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How To Maintain Standards in a Relationship – 5 Experts Share Their Best Strategies

How To Maintain Standards in a Relationship

“It is necessary, and even vital, to set standards for your life and the people you allow in it.”

~ Mandy Hale

Mandy Hale Standards Quote
Diana Lang

When it comes to relationships we all have our standards. Standards are those ethical principles that we navigate our lives by. 

They are a kind of personal code by which we make choices, decisions and intentions. Fundamentally, they are the ideals that we hold dearest to our hearts. They are essential personal covenants that shape how we live our lives, determine what’s important to us, and effectively direct our motivation and direction. Our standards are foundational to every single thing we do.

The thing about standards though is, everyone’s are different! 

By holding ourselves to our standards, we cannot help but hold others to them too. But because everyone has slightly – or radically – different ones, we can get in trouble when we try to impose our standards onto someone else.

In a relationship, congruous standards are important. It is said that the single most important component that allows a relationship to last is similar philosophy. 

Our standards are based on our philosophies. 

They are corresponding and interconnected. Everything else can be different between a couple: where we come from, how much money we have, the color of our skin, our ages, our interests, but if our standards are in conflict, there will eventually be philosophical differences that can become an immense obstacle to sustaining the relationship.

This is why couples often find natural compatibility with a partner that comes from a similar religious faith, or from the same country, or even town! Where we come from influences and shape our standards. We are often naturally attracted to someone who inherently harmonizes with these standards . . .

Or, we can be attracted to the opposite.

If we are with someone that has different standards, and especially lower standards than us, this can be very destructive. It can bring out the worst in us, instead of the best of us. 

If the discrepancy is great, it can turn out to be a match not made in heaven. 

This can do a lot of damage to our confidence and erode those things we hold paramount. If we start to doubt our own standards and lower them, each individual, and the relationship itself, will slowly be degraded. 

We can begin to doubt our core beliefs and values, and gradually, eventually, like the way water must flow downhill, our standards become lowered, and our lives together, and individually, begin to devolve.

You never want to step down to someone’s lower standards. 

A standard is an ideal, something that we reach for and aspire to. And if our standards are lessened because we are afraid to hold them up, then the relationship will suffer for lack of principle, and lack of depth. It will feel empty.

The good news is that we can evoke a higher standard from our partner. When we hold our standard up, they have to step up to it – or step out of it. 

Don’t let anyone stem your spirit or your higher knowing. By holding to your higher standard, everyone will be better for it. When we hold to our standards we are actually offering an opportunity for our partner to grow. By raising the bar in a relationship we all grow. By lowering our standards, we are diminished.

Diana Lang, Counselor and Spiritual Teacher – www.dianalang.com

Sally LeBoy

If people are in critical relationships or grow up in a family where their thoughts and feelings are not considered or are denigrated, they become unsure of themselves. 

When you are unsure of yourself you begin to look to others for self-definition.

As children we need to be encouraged to reference our own value system. Of course a lot of our values are learned from our parents, but there needs to be a message that our own ideas are important. While we wouldn’t want a five-year-old running the family, that child still needs to be listened to and respected.

The erosion of self occurs over a long period of time and can’t be reestablished overnight. It is important to begin to operate out of the mind set that what you want, feel or need is important. 

While you may not always get what you want, and others may disagree with you, you’re entitled to be considered by others and to pursue your goals. You need to get out of any relationships that are critical or abusive. 

Although this sounds simple, you must begin to make “I-statements”. “I-statements” are simply declarative statements about what you think, feel or want. 

They encourage the habit of looking inside rather than outside for your self-definition. It may take awhile but eventually you realize that you are the most qualified to know yourself, and that makes it a lot easier to express your standards with other people.

This isn’t about being rigid. What is challenging in relationships is that people differ in their views about life. 

You need other people to consider your views but you also need to consider theirs. However, knowing what your views are and feeling entitled to have them is the foundation for living a life where you are firmly in charge of yourself. 

When someone is violating your standards you will feel it. Something is off. 

