21 Bare Minimum Expectations You Should Have In a Partnered Relationship

Unfortunately, your relationship isn't evolving as wonderfully as you imagined.

Instead of roses and romance, it's Netflix and nachos (of which we're big fans — just not all the time).

If so, you may have landed a minimal-effort guy or gal — someone who doesn't go out of their way to enrich your relationship but doesn't sabotage it, either.

How do you know if you've landed in one of these low-investment unions?

That's what we're unpacking below. 

What are the minimum expectations in a relationship? 

And is that minimum enough for you?

What Does Bare Minimum Mean in a Relationship?

We all want to cultivate friendly and romantic relationships that satisfy our emotional needs. Ideally, we wish the people in our lives to be:

  • Compassionate
  • Caring
  • Thoughtful
  • Attentive
  • Respectful 

But life is complicated, and everyone can't be everything at all times. People have their good moments and bad.

When things get rough, so long as respect doesn't disappear, most solid relationships can weather the storm. 

Rough patches happen to everyone, and most long-term partnerships go through a period where they're hanging on by a thread. 

But “bare minimum” unions are something else.

Essentially, they're functional but unfulfilling relationships wherein one or both parties never go above and beyond.

Common examples of the dynamic include:

  • No cheating, but no romance
  • No disrespect, but no extra effort
  • No abuse, but no genuine compassion
  • No unnecessary obstacles but no authentic support

Bare Minimum in a Relationship: 21 Expectations You Should Have 

Looking for examples of the bare minimum in a relationship? We're about to detail a bunch.

But first, let's tweak the definition of “bare minimum.” Instead of discussing it as something negative, let's look at 21 things that must be present to have a satisfying relationship. The bare minimum of happiness, if you will. 

1. Fidelity

We're not talking to the polyamorous population or people in open relationships. But for those who want a traditional commitment, infidelity should be a deal breaker.

Otherwise, the relationship becomes corroded, paranoia takes hold, and stress becomes your emotional conductor.

2. No Name Calling

Hurling slurs at a partner is demeaning, disrespectful, and, quite frankly, dumb. Simply stated: It's not okay. Not when things are fine, not when someone is drunk, and not at the nadir of a heated argument. It's intolerable.

3. Honesty

Whether it's to spare someone's feelings, avoid unnecessary conversations, or keep someone else's secret, we all tell little lies every so often.

But you can't maintain a healthy relationship with someone constantly burping up whopper-sized fallacies.   

4. Financial Respect

We're not suggesting that you shouldn't date or marry someone who doesn't make more than you. However, partnering with someone who always takes your money and never contributes is unwise. It's a form of financial abuse. 

5. No Abuse

Abuse is an automatic deal breaker. If someone lays their hands on you, get out. If someone hurls inexcusable slurs at you, find the door and go through it.

Don't convince yourself that you can change them or that they didn't mean it. If they did it once, they'd do it again.

6. No Hiding You

If your partner doesn't want to be seen with you in public, it's a problem. There's a good chance they're lying about their relationship status, and you may be the “side game.”

Another possibility is that they're embarrassed to be seen with you for superficial, problematic reasons. Either way, run.

7. No Flirting With Your Friends

Sure, some people are natural flirts, but it's disrespectful when your partner does it in front of your face. It's not innocent or just a “good time” — it's rude. And if they're making googly eyes at your friends and colleagues, consider it a massive red flag.

8. Relationship Status Respect

Balance is the backbone of every healthy partnership; one party shouldn't hijack the relationship. A partner who expects their desires and whims to supersede yours at all times is not worth keeping.

If they go so far as to try and gaslight you into thinking you're being needy because you expect equal billing, consider closing this relationship chapter.  

9. Logistical Respect

You shouldn't be the one always bending your schedule to accommodate them. Sure. Sometimes one person has more flexibility than the other.

