Expecting too much or asking for too little – does this dilemma bother you? Are you doing the bare minimum in your relationship? Or, are you giving it your everything to the point that you are losing focus on yourself? Most of us struggle with these predicaments in our relationships.
The contemporary conversation around love and relationships tends to highlight independence and self-reliance. One is advised to watch out for codependent tendencies. This hyper-vigilance makes it difficult to ascertain how much expectation is simply inadequate for the survival of the relationship.
Are we being emotionally mature and giving space to our partner, or are we surviving on the bare minimum in love? To help us recognize the difference, we talked to emotional wellness and mindfulness coach, Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
What Is The Bare Minimum In A Relationship?
Bare minimum in a relationship is a slightly complicated phrase to understand out of context. The “bare minimum” should ideally be understood as the minimum requirement one must have from their relationship. This can vary from person to person, depending on their experiences, value system, level of investment in the relationship, and desire to make it work.
A person would naturally set a lower standard for their relationship if their intent was to make it work no matter what. Think of a couple who have common responsibilities like a child or a disabled parent, or a financial engagement that encourages them to keep the relationship going. They may have a different set of standards than someone who after coming out of a toxic relationship has a low tolerance for a bare minimum boyfriend or girlfriend.
Speaking of bare minimum boyfriend/girlfriend, this is an opposite use of the term “bare minimum”, where it refers to a person putting low effort in a relationship, just enough for it to survive but not thrive. We asked Pooja to tell us what doing “just the bare minimum” in a relationship meant for her.
Pooja says, “Giving just the bare minimum means maintaining the status quo in a relationship with minimum or no emotional input. It might lead to the partner feeling devalued and under-prioritized. This can dent the communication and intimacy between the couple as if they were leading two different lives living together.” This is why Pooja advises raising one’s expectations from their relationship. This takes us to our next point.
15 Examples Of Bare Minimum Standards In A Relationship
From accepting the bare minimum in a relationship to having a decent standard of bare minimum expectations in a relationship – don’t let the wordplay confuse you. This shift is pretty simple.
- Stop begging for the bare minimum in love and ask for more. You deserve more
- For someone who is putting in a low effort in a relationship, recognize what is essential
- Learn how to do more than the bare minimum in a relationship for it to thrive
Since relationships are as subjective as the humans involved, it can be tricky to recognize what the bare minimum standards in a relationship are. We asked Pooja to help us understand these essential minimum expectations one can have through everyday examples that are easily recognizable in any romantic relationship. Some of these are:
- Partner’s day-to-day life must be of concern. There cannot be selective engagement. This means, sharing peeves and troubles as much as love and affection
- Zero tolerance for any form of abuse in the relationship
- No offensive jokes about appearance, friends, family, and anything else that is of importance to the partner
- A safe space for discussing anything from sex positions to finances
- Not giving threats of separation
- Never using the partner’s past, illness, or anything else they shared in confidence against them in any future argument
- No tolerance for financial infidelity
- Never using your children for communication during disagreements
- Not getting upset when a partner doesn’t forgive you right after you apologize
- Allowing yourself and your partner to have a personal social life outside of the relationship
- Accepting mistakes. Saying sorry
- No name calling. To not criticize and condemn
- Not shaming your partner in public
- Making your partner feel like they matter. Example: responding to their texts, answering their calls
- Understanding and valuing active consent, especially for physical intimacy
A fulfilling relationship can vary from couple to couple but this little peek into a healthy relationship should help you decide what your bare minimum standards can be. Take out time along with your partner to mindfully think of the things that matter to you and lay them down as your relationship boundaries. If you want more from your relationship, you must stop accepting the bare minimum your partner is putting in the relationship.
Related Reading: 13 Signs She Is A High-Maintenance Girl
8 Tips To Do More Than Just Bare Minimum In A Relationship
If it is you who is putting in minimal effort in your relationship, you need to up your game to make your relationship to be sustainable. How a healthy relationship looks from the outside can be different for every couple. But at the core lie a few basic values that need to be treated as essential and taken care of.
For example, remembering important dates and celebrating them together may be very important to one couple but may not matter much to another. At its core, remembering dates is about making your partner feel special. It is possible that this requirement is being addressed by the second couple in another form.
