining standards is a function of a healthy self-esteem. 

‘People with low self-worth tend to believe they aren’t worthy of good relationships, so addressing the underlying issues behind one’s low self-worth is the first step. 

‘With effort and a mindset shift, one can develop a healthier relationship with themselves and those around them.’

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