But repeatedly bearing the financial and logistical responsibility of traveling and driving breeds resentment. It should also make you question why they can't make an effort and what that says about their feelings for you.

10. Presence

Everything is going great; then, apropos of nothing, you don't hear from them for over a week. They fall off the face of the Earth. When they resurface, and you object to their behavior, they try to distort the situation, making you out to be the “bad guy.”

It's fine if your partner can't see you for an extended period due to work, health, or family obligations. But they shouldn't keep you in the dark when those times arise.

11. Room for Personal Beliefs

Dating people who share your core beliefs is common — birds of a feather and all that. But sharing fundamental values doesn't mean you'll agree about everything, and partners should respect those differences.

If either of you can't respectfully handle the viewpoint of the other, it may be time to consider whether the relationship will last.

12. Intimacy Respect

Being in a romantic partnership doesn't mean one party has the right to demand intimacy. No means no. Coercion and rape are inexcusable. The golden rule is to respect other people's physical boundaries. No exceptions.

13. Professional Support

If you and your significant other agreed that one person would be the earner and the other would handle home life, then godspeed. The key is that you made a mutual decision.

Problems arise, however, if one person doesn't support the professional dreams of the other. Maintaining a satisfying union means buttressing each other while you each pursue your goals. 

14. Diet Respect

How obnoxious and annoying is it when someone lectures you on what you should eat? What about when someone forces you to try things? Shaming a partner over their diet is a form of disrespect.

To clarify, we're not talking about encouraging your partner to eat healthier in the face of medical issues or lead a more balanced life. But problems rear their judgy head when it becomes a point of shame and guilt. 

15. Cultural Respect

It's rude to disparage a partner's culture. If someone has a serious problem with your worldview or background, they're likely not a good match. You don't want or need to waste time defending your traditions and lifestyle.   

16. Open Communication

Communication is vital. A lack of it will cremate your coupledom and make it crumble like the Wicked Witch of the West. Being open and discussing issues is a bare minimum relationship requirement.

17. Space

Alone time is essential to maintain proper mental health. Not only that, but you decide how to spend your self-care hours. Without that freedom — that personal right — you'll suffocate.

A restrictive relationship where you must be on-call for your partner at all times is not worth the effort and will only lead to deep-seated resentment. 

18. Friendship Freedom

Barring dangerous situations, partners should never be in control of who you can and cannot befriend. Just as you get to dictate how to spend your alone time, you have the right to pick your pals.

A significant other who tries to control your social life is a grenade with a faulty pin.   

19. Grace

Life is the polar opposite of easy. Everyone must navigate challenging situations, complex relationships, and rough seasons. Expecting perfection from loved ones amounts to cruelty.

Nobody should be held to impossible standards. As such, grace is a critical component of any romance.  

20. Healthy Relationship With Vices

Addiction is nefarious, complicated, and often illogical. Resultantly, it's challenging, draining, and time-consuming. And yes, supporting loved ones who are addressing dangerous vices is vital.

But you're under no obligation to maintain a romantic union with someone who refuses to acknowledge that they have a problem.  

21. A Sense of Humor

Without humor, life would be unbearable. The same goes for relationships. When a couple can laugh with each other, at each other, and, perhaps most important, at themselves, things quickly become fraught.

Understanding each other's funny bones is vital to avoid hurt feelings.

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How Do You Know If You're Getting Just the Bare Minimum in a Relationship?

You may be getting the bare minimum without even realizing it. While relationships go through natural ebbs and flows, consistently low energy over an extended time can be a red flag. 

Here are some signs that indicate you’re getting less than you need.  

Your Partner Rarely Initiates Contact or Plans Dates

If your partner hardly ever reaches out first via text, phone, or in person, this likely signals you’re not a priority. If you’re always the one organizing your dates or meetups, it shows a lack of initiative and care on their end. You want someone who actively makes spending time together a two-way street.