To learn how to do more than the bare minimum in a relationship, our expert guides you through a few of these core values one by one. Each of these also includes actionable tips that you can implement in your relationship with ease.
1. Communicating effectively
Communication sits at the foundation of a healthy relationship and cannot be compromised. Not only does communication allow for love to be communicated, but most conflict resolution in the relationship also happens through effective communication. Trust building, desires, mutual respect, future plans – everything depends on communication.
Maybe you are doing the bare minimum in a relationship by not refusing to listen to your partner when they share something with you. Maybe you also hum and nod in the right places. But Pooja advises working more on communication – verbal, textual, and body language. She says, “The better the communication, the better the relationship.”
Expert Tip: Set some ground rules around a safe space for communication. For example, nothing you say in a vulnerable state can be used against you in a future fight. Another example could be to carve out an hour of phone-free time before sleeping to practice active listening.
2. Basic needs – Pay attention to needs and desires
Do you know what your partner needs? Sure, you pay attention to what they ask for. But what about the things they don’t verbally ask for? It is possible to read between the lines, listen to silences, and make something out of it if you feel a sense of eagerness to understand your partner and the desire to alleviate their pain.
Pooja says, “Focus on your partner’s needs whether these are critical emotional needs, or mental, sexual or financial needs.” A good partnership is about joining forces to deal with issues together. Feeling seen and feeling heard is the bare minimum in a relationship.
Expert Tip: Notice when your partner is frustrated. Try to observe the root of their frustration. Are they overworked? Ask them if there is anything you can take off their plate.
3. Connection – Primary expectation in a relationship
Connection certainly holds a steady spot on the list of bare minimum expectations in a relationship. If communication is the foundation, the connection is the glue that holds it together. It serves as the bedrock of healthy communication and a transfer of emotions.
This means that couples should treat establishing a connection as one of the primary steps to strengthening their bond. Pooja advises, “Connect with all aspects of your partner’s life- their profession, their friends, their extended family.”
Dr. John Gottman, a leading American psychologist, calls “that part of your brain where you store all the relevant information about your partner’s life” a Love Map. The more detailed your love map, the better you know your partner, and the stronger your connection.
Expert Tip: Do you think you already know your partner quite well because you had a deep conversation with them a few months back on a date night? We tend to forget that, just like us, our partner is also an evolving individual. Never underestimate the importance of connecting with your partner on a more frequent basis. You need to keep yourself updated.
Related Reading: 51 Deep Relationship Questions To Ask For A Better Love Life
4. Individuality – Nurture healthy boundaries
If one doesn’t pay enough attention, knowing your partner inside out and having a deep connection with them can become a trap to losing your individuality. Love and care can become claustrophobic if individuality is not respected. Pooja says, “Treat your partner as an extension of you but not a part of you. They are yours but you don’t own them.”
Are you thinking to yourself, “But I allow my partner to do whatever they want”? Reflect on the word “allow”, which indicates a sense of ownership that Pooja warns us against and points to a need for better-defined boundaries.
The bare minimum in a relationship should include creating and respecting some boundaries. Focusing on your own individuality will give your relationship some breathing space and will give you some perspective on your partner’s individuality. A sense of freedom and individual security are vital in a relationship.
Expert Tip: Ask yourself the following questions:
• “What would I like to do today?”
• “If I didn’t have to worry about everyone’s meals, what would I want to eat?”
• “Who would I like to meet this weekend without my partner?”
• If you are used to ordering common dishes at a restaurant, place individual orders for a change
• Wake up an hour earlier and sneak in time for yourself
• Encourage in your partner the same liberty
5. Consent – The bare minimum in love
Pooja says, “Understanding consent is important, every time for every action or thought.” While we talk a lot about consent in the terms of physical intimacy, Pooja rightly brings up the role of consent in other aspects of a couple’s life together. Asking for your partner’s consent for common decisions is one of the sincerest displays of your respect for their individuality. It helps them not feel taken for granted.
Do you ask your partner for their opinion when buying something for the house? Do you ask them for their availability before RSVPing on an invitation? Do you ask them if they have the mental bandwidth to listen to you vent out? These are some of the ways you can stop settling for putting in the bare minimum in a relationship and do more.
