You may have already heard the phrase, "we accept what we think we deserve." And that usually ends up being the case. Whether we choose to settle for a partner because we're afraid of never finding the right person, or we accept neglect because we subconsciously believe we deserve it, we may find ourselves in relationships that are not only unsatisfying, but also unhealthy.
For a moment, let's put aside the paralyzing fear of being alone forever and drown out the sound of our so-called biological clocks. The following concepts are things that every person deserves from his or her partner. When these following rights are consistently found in a partnership, the couple has a better chance of lasting long-term. Keep them in mind not only when thinking about your current or potential partner, but also applying these principles to help you be a better partner too.
1. You have the right to your partner's attention.
Couples who engage in face-to-face conversation and spend more time in leisure activities together have a lower risk of divorce. Especially for new parents, it is important to continue to provide one another with the attention each of you needs. Spending less time talking, engaging in activities together, or focusing on one another's needs often leads to a decline in relationship satisfaction.
If you know that you require a little more attention (and by attention, I also mean support) as part of your love language, simply explain to your partner the kind of attention you need (i.e., conversation, active listening, words of affirmation, checking in, quality time) and then provide positive reinforcement and feedback when he/she does. If you have busy schedules, then plan out quality time with one another in advance.
2. You have the right to affection and gratitude.
Giving and receiving affection is vital for relationship satisfaction. Be clear about the type of affection you seek, and make sure both you and your partner understand how you each define it. This also goes back to my previous post about love languages. How we each want to receive love may be different. So make it a point to find out what your partner's expectations and needs are, and then provide positive reinforcement to your partner when he/she acts in a way that you enjoy.
Showing gratitude to one another is also essential for happiness in relationships. When your partner shows you that affection by bringing you flowers or bringing your car to get washed, express your gratitude for him/her doing so. It is important to show our appreciation for our loved ones, no matter how big or small the gesture, or even just day to day.
3. You have the right to a partner who will try to work out your differences.
Addressing problems as they arise is an important indicator of relationship satisfaction. When we ignore a problem, the problem doesn't go away. It just causes us to hold in our frustrations, build a resentment, and then increasingly take it out on our partner through sarcasm, taunting, criticism or inattention.
You deserve a partner who will show you empathetic compassion and respect for your differences, as well as listen to your side even if he/she doesn't understand. A partner can validate you without having to agree with you.
Consider sitting down with your partner when you are feeling negatively about something within the relationship and address the issue head-on:
"I know this topic makes you feel uncomfortable, but I'd like to talk about it in a way that helps us both feel heard and move forward."
"When you ________, I feel ___________ and therefore, I need you to __________."
"How are you feeling? What do you need from me?"
4. You have the right to the benefit of the doubt.
When you make a mistake, you don't want to be shamed or put down for doing so. Therefore, you don't want to do the same to your partner. Continue to idealize your loved one and be forgiving. As always, stick up for yourself and express your needs. However, there is no need for you to consistently play the blame and shame game. It's not helping anyone and it's not changing anything. And if you are constantly being blamed and shamed by your partner, then you may want to get a new partner (or address the issue head-on clearly and effectively).
5. You have the right to a partner who will share the load.
Couples who share responsibility of household labor report higher satisfaction. Have a conversation with your partner about your expectations. If your partner does not know how to do something, then show him/her. Don't just get frustrated and do it yourself. That's not sharing the load and is just creating another breeding ground for resentment.
6. You have the right to honesty about sex.
Research shows that it is not necessarily the frequency, schedule, presence or absence, or the pleasure derived from sex that is most associated with relationship satisfaction. It is whether or not each partner's expectations are being met or not, whatever they may be. It is important for both partners to communicate their desires and expectations about sex and intimacy, not just in the beginning but also over time, as those desires and expectations may change. Never criticize each other when it comes to sex. Find a comfortable time to discuss your concerns, expectations and/or needs.
You have a right to express what you are comfortable or uncomfortable with when it comes to sex. You have a right to express what it is that you are looking for from your partner. And it is also your right that you receive those things, as well as respect along with them. You also have the right to know about your partner's health history and how/if it can affect you. Lastly, you should ALWAYS make sure that the intimacy between you and your partner is mutually agreeable and consensual.