In today’s video, I’m going to talk about non-negotiables in relationships.

One of the main reasons behind so many breakups and divorces is one or both parties compromising on their non-negotiables in relationships. More below…

Zachary Stockill: One of the great benefits of my profession as a coach is getting to learn from the self-admitted mistakes, as well as the good decisions, of so many other people. Getting to witness up close and personal every week, multiple times a week, what makes a good relationship, what makes a bad relationship.

And one of the lessons that I’ve been aware of for some time is the crucial importance of getting clear about non-negotiables in relationships, long before you enter into a long-term relationship. And certainly long before you enter into any kind of marriage. 

So, what are non-negotiables in relationships? 

In my view, your core values are your non-negotiables when entering into any kind of dating arrangement with anyone else. The things that you don’t just want in a partner or in a relationship, the things that you actually need that are absolutely fundamental to your relationship or dating life. The things you’re not going to compromise on are non-negotiables in relationships. And as I often say, I think it’s useful to draw a distinction between the must-haves, and they would be nice to haves when you’re looking for a long-term partner.

So what is an example of a core relationship value? Well, obviously, I can speak personally about this issue. This is something I’ve thought a lot about, what are my core dating slash relationship values, if I’m entering into a monogamous long-term relationship with someone? I want a great sex life; I want high mutual attraction and high sexual compatibility. And that is something that I’m simply not willing to compromise on. I don’t care how amazing some woman who I meet might be, I don’t care if she is wealthy and funny and intelligent and good-natured and all these things…

non-negotiables in relationships

If we don’t have a great sexual connection, I’m simply going to move on.

And I’m not going to be angry at her, I’m not going to be spiteful or anything like that. I just know that for me deep down, this is non-negotiable, this is one of my core relationship values. And if I kick this can down the road, if I hope this problem will just solve itself, if I get involved with this woman, or God forbid, I marry this woman, and our sex life is still nonsense, then that is my fault. Because I was aware of this at the very beginning; I should have lived true to my core relationship values.

This is a point of contention among a lot of people, but I don’t care because I’m going to share it anyway. I think it’s important in your relationship/dating life to have certain values that are above any one person. Certain things you are aspiring to, certain things you not just want, but you need as a man as a woman that are bigger than any one person. So again, you know, this core value of mine, a great sexual connection, is fundamental to what I want in a relationship with a partner.

Non-negotiables in relationships are things you are not willing to compromise on.

I have heard from some men who have this core value, who shared this core value with me. They need a great sex life, they want to have, you know, mutual physical intimacy, and mutual attraction, all that stuff. They meet a woman, they start dating her, they realize pretty shortly that that isn’t quite there. Now, maybe this woman is amazing in all kinds of other ways. Maybe his family loves her, and she went to the “right” school or has the “right” career, whatever else… She ticks a lot of other boxes for him.

So for a while, he can live with it–or at least he thinks he can. He’s like, “Well, our sex life isn’t great. And I’m feeling this hunger for other women and all the rest. But you know, I’m just going to keep soldiering on.” And this may work for a little while.

But frequently, what I’ve seen, particularly in my coaching practice over the past five years or so, is that this problem will explode at some point. Because for that person, he needs sex, he needs to feel wanted, he needs to feel physical intimacy.

And frankly, this is harsh, but it’s true: he only has himself to blame at the end of the day. Because he’s the one who made that choice, even when it wasn’t totally in alignment with one of his core values. And he knew this about this woman from the beginning. He made choices.

Fundamentally, it’s about living true to your core values even when it hurts.

Because it may hurt like hell to break up with this amazing woman.

But at the end of the day, what is more important? Do you want to live without sex for the rest of your life? I don’t think most men do.

Now, I can already hear the objections. I’m sure some people are saying, well, “Zach, what if you have a great sex life with your partner for a while. And they’re involved in a terrible accident, and they can no longer have sex?” Of course, there are exceptions. I get it. Life happens. Things aren’t always so black and white.

But the thing that mystifies me is when people realize all the conflicts in values with their partner very, very early on in the relationship, yet, they still decided to move forward. Now, I’m not judging people for making that choice.

I know that life is complicated.

But I’ve seen it on coaching calls and emails and all this stuff over many, many years. When you don’t live true to your values early on, the problems don’t get solved. They don’t just “go away.”

You’re merely kicking the can down the road. It’s going to evolve into a much bigger problem down the line. They say the most painful experience for a human being. Aside from the death of a loved one, he’s going through a nightmare divorce. And I’ve seen divorce casualties up close and personal on coaching calls and beyond.

So my advice to you is to get clear about your core non-negotiables in relationships.

The things that you are not willing to compromise on, your non-negotiables in relationships. The values or aspirations you have for your dating life that go beyond any one woman or any one man or any one person.

And really think about it for yourself, because I can give you a list of my own core relationship values. But the whole point of this is to inspire you to think about your own examples. Especially if you’re single.

So don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to your mom, don’t listen to your dad. What do you want for your relationship or dating life? What are non-negotiables in relationships for you? And then make all of your relationship decisions based on that.

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Zachary Stockill
Zachary Stockill

Hi! I'm a Canadian author and educator whose work has been featured in BBC News, BBC Radio 4, The Huffington Post, and many other publications. I'm the founder of, the author of Overcoming Retroactive Jealousy and The Overcoming Jealousy Workbook, and the host of Humans in Love podcast.