Conversations Lack Depth or Your Partner Seems Distracted

Engaging, present conversations are what bond you in a relationship. If your talks tend to stay surface-level or your partner seems distracted, uninterested, or disengaged, this points to them putting in minimal effort.  

Your Emotional Needs Don't Get Met

A fulfilling relationship involves mutual emotional support. If your partner brushes off your wants, needs, fears, and dreams or gets impatient when you express feelings, they’re doing the bare minimum for you emotionally. 

Your Partner Breaks Plans or Commitments  

Everyone gets busy or has the occasional scheduling conflict. But if your partner always cancels on you last minute or “forgets” plans you’ve made, you’re clearly not high on their priority list. Reliability and follow-through are key for a sense of security in a relationship.

You Don’t Get Enough Affection and Appreciation

Do you feel treasured, respected, and cared for most days? Or does your partner rarely show expressions of warmth, praise, and gratitude? A lack of affection and appreciation in the everyday gestures shows they are taking you for granted rather than consciously nurturing your relationship.

Trust your instincts if you feel unfilled by the current state of your relationship. You deserve to have your needs enthusiastically met as you meet theirs. The right partner will make you feel like a priority, not an afterthought.

Is the Bare Minimum Enough in a Relationship? 

Is it bad to be in a relationship where the bare minimum is all that's required? Truth be told, only you have the answer. Some people want a low-key union where neither partner gives too much of themselves.

And that's not necessarily selfish. Some people are just wired that way, and two similarly circuited people can find a lot of satisfaction in a “bare minimum union.” 

Other folks, however, want more than the bare minimum. They want someone who sees them fully, loves them unconditionally, and goes the extra mile to make their affection clear.

How to Do More Than the Bare Minimum in a Relationship 

Looking for ways to let your partner know how much you care? Let's look at a few ideas. 

1. Be More Compassionate

Life pelts us with things over which we have no control, and sometimes they cause a domino effect resulting in poor choices and bad behavior.

When people in our lives forgive our proverbial trespasses and always choose compassion when presented with the choice, life is a lot more manageable.

Signal to your partner that your affection and devotion are pure by letting compassion guide your actions.

2. Make a Grand Gesture

Empty, shallow grand gestures are nothing to celebrate. But putting thought and energy into a big gift, surprise, or event for your partner is a great way to show how much you care.

Remember not to plan something tailored to your tastes. Cater to your partner's preferences.

3. Pick a Special Thing You Do for Them

An excellent way to demonstrate your love and go above and beyond the bare minimum is to establish a “love task” you regularly do for your partner.

It could be something as simple as making them coffee or lunch daily or as grand as planning a special vacation for them yearly.  

4. Support Them During the Most Difficult Times

Fair-weather fans are a bummer — as are fair-weather partners. Commitment means supporting your partner through the good times and bad.

Signal that your dedication rises above basement level by being a sail in windy weather. 

5. Treat Them for No Reason

Relationships rooted in materialism frequently turn toxic. However, treating your special someone to a gift once in a while lets them know how much they're loved.

People who stick to the bare minimum rarely go out of their way to give of themselves, emotionally or materially.

6. Help With Family Obstacles

Is one of your partner's parents sick? Did their sibling get in a car accident and need help?

Lending a hand in these situations demonstrates that you're in it through thick and thin and that you're willing to go above and beyond to make their world as manageable as possible. Just make sure people don't start taking advantage of your kindness. 

7. Work on Yourself

One of the best ways to show up fully in your relationship is to work on yourself. Tackle your shadow self. Acknowledge your faults, make peace with them, and work on improving.

Address any trauma lurking in your emotional caverns. The better you feel about yourself, your past, and the road you're now paving, the more present and giving you'll be with your partner.

Final Thoughts

Every person is different, as is every relationship. What works for you may not work for someone else. Setting your ground floor is a matter of personal preference. 

Just make sure you don't compromise your self-respect and values. Relationships that don't have a net positive are rarely worth pursuing.