FAQ: Can Relationship Requirements be flexible?
We’re making all this stuff up. There is no scientific study or evidence about the existence and behavior of Requirements so nobody, including me, gets to have the last word about it.
First, a bit of background about what prompted this FAQ: You may or may not know that in 2017 Darlene and I sold our house in Silicon Valley where we raised our kids to live and travel the Pacific Northwest on our boat as full time cruisers, anchoring and working remotely from beautiful locations 12 months/365 days a year.
In a recent exchange with an RCI member I learned that some who know about our lifestyle wonder how I chose to marry Darlene if my requirement was to have a boating lifestyle, and how Darlene chose to marry me if living on the water was never on her radar and she gets violently seasick on a boat.
We seem pretty incompatible, huh? So the idea was floated that “Requirements” might be flexible and that you can make a relationship work if one or more isn’t met.
Well, yes and no.
But first, allow me to set the record straight. While it is true that living on a boat was never on Darlene’s radar when we met, I don’t and never have had a relationship Requirement of living on a boat and sharing a boating lifestyle.
My Conscious Dating Journey
My first divorce was in 1990 after 10 years of marriage. My second divorce was in 2001 after 9 years of marriage. After yet another failed LTR (“living together relationship”) I went on a journey that resulted in developing Conscious Dating and wrote the first edition of the Conscious Dating book in 2005.
In practicing Conscious Dating as a single after that failed LTR I was able to have much better boundaries and make much better relationship choices that led me to a relationship that was close to what I was seeking, but not a fit. Walking away from that relationship after a year was hard but solidified for me that I was on the path towards finding my soulmate.
After that break up I wrote an article that included my Requirements, seven of them, and literally one month after publication I met Darlene. If you want a great example of the Law of Attraction in action, review this- https://consciousdating.com/my-conscious-dating-journey/
If you review my Requirements in the article above you will see that none of them mention a boat or living on the water. If you did not know Darlene and I it is easy to assume that she was pressured by my “Requirement” and went along with living on a boat even though it meant being miserably seasick, except that is not true. If you know us, you would know that I would never pressure Darlene to do something she doesn’t want to do, and she is a strong minded woman who wouldn’t allow herself to be pressured to do anything she doesn’t want to do.
It is true that if I had a boating lifestyle or requirement about boats at the time I met Darlene, we would not be together.
It is also true, and Darlene reminded me of this, that SHE is the one who initiated getting a boat and wouldn’t allow me to let it go because of her seasickness.
It is also true that neither Darlene nor I had any Requirement about lifestyle (and yes, she was very clear, even without Conscious Dating, what her Requirements were). We connected strongly the first time we met and everything that followed was the result of our connection.
Believe it or not, if Darlene decided she didn’t want to live on a boat anymore, I would not argue with her at all, not even a little bit, and we would immediately change our lifestyle. I love living and cruising on a boat but I value our Radical Marriage above everything else. A big part of how we got here is to prioritize each other’s happiness and I’ve learned that magical and wonderful things happen when you do that for each other as a strong team.
So, No, our example is not of a couple who practiced “flexible Requirements,” quite the contrary. If you’re interested to learn about how we got from where we were to where we are, which is a pretty amazing and interesting journey (to us, anyway)-
Can Relationship Requirements be Flexible?
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s address the idea of being flexible with your Requirements.
A Requirement is a non-negotiable relationship deal breaker. If even one of your Requirements isn’t met, the relationship doesn’t work for you in a very important way. So you can’t “be flexible” and let go of one or two, and if you do, the relationship won’t work for you. Requirements tend to be pretty black and white, either met or not met, so within a Requirement there is not much room for flexibility. If your Requirement is monogamy, to have children and create a family, to be financially responsible, addiction free, to be close to your family of origin, etc, how do you negotiate any of those? If your partner is not accepted by your family or vice versa and your Requirement is to be close to your family of origin, you won’t be happy and over time you will become more and more unhappy until you just can’t stand it. A Requirement is a core part of who you are and what you need in your life and relationship. If you can be “flexible” about it, it is NOT a Requirement.
What does this mean for singles or pre-committed/pre-marital couples who really want a successful long term relationship?
It means that if you are aware of your Requirements, and they truly are REQUIREMENTS, it would be setting yourself up for failure to choose or continue a relationship where even one Requirement isn’t met. You would be “settling” for less than what you want and require, and while that might avoid short term pain, the problem gets bigger and bigger until it finally breaks up the relationship (in most cases).
What does this mean for couples who are committed, truly committed, such as married or similar?