Maybe you feel doubt, a nagging suspicion that you’re not on the right track. Pay attention to that feeling. Make sure you figure it out before proceeding. If it feels wrong, it probably is wrong at least for you. Look inside and decide. Nobody will ever know you better than you do.

Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com

Randi Gunther

Many of my patients have told me that they begin a new relationship choosing to behave as they think their partners want them to. 

From a desire to make things work, they exaggerate the personality characteristics and behaviors that seem to create emotional and physical harmony and suppress those that might initially threaten the relationship. If they can form a closer bond by those options, they feel their partners will be more likely to accept the rest of them later.

The results are often not what they wished them to be. 

The lack of full disclosure and carefully parceled authenticity catches up with them eventually. At some point in the relationship, their true selves will ache to be unmasked. 

Fearful of being discovered in their duplicity, they fear that their carefully laid plans will go astray. 

Yet, if they do not take the chance to uncover who they really are inside, they might inadvertently let something slip at the wrong time. The desire to keep love intact instead becomes a prison in which true love cannot grow.

Love is always a blend of the desire for security and safety balanced with the need for challenge and innovation. 

Relationships that are too predictable, even when compatible, run the risk of too much caution and the boredom that is likely to ensue. Those that are filled with the excitement of improbability are, on the other hand, much more alive, but also more unpredictable. The partners in each intimate relationship must find their own balance, if, in fact, they can agree.

When relationships had more defined and rigid roles, these layers of pretentiousness, and the subtle ones beneath, were better understood by both partners as having a reason to be striated. 

There were ways that each gender were suspected to behave and think, and the differences were saved for same-sex friends, who supported the conclusion that women were too mysterious to understand by men, and men needed to be “handled” by women who knew how.

In today’s dating world, people often don’t know if the person’s presentation is honest, exaggerated, nefarious, or even completely contrived. 

Very often relationship seekers have to cut through the evident best-of-the-breed performances within hours, without seeming overly pushy or probing. 

They also need to present a more integrated picture of who they are, what they need in a relationship, and what they can offer in return. 

They might not get another chance for the kind of authentic, heroic, and open heart connection they would eventually have had time to create because the person on the other end can disappear into the now recognized “ghost” towns and never again emerge.

As a result, those needs to investigate, explore, and deeply know another human being are not met by the timid souls who wish to maintain their comfort zones for fear of being hurt or rejected.

Challenging another or just opting to talk about what is really important or sacred, regardless of the outcome, can no longer be a limiting factor in the beginning of a relationship. It becomes more important to be fully present and real as early as possible to know whether that new person will become a treasure or just a passing fancy.

To be adept and successful at this new way of being, relationship seekers must know the difference between sharing personal information and fully present, in the moment, compassionate authenticity.

Sharing carefully crafted narratives that talk about things like how many times one has been in intimate relationships, whether or not parents abused alcohol, hobbies, music preferences, favorite restaurants, best friends, business triumphs or losses, sexual preferences, or financial prowess do not communicate the depth of a person’s core self. 

Learning to master the intricacies of the present connection, in real time, from a place of genuine interest, leave people feeling treasured and more known, even if the relationship only goes as far as a first date.

Here’s an example:

“I love to camp.”

“Wow. So do I. Where do you go?”

“Oh, I’ve been to many places. Like some bathroom facilities, but other than that, just where there is nature.”

“Yeah. Me, too. What else are you interested in?

“Uh, I’ve done some sailing. My dad used to take me when I was a kid.”

“My uncle had a boat once. He loved to sail.”

How does this sound different?

“What makes your heart sing?”

“I love the smell of fresh pine trees and the beauty of the forest just as the sun is coming up.”

“You sound like you know how to love life. What in my profile made you pick me?”

“It was the way you described how music made you feel inside, that it lived in you. I felt potentially connected to someone who might get the way experiences change me.”

“Are you okay with how we’re talking to each other now?”

“I’m really good with this conversation. Tell me how it’s affecting you and please be honest.”

In the first conversation, both people are circling, being careful not to intrude, offend, or invade. In the second the people really want to know who is on the other end of them and the personal stories will just fill in the realness of the current moments. 

Though they may walk away without the personal stories immediately in tow, they are more likely to be looking forward to more moments of authentic connection that really count.

