Relationships: The Rules of the Game

by Vince Shifflet

We are involved in many different types of relationships over the course of our physical existence on this earth. For the purposes of this article, I will be referring only to romantic relationships. It doesn’t have to be difficult. As a matter of fact, it can be a pleasurable experience if both parties understand the “Rules of the Game” going into the relationship.

What does a healthy relationship look like?

I am finding that more and more people are approaching me to talk about their relationship and receive counsel and feedback. Am I the expert? Not at all but life experience has taught me valuable lessons. I would like to share some of those lessons with you in this article.

I have indeed been guilty of projecting my expectations on my partner. The expectation that you will tell me you love me every day. The expectation that you will touch me and show me affection every day. The expectation that you will surprise me with gifts and flowers occasionally. The expectation that you are supposed to be my everything.

I am realizing that I am my everything. To put that expectation on anyone else is a recipe for disappointment and a failed or unhappy relationship.

Is it okay to want to be shown affection? Yes. Is it okay to want to be surprised by your partner? Yes. It is okay to want affection from your partner? Of course. The important question I had to ask myself was, is it a want or a need. What is lacking in me that I have a need to feel validated by my other half?

Relationships are about being a loving partner. Not a parent. There is a fine line between being a partner and acting in a parental manner. No adult appreciates another adult telling them what to do or attempting to control their life.

All the questions such as, “Where have you been?” “I tried to call you and you didn’t answer.” “Who just texted you?” “Who was that on the phone?” “How do you know him/her?” “Why are you late coming home from work?” Those are all questions a parent would ask a child. Your romantic partner is not your child.

Have a meaningful conversation with your partner to talk about the “Rules of the Game.” Ideally, I have found it works better to have the conversation in the beginning then repeat the conversation if the rules change as you both evolve because we know that NOTHING stays the same forever.

Do you want an open relationship? Do you want a strictly monogamous relationship? Do you want a polyamorous relationship? There is no right or wrong as long as the individuals involved are aware of the rules. It becomes problematic when there is deceit, cheating, lying, having secret relationships on the side, playing on the DL, and just plain ole being dishonest. Have the conversation and allow the other party to decide if they want to play the game. They can’t play if they don’t know the rules.

Are you in a happy, loving, completely honest relationship? Are you aware of ALL the rules? Are you feeling resentful because your partner is acting like a parent? Are you hiding things?

Have a healthy, respectful conversation with your romantic partner today if you haven’t already done so. Don’t project your expectations and needs onto your partner. Instead, ask yourself the hard questions such as “Why do I feel this way?” I have discovered that it has nothing to do with my partner but instead is more about my personal insecurities, fears, and past experiences.

If you truly feel the need to go through your partners phone, computer, wallet, pocket-book or other personal items, then you should pause and reflect. Am I truly with the wrong person or is it my insecurities and fears that are driving my behaviors. Either one could be the case.

You may need to seek counsel regarding the “rules of the game” and that is fine. I always see counseling as a great thing. My only word of caution would be, NEVER seek counsel from your single friends or from your friends who are in dishonest relationships. Friends can sometimes give selfish, unconscious advice. Friends sometimes can actually make it worse by steering you away from the relationship simply because they are single and have no one special in their life or simply because they are not fulfilled. They may attempt to get you to go to the bar with them. They may try to influence you that it is okay to be dishonest and have a fling with another person. They may say things such as “Child, I don’t want a relationship.” I believe we all desire that special intimate relationship. It may look different for each individual but we all desire that intimacy. Someone to share life with.

Bottom line: Live your life to the fullest and allow the one you love to do the same without expectations. If the relationship is not working for you, have the courage to admit that and move on to make room for what the Universe has for you. Don’t waste another day pondering and analyzing. Your heart already knows the answer. Listen to it and move forward.

Vince is an author, registered nurse, and blogger living in Atlanta. He routinely writes on matters affecting our physical, mental, and spiritual health as well as topics related to relationships. You can follow him on his website at as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

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