This is where the idea of being “flexible” with your requirements might come up. Unlike a pre-committed/dating or premarital relationship where walking away might be emotionally hard but logistically pretty easy, a couple who has made a lifetime commitment and has invested in each other by combining finances, buying a house, having children, etc, etc, have much more at stake than “happiness vs. unhappiness.” Many committed couples experience unhappiness but live with it because they are committed. Their commitment helps them live with it and many even move past whatever was causing their unhappiness to become happy years later.
So, because committed couples CAN live unhappily together for many years with an unmet requirement, and CAN become happy eventually, does that mean that singles and pre-committed/premarital couples can be “flexible” with their Requirements?
Well, again, yes and no.
Yes, they could, but the reality is that most couples who are that unhappy eventually break up and/or divorce. The divorce rate has never dipped below 50% in my lifetime, and the failure rate of pre-committed LTR (cohabitation) hovers around 80-85%. In my opinion, unmet requirements are the #1 cause of divorce and all failed relationships. Feel free to prove me wrong about that.
No, because if you truly want to live “happily ever after” with the love of your life, you can’t settle even a little bit, especially about your Requirements.
You do have a choice, but just because you CAN doesn’t mean it’s a good idea, and my biggest revelation of 40+ years of personal and professional relationship experience is the existence and role of Requirements in successful vs. unsuccessful relationships.
I have come to believe that Requirements are core to who you are and what you need as a foundation in your life, if one is missing you feel it missing and wishing the need would go away so your relationship can work simply doesn’t happen. The unmet need gets bigger and harder to avoid over time.
And No, I don’t believe that Requirements “change” or “evolve,” not if they are Requirements.
The hardest (and most fun) part of coaching requirements is when the client feels so strongly about something and wants it to be a Requirement but it doesn’t pass the tests. If someone were to have a Requirement to live on land and if we challenged that Requirement with the exceptions test- “If you met someone, fell in love, they met all your Requirements and Needs and you REALLY wanted this relationship to work, AND (the exception) they were a multi-billionaire who lived on a mega yacht, would you walk away?” If you would make an exception because the partner is incredibly wealthy and lives on a multi million dollar boat, if the thing that you say you must have or not have is flexible for any reason, then it is NOT a Requirement in my definition.
In my experience coaching this stuff it is common for folks to try to make everything they feel strongly about a Requirement such as your desire for children, but after rigorous testing they are able to narrow those down to the core, which rarely numbers more than 10, usually around 5-7, and occasionally just 1 or 2. Again, if you could possibly be flexible or if it is changeable, it is NOT a Requirement, it is more likely a Need, which is still very important, and sometimes a Want.
For myself, as passionate as I am about travel, freedom, boats and the water, I can be happy living on land if my Requirements and Needs are met, which means…. insert drumroll… that having a boat and the cruising lifestyle is a WANT. Those who thought that living on a boat is a Requirement for me were pretty far off the mark, though an understandable assumption.
Another consideration about Requirements is that once you are clear about them you are able to make the choices and decisions necessary for your life to be functional for you, they are practical decision making tools. It is pretty easy to spot a valid list of requirements because they are simple, clear, strong, and the person or client has unmistakable energy that under no circumstances would they give up even one. If that energy and clarity and decisiveness isn’t there yet, the work on their Requirements isn’t done.
The Bottom Line
So, bottom line, if it is flexible or changeable, it is NOT a Requirement in my definition. If you want to insist in your world that they are, that’s fine, but don’t expect me to agree.
Because it IS my definition, so I get to be right about it. And you get to be right about your POV. If my POV is helpful to you or anyone else, great, if not, I’m not attached to being right for YOU. I acknowledge we’re just making this stuff up, and even if it’s based upon decades of personal and professional experience and observation, it is not empirically provable, so everyone needs to decide for themselves what’s true and what resonates and what works for them.
I don’t argue with anyone who owns their truth, I do argue with those who tell me what my truth should be. For RCI and training coaches I have tried very hard to make it clear that we do not impose dogma on our clients, even if we disagree we always honor and respect their truth and coach them accordingly.
As strong as I am about Requirements and what they are and how they work, anyone who disagrees and wants to live their life believing Requirements change and are flexible are allowed to have that reality and live their life accordingly. I disagree and believe they are justifying “settling” and anticipate they will regret it, but it’s their life and their choice, not mine. I’m attached to being “right” for me, I’m not attached to being right for you, and always appreciate that being reciprocated.
In Conscious Dating you have the information, knowledge, and strategies for finding the love of your life and the life that you love, but your success only happens by making good long term choices, and in my opinion being “flexible” about your requirements is not one of them.