Raising relationship standards

Raising relationship standards

Here is a truth. You only have to look so far as what you find ‘romantic’ to see where your relationship standards are currently sitting.

I used to find a partner not being an hour late, asking me how my day was and buying me dinner ‘romantic’. As I’ve grown, evolved and chipped away at myself in therapy – I’ve realised what I really want.

What a ‘romantic’ date looks like for me now would be: to spend quality time with my partner in nature in the afternoon, softening into each other’s presence gently, to hold space for each other’s big dreams over dinner, to go halves in the food and then go home for a cuddle and laugh our heads off about my Jamie Oliver impersonation.

What this reflects is a shift in my values, or at least my understanding of what I value.

As a younger woman I may have thought that being bought dinner equates to being cared for and if they show up on time this equates to my worthiness, in some way. Now, being bought things doesn’t necessarily make me feel much. And being on time is a basic requirement unless there is a genuine reason.

What I have learnt is that I deserve the kind of love and care, which actually reaches me.

Right now, that looks like someone who wants to spend intentional time with me, who also takes joy in being in nature, who sees me as an equal, who can be playful and vulnerable and honest with me. Who enjoys experimenting with imagined futures of our best selves. And, who will willingly hold my hand standing head-on to the world when shit hits the fan.

It’s taken me five intimate relationships to get here. To know, wholeheartedly, that I value all these things, and then to learn how to ask and seek them out in the relationships I choose. To know that this can equate to what I deserve, and also what I am willingly to bring or give to a relationship in conjunction with what my partner values, and where I can meet them there.

Your standards will change over time. This is a good thing.

We rarely start off our intimate relationships in life with clearly defined boundaries, an incredibly in-depth sense of self-perception or an innate knowledge of what we are worth. Ironically, we often have to unlearn a lot from our parents, social media, rom-coms and other formative experiences to begin to get to the core of the apple on what are standards and values actually are.

We will likely choose partners, for better or worse, that teach us what we value through trial and error. We learn, over time, tears, missteps, a-ha moments, and I hope, through some universe-exploding orgasms too, that we are allowed to ask for much more than we originally thought.

Don’t get me wrong, a strong relationship does not equate to full ecstatic love, zero fighting, and always getting what you want. A healthy relationship should, however, offer a space that is safe enough to ask for what you want and need. A place in your life where you feel seen and really heard. And a dynamic where saying ‘no’ is held with as much respect as a ‘yes’.

One of my favourite things to hear in response to a no is: “I’m so happy you are giving yourself what you need right now.”

After-all, if I know someone who I’m relating intimately with can respect my no with so much grace, what will they do with my full bodied-yes...

Do not forget that a relationship, is a choice.

It may not be perfect every day, and we need to normalise this too. But, we should get to choose to love this person (or these people, if you’re poly), each day when we wake up. Hot tip: Love does not grow well with force or fear.

Some other essentials for your toolkit on revolutionary relating are:



Know thyself, first. I’m gonna give this one to you straight up. How the hell can you expect someone to love you good if you don’t know how to love yourself?

Before you go outsourcing your needs to someone else, how could you fulfil your own needs? Would you be willing to? Learning to ask for what you need is a skill. Absolutely, practice it. And so is learning how to meet your own needs first. Also, practice that.

P.S. Watch what happens when you model taking responsibility for your own needs in a relationship. It gives the other person permission and invitation to do the same. Good-bye co-dependency.



To evolve in love takes guts. You have to find ways to take the deep dive into your own shit and sit with it even when no one is clapping or cares. Work out your love language. Get in conversation with your inner child. Where are their wounds? Look at the relationship modelling you’ve been exposed to. What works? What doesn’t? How do you respond when you’re afraid? Fight, flight, freeze, faint, or fawn? How does this show up for you in love?

Demons are only scary when they don’t have a name and get kept in the dark.



Reflect on this now. How does hearing ‘no’ from your partner(s) make you feel in your body? Do you feel rejected, unloved, wrong, unsexy, entitled? Blah blah blah. Okay, so this is totally valid. (Except for the entitled part. You cannot own another person.)

Feeling rejected via a ‘no’, is not intrinsically bad, but it is something you can work on. If you want to exist in a relationship where your ‘no’ is deeply respected, you have to walk the talk.

Embracing your partner’s ‘no’ with admiration and tenderness is a loving act. Show them how it is done.



As I spoke of earlier, the more we understand what we value, the more we can ensure our values are upheld in relationships.

How can we communicate something we haven’t explored?

Our values will likely grow in depth and breadth as we experience more of life but start to explore the roots of ‘you’. Dropping into your soul, body and mind, getting curious about what truly matters to you. What makes you feel love, not because you are told it is ‘romantic’, but because, your body resonates, opens, sings, softens when in communion with it?

Trace that feeling until it has words. Map it out. Speak it into existence – maybe with your lover.



This has been one of my fondest lessons from my queer relationships, that can be applied to all kinds of love.

In the words of the revolutionary Maya Angelou, “If you are going down a road and don’t like what’s in front of you, and look behind you and don’t like what you see, get off the road. Create a new path!”

Forget the fucking script. The script does not know what you need, or to be frank, give a shit about what you want. The script is likely from your upbringing, your parents, your ex’s or even worse, toxic heteronormative pop-culture branded love.

The news I have for you here is: you are not your parents. You are not your inner child with unmet needs. You are not Cameron fucking Diaz in The Holiday. You are just you, now. You must step into love as this person. As this culmination of being that is unapologetically and unabatedly the present version of yourself, who is adaptive and transforming in minuscule ways each day. That is when you will see that you are so deserving of the kind of love which you crave.


Written by Polly Stone, originally for CH-VOID as "How to Raise Relationships Standards". Republished by Jonny.