You’re in a new relationship, and you’re starting to see some red flags. Does that mean you should leave? How do you know if the red flags mean future disaster, or are just a warning?
You can begin to get clear about staying or leaving by looking at your negotiables and non-negotiables. These are the patterns of behavior that you can deal with (negotiable) or you can’t (non-negotiable). A negotiable doesn’t go against your integrity, but a non-negotiable does. For example, if you value honesty in your relationships, and your partner is continually lying to you, that is a non-negotiable. How could you really have a healthy relationship with someone whose very behavior goes against the essence of who you are? If you compromise on this behavior by deciding that sometimes lying is okay, you are cutting into the deepest part of your psyche. Non-negotiables are those issues that you will not compromise on because it goes deeply against your values.
Negotiables are issues that don’t cut as deeply and are not deal breakers. For example, maybe your partner is messy and you value neatness. However, messiness doesn’t cut into your integrity and although it may never change, you could live with it and not feel you’ve compromised your very essence.
It is important to know your negotiables and non-negotiables. That way, you can decipher which of these two categories the red flags fall into. If in your current relationship most of the red flags are non-negotiables, it will be nearly impossible to have a loving relationship for more than 2-3 months. However, if your negotiables outweigh your non-negotiables, it makes sense to continue the relationship.
5 tips to help you identify your negotiables and non-negotiables:
1. Make a list of issues you know you can compromise on that your partner is displaying. “She’s late all the time, but I can live with that.”
2. Make a list of issues that you know you can’t compromise on. “He says he’s going to call me and either doesn’t or calls much later than planned. He always has an excuse. I can’t see living with this much inconsistency.”
3. Make a list of issues you would compromise on within yourself for another person. “I know I’m messy, so I’d either get an organizer to help me with this or be willing to hire a housekeeper.”
4. Make a list of issues you could not and would not compromise on. “I am an independent woman, and could not be with a partner who wanted me to give up my work or my friends for him.”
5. If you’re not sure which category your red flags falls under, ask yourself this question: If this behavior never changed, could I live with it? You have to assume it may never change and that alone should help you determine if it’s a negotiable or non-negotiable.
“What’s the big deal? All I said was . . .” Sound familiar? My name is Sharon Rivkin, MA, MFT, a conflict resolution, reconciliation, and affairs expert, and licensed marriage family therapist for over 29 years in Santa Rosa, California, also known as the “last ditch effort therapist.” I am the author of Breaking the Argument Cycle: How to Stop Fighting Without Therapy and developer of the First Argument Technique, a quick and effective 3-step system that has helped hundreds of couples fix their relationships and understand why they fight. My work has been featured in several national magazines and websites including O: The Oprah Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Time.com, Yahoo!News.com, and Dr.Laura.com. I was quoted on The Insider TV show, have appeared on Martha Stewart Whole Living Radio, am an experienced public speaker, and make regular radio appearances nationwide.
For more information, please visit my website at www.sharonrivkin.com.