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How to Create Rules in Romantic Relationships

Updated on February 23, 2015
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Ms.Treadwell is a licensed attorney and the author of "How Do Hurricane Katrina's Winds Blow: Racism in 21st Century New Orleans."

Recently, the National Institute of Marriage conducted a poll that asked respondents what they most want out of their romantic relationships. Options included: companionship, emotional safety, passion, unconditional acceptance, trust, and financial security. While unconditional acceptance and companionship were the top two, it is no surprise that, in summary, the study revealed that "relationships often sink or swim based on how well we manage our unmet wants, desires, and expectations." Therefore, it is critical for us to understand ourselves. (Sparks.).

My regular followers may recall that not too long ago, I wrote a hub entitled "How to Create House Rules for Adult Children." In that hub, I wrote that it was necessary to create house rules (and to commit them to a written document) to "maintain order, respect, and cooperation in a home." For a lot of people, that makes sense; after all, running a household is a job.

But what about your life?

Isn't your life worth investing the time and energy to have one that is orderly, respectful, and cooperative?

Don't you deserve people in your life that will positively contribute to those values?

I realize that given my legal expertise, some would expect me to write something along the lines of pre-nuptial agreements instead of "relationship rules." Let's just say that long before you decide to marry anyone (with or without a "pre-nup") you need to set up a precursor of "relationship rules" so you know, with the best clarity you can muster, if that person is right for you. You may have guessed, yes, every now and again, I like to write about real-world practicalities, even common sense.

Setting up the rules for your relationships is critical and necessary because it is part of having self-respect and loving yourself. Remember that you are worthy. So, here are the most important "relationship rules" for your romantic life. By the way, feel free to transfer these rules to other relationships in your life.

You teach people how to treat you.

— Dr. Phil McGraw
Photo Credit:  Sonia Boukaia Photography, El Paso, TX
Photo Credit: Sonia Boukaia Photography, El Paso, TX | Source

The Most Important Romantic Relationship Rules

RESPECT - Partners in romantic relationships must treat each other with respect always. In addition, your outside personal connections must also treat your partner with respect. Respect is to be shown during all interactions including but not limited to all communications, shared physical space, the property of another, and the privacy of another. Name calling, degrading comments, silent treatments, and cursings are torpedos that destroy all relationships. Each partner has the right to peaceful living.

HEALTH - Partners in romantic relationships have their own responsibility to take steps to ensure their physical, mental, and emotional wellness. In addition, each partner owes the other the freedom from imposition of behaviors or activities that would risk or compromise the physical, mental, or emotional well-being of their partner.

HUMAN DIGNITY - Closely related to respect, each partner has the responsibility to treat the other with compassion and dignity and to avoid interfering with the other's right to human autonomy. While there is nothing wrong with sharing common values, spirituality, activities, interests, etc., (in fact, these factors are often exactly what attracts us to another human being) none of us are identical; and we are entitled to follow the dictates of our own conscience. To impose on another's human autonomy is to be tyrannical. Each partner has the right to make their own personal choices so long as those choices do not negatively affect the other partner. Personal choices include, but are not limited to: friendships, family relationships, individual thoughts and values, employment, and education.

FREE FROM ABUSE - Each partner has the right to live a life free from abuse and the responsibility to refrain from abusing the other, including: verbal abuse, emotional abuse, physical abuse, manipulation, exploitation, asserting control by using fear or money, and being ignored or treated as if he or she has little or no value or does not exist.

HONESTY - Each partner has the right to expect honesty and integrity from the other and the responsibility to be honest with the other partner. Conducting oneself with complete honesty and integrity in all matters is crucial to the development of a trusting relationship. Simply stated: "say what you mean and mean what you say." Be honest with your feelings and with your actions. Honesty creates a sense of dependability. Honesty is not limited to "sexual cheating"; it encompasses a host of our personal behaviors.

INTIMACY - It doesn't make a difference whether you are a man or a woman in the relationship, romantic relationships require intimacy and many different levels of intimacy (emotional and physical closeness), not solely sexual intimacy. Romantic relationships work best when the partners have a close familiarity or friendship, a sense of togetherness, and warmth and affection.

RELATIONSHIP - Each partner has the responsibility to contribute positively to the maintenance of relationship harmony, the organization of any home created together, and the financial stability of the relationship. Quite frankly, to do otherwise is simply take the other person for granted or usury.

The Dealbreakers

Don't be afraid to set ground rules in a relationship. This includes the dealbreakers:

  1. Criminal activity
  2. Illegal drug use
  3. Alcohol abuse
  4. Lying (outright or by omission), cheating, or stealing from one's partner
  5. Violent behavior toward oneself or one's partner
  6. Destruction of another’s property
  7. Disrespect
  8. Any activity that risks the safety and security of one's partner

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships


Create a healthy relationship while maintaining your individuality.

