When you’ve been hurt and don’t feel safe in trusting others, it’s easy to rationalise that being in a bare-minimum relationship is the safe option. It’s like, How can I go wrong when I’m going out of my way to have low expectations?

We figure accepting the bare minimum lowers the possibility of rejection and offers ‘low stakes’ to the other party.

But a lot goes wrong because we’re doing ourselves a disservice. The decision to be in a bare-minimum relationship is self-rejection, so it accentuates the pain that caused us to make that choice in the first place.

When we claim we need less than we do, that maybe we’re, you know, ‘low maintenance’ or whatever, while it might feel true, reality proves it’s not. The moment they disappoint, hurt or piss us off despite our bare-minimum attitude, it pushes our worthiness buttons.

That sense that someone can’t even do the basics is a major source of tension, friction, resentment and feeling rejected. But we need to check in with ourselves because these discomforting feelings are clues about how authentic we’re being.

Acting like the bare minimum in a relationship is okay sets ourselves and others up to fail, not thrive. We establish the relationship on a crumb foundation.

Regardless of whether we specified the bare minimum, knowing we’re accepting less than what we need, desire, and deserve in the least fulfilling version of a relationship breeds resentment. We will wait for them to misstep, and when they do, it will seem egregious. We’ll be like, How the hell is this person pulling this shizzle with me when I’m letting them do the equivalent of writing their name on the test and getting a basic pass? It’ll be like that scene in the iconic film Friday where Ice Cube’s character Craig asks Smokey, played by Chris Tucker, “How you gonna get fired on your day off?”

We’re sabotaging ourselves by settling for the bare minimum. Settling and scrimping makes the person an accomplice to doing ourselves wrong by having low standards. We’re going to keep it to ourselves and ruminate, possibly while trying to drop hints. Or we’re going to get into the soul-sucking work of trying to cajole, guilt or berate them into doing the bare minimum or trying to get the equivalent of a pay rise of a few pence or pounds.

When we notice we’re suggesting or accepting the bare minimum, we need to check in with ourselves. What is claiming the bare minimum is fine allowing us to avoid expressing and confronting? Is there something we’re afraid would happen if we allowed ourselves to need more? Which disappointment are we afraid of experiencing again, and how might we approach this present-day situation from a more boundaried, loving place? By recognising what we need to voice, whether verbally or through action, we raise our standards.

Transform your relationships from the inside out – discover the Relationship Fundamentals series!

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