Whether you are in a relationship, embarking upon one, or just thinking about the possibility of being in one someday, there are certain things you should expect in a relationship. Eight certain things, to be exact. Or at least according to a gaggle of love and relationship experts I consulted about the things that are non-negotiable in a loving, healthy, important partnership.
One thing many of them hit upon: Respect is undeniably necessary in every relationship, no matter how long you have been dating and what circumstances under which you find yourself. At all times, always and forever, once again for the cheap seats: Respect is key. The experts detailed precisely why that is, and their answers are fascinating. They also discussed a bunch of other things that really should be present in every relationship, no questions asked. It should be said: The word "expect" is automatically associated with expectations, which are always presumptuous and pretty much never a good idea. That said, some things must be available in every good relationship. Here are the vital eight things you cannot skimp on in relationships, no matter what, without fail, and why that is so, according to psychotherapists, life coaches and others.
1. To Be Important
"The one thing you should expect [in every relationship] is to be considered important in your partner's life," relationship coach and psychic medium Melinda Carver tells Bustle. "Being on the receiving end of your partner's consideration of your wants, needs, and expectations is important. You should also reciprocate by making them important in your life." Whether that means carving out time in your crazy week for a date night or just sending thoughtful texts now and then, be sure to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
"Countless people never place their lover in the 'important' role in their life," Carver says, "[and] instead place their career or friends above their lover. You should expect their time and focus in your relationship, as much as they give to their career and friends." If this isn't the case, have a heart-to-heart about it ASAP.
2. To Be On The Same Page Re: The Future
Above all, clarity on your long-term plans is vital, Stefanie Safran, Chicago's "Introductionista" and founder of Stef and the City, tells Bustle. Whatever you ultimately want, if you're in a LTR, you have to be honest about this with your partner — and she or he needs to want the same things, Safran stresses.
"If you want marriage, if you want kids, these are things that should be clear cut," she says. "It's either yes or no, and not maybe," she says. If your partner feels vague about what they want in the future and you know exactly what you want and where you see things going, this can create seriously sticky situations in the future. If that is the case in your relationship, give it some time, talk about it some more — and if you're still on totally different pages, as sad as it may be, you might want to consider a permanent time-out on your love.
3. Excellent Communication
Communication of the highest order must happen in every relationship, Zen psychotherapist and neuromarketing strategist Michele Paiva tells Bustle. Not just with your partner — though this is absolutely a no-brainer — but with yourself as well.
"Zen Buddhism aligns with my philosophy that interconnection and communication are key; we must be connected to the world around us as well as our inner selves, and be able to communicate to ourselves, deeply, not only to others," she says. "In a relationship, I feel that in keeping with Zen, that we [must] stay connected and communicating. If we are connected to our beloved, we respect, love and forgive them, as we do ourselves, and we are able to communicate that with them." And, hopefully, they do the same with us.
"You should always expect mutual respect," BetterHelp telehealth counselor and psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. "You may not always agree, but you should at least be willing to hear each other out with an open mind," Martinez says.
It all boils down to what you're building together. "If you do not respect your partner or they do not show respect to you, almost everything that comes after will be built on a very shaky foundation," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "It also puts on full display for you and those around you what you can look forward to in the future." Hint: Nothing good.
Salama Marine, psychologist and online dating expert for dating website EliteSingles, tells Bustle that after couples have been together a while, it can be lost a little. "After a number of years, couples can be careless with how they speak to one another and this can seriously harm the relationship," Marine says. "It is therefore necessary to maintain respect in all communication, including conflicts."
And it's not just for LTRs. "It doesn't matter how serious or casual the relationship is — you can always expect and demand respect," life coach Kali Rogers tells Bustle.
5. To Move On With Dignity If Respect Isn't Present
Not only is respect tantamount to the first thing on a relationship code of ethics, if you're not feeling respected, move on, certified relationship coach Rosalind Sedacca tells Bustle. And science is behind this statement! "Studies show that no relationship can be successful and healthy if mutual respect is missing," Sedacca says. In fact, no respect means you're in a straight-up toxic relationship.
"Lack of respect is one of the first signs a relationship is failing or becoming toxic," says Sedacca. "If you don't feel respected by your partner, don't struggle to make your relationship work. Move on with your dignity and seek out someone who loves and respects you for who you are." Yes!
6. To Be Partners
It should be obvious that your partner should be, uh, your partner, but true partnership is worth noting, Tina B. Tessina, aka Dr. Romance, psychotherapist and author of Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences , tells Bustle. "[Expect] that you’ll be partners and work things out together," she says. Whatever that looks like, however you work things out as life unfolds, this is one key relationship component that you cannot live without.
"One thing you should always expect from a relationship is accountability. It's the kissing cousin of trust," psychotherapist Michelle Farris, author of The 4 Essential Steps in Building Your Confidence, tells Bustle. Without accountability, you basically have nothing — especially not trust, which is so, so necessary. "You can't have trust without accountability," she says. "Acknowledging your part in a problem or misunderstanding is what defines accountability in relationships. It sets you apart."
So if you did something out of line, own it. "The common reaction is to blame your partner and focus on their mistakes," she says. "It's typical, but escalates communication. It's very different to look at yourself first, then decide what you need to change within yourself. That accountability helps you come from a place of power, not control. If you focus on sharing your experience, rather than on blaming them, you’ll likely get a better outcome that leads to resolution."
It's not about avoiding conflict — it's about taking responsibility to your part. "It’s the relationships that can handle conflict that succeed long-term," she says. "It starts with you, don’t you want that?"
8. To Be Deeply Loved
It's simple, psychologist, author and speaker Karin Anderson Abrell tells Bustle: In every relationship, you should expect "to be cherished," she says. End of story.
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