10 Steps To Set Up Ground Rules In A Relationship

Annie Gurton

Relationship Therapist

We all want our new relationship to last, and those that start as they mean to go on have more chance of making it work. Its human nature to show our best side in the first few weeks, but sooner or later we slip into our old ways – and possibly exactly the same ways that ended our previous relationship. So, its good to know where you stand, what is acceptable and what is not, and to know the best way to behave. Even those in long established relationships can often benefit from a refreshing of the rules, so, here are a few guidelines:

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Tip 1:

Communicate what you are thinking and how you feel. Ideal partnership communications start by thinking through what you want to say, rather than ‘shooting from the hip’. Ask your partner ‘Is now a good time to talk?’   Allow them the opportunity to schedule another time if right now is not convenient, preferably within 24 hours. Listen as much as you talk, frequently checking that your partner has heard what you are saying, but also asking them to allow you to finish before they reflect back what they have heard, and then reply.

Tip 2:

Have weekly Relationship Maintenance sessions. Set aside an hour a week to synchronise diaries, to look back at the good and bad things that have happened in the week, and plan the week ahead. This is often a good time, when things are calm, to raise any frustrations or issues.

Tip 3:

Be truthful and honest, but not to the point of hurtfulness. Clearly its not good to lie, but its also not good to appear critical or judgemental.

Tip 4:

Accept that no-one is perfect, and your partner will have faults. Just as you have.

Tip 5:

Accept that your partner is not you, and its good to be different. While its good to share and you need to bond and have time together, you are also different people with different likes and dislikes. Its important to respect these differences, and honour them. If you

Tip 6:

Be an active participant in the relationship. Know that your partner is not a mind-reader, and you will need to say when you have needs that are not being met, or you are being triggered or annoyed. Express yourself, in a kind and thoughtful way.

Tip 7:

One of the things you need is to be loved – allow your partner to love you.   Accept small and big gestures with appreciation and gratitude, and encourage your partner to show their love. Accept and acknowledge loving behaviours with good grace.

Tip 8:

Be clear about the deal-breakers. if there are things that are really unacceptable to you, say what they are.

Tip 9:

Respect that your partner has a past life. Its not helpful to be super sensitive if your partner feels that they cannot talk about people and places that they knew before they knew you. You can have boundaries, such as its not cool for an ex to telephone all the time, but you should both be relaxed about discussing the past without it triggering the other.

Tip 10:

Respect each other’s need for privacy. Everyone needs to have private thoughts, and everyone needs to be able to keep a drawer or a space in the house where they know that the other will not pry or peek. There is a difference between privacy and secrecy, and the first is healthy.

Lastly, don’t make a list of rules. Love and life are random and best when not too organised. Allow for both to be organic and unpredictable, so be flexible, be compassionate and show empathy. Its OK to set expectations and boundaries, and its good to share your thinking so you are on the same page, but its not a rigid experience, so relax and enjoy yourselves, and have a happy, healthy relationship.


For more information and to get in touch with Annie, head to www.anniegurton.com


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