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Let’s say there were two lovers — Freddie and Joselyn — in a relationship. The two lovebirds hit it off almost immediately. In a few weeks, Freddie told Joselyn he wanted them to move in together, and Joselyn was game. The thought that it was quite early for such a decision occurred to her, but she brushed it aside.

Freddie went on to make a number of “demands” in the relationship, and Joselyn went along with them each time. A year into the relationship, loverboy says he’s no longer interested in the relationship. Joselyn was hurt and broken! But while she mourned the love that had so quickly faded, she found herself feeling free for the first time in a long while. That was when she knew how messed up that relationship was, no thanks to her yes-man ways.

Love is sweet and fun, warm and comforting, but relationships are complex. For many of us, we are overwhelmed by the emotions — the butterflies in the tummy — and fail to see that relationships are so much more. Real talk, if you’re not in a relationship just for the cruise, then you need to use your head as much as your heart, if not more.

Naturally, we all want to say “yes” to the people we love; we want to give them what they want because we love to see them happy. But no relationship lasts or succeeds that way. You need to understand that the relationships that work are not the ones where one partner perpetually takes while the other is a bottomless giving pit.

Think of your relationship as a career. No, not the jobs you take because there’s nothing else and you pay your bills. I mean, your career — that path you’re passionate about and would love to explore for life. You know how seminar resource persons emphasize the need to be intentional and create clear-cut goals? (Cue the timeless S.M.A.R.T.) 

This is the same thing you need to do in a relationship, and one of the first places to start is defining and communicating what you don’t want.

Here are reasons why:

Identifying what you don’t want makes what you do want clearer

It’s easy to say what you want in a relationship off the top of your head, but what I’ve discovered is, that list often comes from a place of roses and butterflies. But what you don’t want usually requires more thought and takes you to a real place, unlike your fickle heart. Interestingly, if you can commit to identifying and defining what you don’t want, you realize your “what I want” list was missing some things.

I’m sure a lot of folks might tag this cynicism, but being intentional with your emotions can save you from heartbreak.

When you state what you don’t want, you can find the answer to questions such as:

– What do I really want from this relationship?

– What do I want to experience?

– Why am I in this relationship?

– What is the goal of this relationship?

Honesty becomes the bedrock of your relationship

When you clearly spell out what you don’t want in a relationship, your partner (or prospective partner) has a better chance of understanding what you’re looking out for. For example, if you say you intend to not have sex until you’re married, and it’s a deal-breaker for the other person, it would be easier to go your separate ways sooner than later.

With honesty, comes freedom

When both partners are not clear on what the other does not want in a relationship, you spend a lot of time tiptoeing around things. But when you’ve let the cat out of the bag early on, you’re free to be yourself and commit all your energy into making the relationship work (provided your significant other is cool with what you don’t want and you’re cool with theirs).

Higher chances of survival

While it is not a 100% assurance that the relationship will go the long haul, knowing that you’ve stated your expectations and your partner is accepting boosts your confidence in the relationship. Again, you may not need to worry about this if you and your partner have an agreement that you’re in it just for pure cruise (if that works for you). But when you’re in a relationship where both sides are honest about what they don’t want, you get the feeling you’re a part of something serious. Most likely, you won’t find it as easy to keep a side-piece if you see potential in your current relationship.

It saves you from getting frustrated

There’s almost nothing as draining as an unfulfilling relationship. Not being clear about what you don’t want leads to higher chances of your partner “messing up.” Then, you get angry, but you also don’t want to express your anger fully because you didn’t tell them in the first place that so-and-so is a deal-breaker for you. But, unless you get real and communicate, that anger only stores up and will come out one way or another, toward your partner and probably toward everyone and everything else in your life. Urrrgh!

Wouldn’t it be easier to just speak your truth? If it’s meant to be, then it’s meant to be. If it’s not, maybe you’ll be able to spend all that energy that went to anger and frustration on something more productive.

Remember, relationships can be complex, but identifying what you don’t want early on gives you a better shot at not being consumed by it all.