Please feel free to explore this subject more in depth by reading these other articles in Psychology Today Blogs:

  • “The Myth of Romantic Expectations”
  • “Ten Important Questions You Should Ask of a Potential Partner”
  • “Relationship Disenchantment”
  • “Yes Doesn’t Count if you Can’t Say No”
  • “When Should I have told You?”

And my new ebook, “Heroic Love”

Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com

Amanda Patterson

I’ll be honest, a lot of women balk at me when I suggest they make a list.

Women aren’t always fond of putting it down on paper. I hear things like “It’s too restrictive”, “What if I don’t get what I want” and “This seems weird”. 

Having a list is important because it can become a working document for a relationship. 

This means that it can be changed and modified, as things change and modify in your life, but having the blueprint will help you to see what you are building.

This list can contain any of the following attributes of your relationship: 

appearance, intelligence level, educational level, job/career, personality traits, things you do together, how you feel when your together and what the future looks like. 

By committing this to paper, it will give you an idea of where to look for men. 

It will also give you something to compare your relationship with to see if you are on track for the things you want in life. 

Further, having this list will help you to decide what is really important in your life. 

You might put down that the guy has to be 6 foot. You might meet the man of your dreams and he’s 5’8. You can then use your list as a working document and change your height requirements, especially as you adapt to what’s the most important in your life.

You can get as creative and specific as you would like with this list. 

You can also make a vision board out of your list and put it somewhere you can see it all the time. The power of daily visualization will help bring you closer to your desires. So try it today, start with a small list and get comfortable with the notion of putting your wants, needs and desires down on paper.

The hope is that when you are in a relationship, you can take out the list and see your current relationship in the list. 

You can see the fun you are having and the excitement it brings with a man you wanted to be with and truly deserve.

Amanda Patterson, LMHC – www.amandapattersonlmhc.com

Ileana Hinojosa

Standards are important in the sense that they dictate what you will and will not tolerate in a relationship. 

For some, standards can fluctuate if they are unsure of their own boundaries and insecure about losing someone if they enforce their standards. It is important to recognize your absolutes regarding your standards. 

These would include standards regarding education levels, manners, behavior, habits, personality, and appearance. It is not a bad thing if you have standards around these issues. You worked hard to get to where you are at and should not lower your standards to accommodate someone else.

A good fit means that you are compatible with someone who has similar or same standards. 

If you are a career oriented person and meet someone who has a more “bohemian” lifestyle that only works when he needs to, it may present a challenge in that he doesn’t meet your standards. He may be nice and well meaning, but he doesn’t meet your standards and no amount of glossing over will change that fact. 

Maybe he smokes and you like everything else about him, but this is one of the absolutes you have in that you have told yourself smoking is a deal breaker. If this is not an issue, then it is not beneath your standards. But if it is an issue and you date him anyway, you are compromising your standards and violating your own boundaries.

It takes time to learn what standards and boundaries are important to you. 

It may also take time to figure out how to enforce and maintain these standards and boundaries. They may fluctuate over time with experience and as you grow into the person you are meant to be. 

Maybe you dated someone in the past that had a criminal history and it did not work out because he found it difficult to find a job or continued repeating the same mistakes. 

Experience is why you will not tolerate it now because you tried in the past and the experience has taught you that it will not work. 

Don’t be afraid to be clear about your boundaries and standards. If you compromise, you will be the one who will lose in the end.

Value yourself and the effort it has taken to get where you are. 

Ask yourself what advise you would give a friend in the same situation. Would you tell your friend that it is okay to lower her standards knowing it might not be the thing that honors her and who she is? 

Be your own best friend and put yourself first. Be polite and set your limits, but don’t give in because you feel obligated or you think you can “save” or “fix” him. 

Standards are a way to determine what works for you and if someone is the right fit. 

If your standards keep changing with every guy you meet, then you will be chipping away at your own power to make the best decision for yourself. You have the ability to choose what is in your own best interest. Stand in your power and make the best decision regarding the standards that work best for you.

Ileana Hinojosa, MLA, LMFT – www.themindfullife.net

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