I am not a relationship expert. I have no formal training in counseling, social work, mediation, conflict resolution. But I do have a 30 year union with Lynna. A rich and deep relationship with my sons and daughter-in-law and my little brother. And a healed relationship with my mother. 5 years in, I have an amazing and nourishing relationship with my business/creative partner Emily — and our team (Jen and Cat). I have some great friends I’ve known my whole life and some great friends that I’ve only met in the past few years. I am surrounded by love, acceptance, inspiration and shockingly little drama and bullshit.

From this non-expert lens, I present to you my Relationship Bill of Rights. By “rights”, I use the same definition as Jesus, John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and other free thinkers that believed in God-given inalienable rights; the intrinsic value of each human.

  1. You have the right to what you feel. Push back against anyone that tells you what to feel or not to feel. Or that tries to talk you out of your feelings. Your feelings don’t make you right — in fact, they may make you more wrong. But they are still your feelings.
  2. You have the right to express what you feel. In a real relationship, you should have the space to express these said feelings. If you are asked to or assume that you need to suppress these feelings, then this right is being encroached on.
  3. You have the right to ask for what you want. Relationships die for a lot of reasons but one prevailing reason is that one person didn’t tell the other what they needed from the relationship. Do you need more space? More time together? More adventure? You must ask for it.
  4. You have the right to be you. A personal mantra of mine: don’t modify to mollify. You don’t have to be anything other than your true self. If someone expects you to live a split life, they are violating this right. Of course, this doesn’t give you permission to be an asshole and call that your “true self”. I

Now for some ownership and accountability …

I can’t recall the source, but if a healthy person is in a relationship with an unhealthy person, the relationship is unhealthy. The way you contribute to the unhealthiness is by not exercising these rights.If you don’t exercise these four rights, then you are part of the problem. At a minimum, you’ve ceded your rights for acceptance, stability, belonging. And like all inalienable rights, they can’t be given nor taken — but they can be forgotten.

If you exercised these four rights daily, how would it change your circle of relationships? What would you partner say? What would your kids say?

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