Photo Credit:  Treadwell Images
Photo Credit: Treadwell Images | Source

Keeping the Rules Simple

In many things, it is important to keep things as simple as possible; it makes life easier to manage. Personally, I have relationship rules for all of my relationships (romantic or otherwise); and, yes, some of those are actually in writing. When it comes to rules for romantic relationships, we can narrow it down to three basic rules. The relationship must be:

  • Honest
  • Healthy
  • Intimate

If there is any behavior that compromises these three basic rules, then the relationship warrants an honest reassessment. Dr. Lisa Firestone acknowledges the need to have relationship rules and the importance of setting boundaries in a relationship; however, it is important in setting these rules and boundaries to ask oneself the following questions:

  • Am I breeding an environment of resentment?
  • Am I limiting my partner in ways that interfere with his or her spirit or vitality?

One more critical point: the relationship rules must be clearly articulated to your partner. Quite frankly, if you don't articulate the rules, then you are not operating with honesty and integrity, certainly not to your partner but, more importantly, not to yourself. You must have a series of conversations. Give your partner a framework of dependability. Make your relationship rules part of who you are and a commitment to yourself. For example: if you say that you will not tolerate name calling, do not accept it when it occurs. Abuse is a progressive process. Love yourself enough to walk away from the relationship when you identify the red flags. "Healthy relationships allow both partners to feel supported and connected but still feel independent. Communication and boundaries are the two major components of a healthy relationship." (National Domestic Violence Hotline.).

The idea of creating rules in your relationship is not to place countless restrictions on your partner; rather it is about creating a relationship that has a solid foundation based on respect, trust, common ground, and genuine compassion for one another. It is about creating a relationship that gives an enhanced dimension to one's life without compromising one's individuality.

Cheers to adding great love to your life and keeping yourself intact in the process.

Special thanks to Leslie F. and Michelle Y. for inspiring this hub.

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Works Cited.

Firestone, Lisa, Ph.D. "5 Rules for a More Trusting Relationship." Psychology Today. Apr. 1, 2014. Access date: February 17, 2015.

National Domestic Violence Hotline. "Healthy Relationships." 2015. Access date: February 17, 2015.

Sparks, Brett, Ph.D. "Relationship Wants." National Institute of Marriage. Feb. 2015. Access date: February 17, 2015.

By Liza Lugo, J.D.

© 2015. All Rights Reserved.

Ms. Lugo retains exclusive copyright and publishing rights to all of her articles and photos by her located on Hub Pages. Portions of articles or entire content of any of these articles or photos may not be used without the author's express written consent. Persons plagiarizing or using content without authorization may be subject to legal action.

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Originally written and published on February 17, 2015. Latest corrections and edits made on February 23, 2015.


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    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      tillsontitan, once again, thank you for following my hubs, for taking the time to read this one, and for commenting.

      You make a good point: good relationships have rules. Those rules are articulated in some kind of way between the two persons. Some may not even call them "rules"; rather, they may refer to them as expectations or simply as "this is how I am." Respect for boundaries and individuality are important keys to good relationships.

      Thanks for casting votes for this hub. Continue to do wonderful things.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      colorfulone, I so appreciate your willingness to spend part of your day with me by reading my work and taking the time to comment here.

      Glad you felt like these were "very good ideas." It took me a very long time to learn them. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and dignity no matter what kind of relationship he or she is in with another.

      Many blessings to you and yours.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      Catherine, thank you for taking time out of your day to read this hub and for your comment.

      I agree that the rules seem obvious. As a joke, my old psychology professor used to equate love with insanity. I don't know why so many of us allow love to "cloud" our reasoning so that we would accept unacceptable behavior. Perhaps it is because we allow the fear of loss or loneliness to rule instead.

      Glad you liked this hub. Thanks so much for voting it up and for your willingness to share it. Have a super day!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 2 years ago from New York

      Most of us do learn the hard way but a good relationship sets it's own rules. Of course if you are unsure, written rules rule.

      Voted up, useful, and interesting,

    • colorfulone profile image

      Susie Lehto 2 years ago from Minnesota

      Love is blind sometimes as is said. In instances like that maybe rules could really help the blind lead the blind. Very good ideas.

    • CatherineGiordano profile image

      Catherine Giordano 2 years ago from Orlando Florida

      The rules seem so obvious, yet they need repeating. Love clouds our mind sometimes and we accept behavior that we would not otherwise accept. Sometimes I have just so wanted the relationship to work, that I ignored poor behavior. Great work. voted up and sharing.

    • lawdoctorlee profile image

      Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD 2 years ago from New York, NY

      "There are rules," are funny. Well, we won't say where I was decades ago because I would not have been able to help you at all! I was a full-time student in "The School of Hard Knocks." You're not alone in learning these things through experience and pain. I think it's only in the past 7 years or so that I've really learned this particular lesson. I was great at rule-setting for children. I had almost no rules for other relationships and was sent to the "burn unit" of life quite a few times. Setting boundaries and respecting the boundaries of others is a critical life skill.

      Glad you enjoyed this one, Bill. Hope your day is beautiful.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 2 years ago from Olympia, WA

      There are rules?????

      LOL Of course there are. Where were you when I really needed you decades ago? Well, thankfully, I've learned this over the years in the only way I know how to learn...through pain. :) Great thoughts here, Liza!