No relationship comes pre-packaged and ready to go. There is no “generic” format to follow.  Here are 3 ground rules to consider at the start.

Set ground rules at the beginning of your relationship.
Set ground rules at the beginning of your relationship and you’ll prevent conflict later.

Ground Rules about Kids

This is a gigantic question which you must discuss early on as you set up ground rules and a template for your relationship journey. Do you want to have children someday? Whether children together or just as a part of your future life doesn’t matter so much as your desire to grow a family when it’s time.

Your romantic partner must ask him/herself the same questions.

Having children is a big, lifetime commitment. You can’t take it back once you do it. If you have experience with children—a lot of younger brothers and sisters, children from a previous relationship, a job as a childcare worker or teacher—the question shouldn’t be too hard to answer.

If, however, your experience is limited, then you need to give this a lot of thought. You and your romantic partner have to have ground rules about kids, or someday in the future, there might be a huge, irreconcilable conflict.

Ground Rules for Your Time Commitment

How much of a time commitment can you make to nurture your relationship? If you or your partner both work long hours or travel extensively, you’ll have to set ground rules about spending time together on a regular basis. Relationships don’t happen with no contact. They take tending, and you can’t do that if you’re never with the other person.

Don’t base your relationship on phone calls or texts. You need face-to-face interactions to make it work. The ground rules for your time together might grow organically from the way you met, but don’t expect things to stay the same forever. Changing your outside obligations will change your time commitment with your partner.

Also consider timeliness as you set your ground rules. Are you ready to commit to calling when you’re going to be late? Can you promise punctuality for your dates together? Pay attention not only to your goals in this regard, but also to how your partner treats you. If they’re constantly late, does it bother you? Is this going to be a problem or is it just a quirk you can deal with?

Talking things over with your partner helps set ground rules for the relationship.
Talking things over with your partner helps set ground rules for the relationship.

Events — Ground Rules for Birthdays and Holidays

What do normally do for your birthday? Is it a big deal for you, or is it just another day of the year? If you’re the kind of person who wants a big deal for your natal day, make sure your ground rules support your needs. Or, if you’re the kind of person who wants birthdays to go away and leave you alone, you want your ground rules to reflect this.

And, what about the other holidays of the year, like Christmas and New Year’s Eve? If you normally spend Christmas with your family, then you need to make ground rules about whose family you visit on that day. Maybe you can alternate years or make your visit on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas day.

Celebrating the New Year often entails parties, whether on New Year’s Eve or the first day of the year. Would you be disappointed if you couldn’t watch the Rose Bowl with your buddies on January 1? Give this some thought and set your ground rules for events together.


As with all things that involve relationships, there have to be compromises along the way. But if you set clear ground rules, you’ll minimize conflicts and have a longer, healthier relationship.