When two people decide to transition their casual romantic relationship to a more serious level, many things need to be decided upon in order for this budding relationship to develop and grow in a healthy and fulfilling way. It is also important that the individuals involved are both on a path of self-fulfillment and that as various situations arise, the environment, attitudes and action undertaken which will undoubtedly affect both individuals provide a solid platform for growth as opposed to decline.

This is important because a healthy relationship can only develop and thrive in an environment of mutual support and a common direction. If partners are not aligned, sooner or later the relationship will suffer as someone will become resentful due to not being able or being given the opportunity to contribute equally. It is important that this concept is understood correctly, so I will elaborate.

Most human interactions, at their core, revolve around a tit-for-tat dynamic. As much as everyone believes that people have transcended this basic strategy, most in fact have not. This is evident by observing little children playing with each other. As adults, the interactions simply become more toned down, more refined, and with more sophisticated backwards rationalizations. Romantic relationships are not different from other inter-personal interactions, and aside from having physical attraction at their core are still built upon and follow the path of a thinly veiled tit-for-tat mentality.

By bringing this out in the open in a romantic relationship, an opportunity arises to both address and resolve any issues or disagreements which might result from varying expectations. It could be one of the “big-red-flags” like money or spending habits, but it can also be more private elements of a relationship like varying libido, socialization requirements (introverted vs. extraverted). The classic argument about whether the toilet seat should be left up or down, or who’s responsibility is it to take out the trash or make dinner all fall under the magnificent tit-for-tat umbrella. By themselves none of these preferences would lead to an unhealthy relationship. What will undermine the strength, commitment and loyalty of both partners is the inability to address these needs. And as a pre-requisite acknowledge that such dynamics permeate all aspects of social interactions.

One very straight forward way to minimize possible stress situations is to predefine responsibilities – while this is a good strategy over all it will not eliminate some of the most important needs. This happens partially due to individual’s lack of self-awareness but can also be the negative manifestation of the unspoken tit-for-tat dynamic. This is where most “evolved” relationships get stuck. A couple simply develops enough skill to compensate and suppress rough manifestations of primitive impulses. The result is a completely happy appearance to outsiders, a perfect relationship so to speak, meanwhile the relationship itself is in shambles and requires frequent injections of excitement from the outside to stay afloat. This is so common that it’s virtually impossible to live in western society and not encounter couples like this on semi-frequent basis.

The only solution to avoiding getting stuck in this rut is very straight forward and deceptively easy. Please don’t mistake simplicity with ease of implementation – as this is one of those examples when something seems simple but requires patience and resilience to implement on ongoing basis.

There are only two steps required:

1) Consider what you really want

The answer to this question should encompass as much as possible information about all aspects of your desires. As the saying goes: don’t ask – don’t get. So as a first step it’s important to be aware of your own desires. Note that this step can be done anytime, anywhere and requires no input from your partner. The only reason people don’t follow through on this step is because they are afraid of finding out what they ultimately stand for. Where people go wrong in answering this question is by putting down or thinking about irrelevant, unnecessary and completely opposite things of what they want. The answers must be concrete, real-world based, and in a way which would be clear to anyone of moderate intelligence.

Whether someone knows how to cook – irrelevant. Whether they will make a tasty, healthy dinner with a good balance of protein and carbs and vegetables is very relevant. Keeping active is irrelevant – but going on road trips is. What they spend money on is irrelevant – but if they live paycheck-to-paycheck and you’re keen on saving every last cent and reusing plastic cups that might be a problem.

Over time you should be able to develop a very long list of personal preferences and then ultimately narrow down this list to only the real-world related items. Building a relationship on irrelevant ideological requirements is a recipe for disaster, unless your whole life and the community you belong to structures all aspects of their being based on arbitrary ideologies without real-world impact.

2) Express your desires.

This is very simple and straight forward – simply saying what you want will get you far in this step. If you want steak for dinner, say that. If you want to visit a museum say that. If you want to ski in the Alps, say that. For those having difficulty with simplicity of this step please follow the below structure:

I would like to __________ , because I would enjoy the feeling of _________.  I want to share that with you.

For the last step I would like to add one little thing which will take all of the anxiety out of your sharing your requests, because I enjoy the feeling of satisfaction by providing a simple and fool-proof way  for you to have the best experience with what you’ve learned so far.

2a) Run your partner’s requests through a real-world applicability filter

And if there is no immediate, physical world application to their requests or expectations, simply accept them as they are.

In conclusion, it is important to realize that most interactions and relationships will follow a veiled tit-for-tat dynamic. The couple who are happy and who continue to build and enjoy a loyal, strong relationship instead of scrambling to prop-up a failing one is their ability to 1) know what they want, 2) express what they want and 3) address disagreements on the grounded, real-world implications, level instead of an ideological stand-off.

If you’ve found the above perspective interesting or would like to add something which works well in your own relationship, please leave a comment below!