Expert Tip: This is not to say that consent in physical touch is any less important. It is the bare minimum in love. To raise your bare minimum standards in a relationship, understand the concept of active consent. To look for active enthusiastic consent is to look for the presence of a yes rather than the absence of a no.
6. Be empathetic to your partner
Do not mistake sympathy with empathy. Sympathy is the bare minimum in love. To show empathy would be to take it up a notch. Let us take it one by one. Sympathy involves trying to understand someone else’s emotions from your point of view. You must have felt sympathy for many people in your day-to-day life. Feeling sad for an accident victim you drove past or the plight of refugees, or even for the child in your apartment building who fell down the stairs, it is easier to sympathize than to empathize.
While sympathy has its own merits, considering it allows people to keep themselves detached from another’s pain and provide for an objective thoughtful solution, in a romantic relationship, empathy should be the bare minimum standard of sensitivity. Empathy involves putting yourself in your partner’s shoes and seeing their troubles from their perspective. This creates a level of connection and understanding that is crucial for the feeling of love.
Expert Tip: Do things that stimulate vulnerability in your relationship. Opening yourself to your partner can help you value empathy when it is you who needs that understanding. It can deepen your commitment to this value. Moreover, practicing the active sharing of emotions will consequently train you and your partner to be more empathetic to each other.
Related Reading: I Don’t Feel Loved: Reasons And What To Do About It
7. Focus on all kinds of intimacy
When we speak of intimacy, we do not wish to limit our conversation to sexual intimacy. Intimacy in a relationship is multidimensional, stretching into sexual, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and experiential aspects. When partners do the bare minimum in a relationship, they tend to look at sexual intimacy as a formula to come closer without focusing on the deeper aspects.
Remember how we talked about “connection” earlier? To deepen various types of intimacy in a relationship, you must give attention to nurturing an emotional and mental connection with your partner. For example, show curiosity toward their core emotions such as fear or aspiration. This will build trust in a partnership. Both partners will feel comfortable sharing their sexual needs and desires. It’s worth remembering that great physical intimacy stems from a harmonious synchronization between two minds and not just bodies.
Expert Tip: The more common understanding of foreplay is a classic example of doing just the bare minimum in a relationship. How to do more? Take foreplay out of the constraints of time and space. Foreplay is anything you and your partner can do to increase your desire for each other. Showing kindness to your partner or making eye contact when they speak to you could be better foreplay than mechanically touching each other a few minutes before hitting the bed.
8. Love – The absolute bare minimum in a relationship
Love is the thread that holds everything together. What is the point of two people getting together if not for the human desire to love and be loved? But love is not just the constant feeling beneath all the mumble-jumble we do around relationships, even though we often mistake it to be. Love is an active conscious act.
In a relationship, partners should also express love without saying it– through their actions. To be able to talk about communication, connection, consent, etc is one thing, but to express love is to actually do these things. Which is why in this article we have shared with you actionable tips, things you can decide to practice in your partnership right now.
Expert Tip: Think about love.
We: “Would you compromise on that recent fight with your partner even though you think you were right?”
We: “Do you love your partner?”
You: Of course, yes!”
Think about the irony of this dialogue. If you were to have a shift in your outlook toward love and see every little effort you put in as an act of love, you will have automatically raised the bar for the bare minimum in your relationship.
- Giving just the bare minimum means maintaining the status quo in a relationship with minimum or no emotional input
- Raise your expectations from your relationship and set some boundaries for it to thrive
- The ideal bare minimum standard that you expect could include values like commitment, mutual respect, love, fidelity, and anything else that is important to you
- How a healthy relationship looks from the outside can vary for every couple. But at the core lie a few basic values that need to be treated as essential and taken care of
- A few expert-recommended tips on doing more than the bare minimum in a relationship include focusing on your partner’s needs and connecting with them, developing a detailed love map, understanding active consent, and nurturing emotional intimacy
Begging for the bare minimum from your partner or giving your relationship your bare minimum effort is going to adversely affect your relationship. The bare minimum effort will fetch bare minimum results, bare minimum love, bare minimum personal growth, and bare minimum joy. Do not let the bare minimum hold you back.