The Key to Building Relationships Is Making Your Requirements Known
Setting boundaries, communicating, and looking for reciprocity are useful skills
Growing up, an often repeated adage in my family was “don’t have any expectations.” This was often reinforced during or after a health crisis related to cystic fibrosis (CF), in which some people in my family’s extended social network didn’t show up in the ways we’d hoped they would.
I was skeptical about this piece of advice. How exactly does a person go about emptying themselves of expectations? And if you have no expectations of the people in your life, doesn’t it mean you can’t count on them and that you don’t really trust them? Is there anything more foundational to a relationship than trust?
Instead of expectations, have requirements
Over the years, I’ve moved away from my family’s mandate of avoiding expectations, as I’ve seen it cause a great deal of frustration and disappointment. Whether the relationship is familial, romantic, or friendly, we cannot realistically participate without any regard for our own wants and needs. This is why I’ve swapped out “don’t have any expectations” for “have requirements.”
It’s hard work at times and certainly an active process as opposed to accepting whatever you can get from the people in your life. But putting the work in to formulate and articulate relationship requirements helps to ensure that you feel respected and cared for by the people in your life.
What my requirements look like
If you go without relationship requirements long enough, you’ll learn the hard way what your baseline standards are. A core relationship requirement for me is honesty, including in communication, meaning that challenging conversations about differences of opinion are possible. I don’t want to guilt, manipulate, gaslight, or shame anyone, just as I don’t want anyone to do that to me.
Reciprocity is also a relationship requirement for me, because I don’t want to be in a one-sided relationship. Respect is required, which includes respecting boundaries and feeling like I have enough emotional security in the relationship to set and protect those boundaries.
Once you’ve accepted that your life is not “Supermarket Sweep” (a TV game show) and people can’t just breeze through and grab what they need and go, you need to be ready to communicate your requirements. I think this can happen with actions better than words. Pony up and offer to others what you require from them. And have the self-awareness to know when you need to do more in a relationship.
Protect your peace, prioritize yourself
Throughout our lives, and in so many ways, we can end up internalizing the notion that we are a lot to handle, we are difficult, we should be less demanding, and we should settle for less. No matter your age, health, income, or any other personal variable, everyone should feel empowered to establish requirements for relationships in their life. For people who want to be in your life, it won’t be too much to ask. It will help those relationships last and thrive.
Note: Cystic Fibrosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cystic Fibrosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cystic fibrosis.