Bottom Lines In Relationships Aren’t Just About Things You Won’t Accept

When you think about bottom lines in relationships, most of us land on a short list of behaviors we’d never tolerate from a partner — or anyone we’re in relationship with.

It’s important for each of us to know what those bottom lines are, and to share them with our partner, because when we do this in a calm, respectful way, it serves as a guardrail that actually keeps our relationship safe.   

Today I want to offer you a second way of using bottom lines — in all your relationships — which might be the most important relationship hack I’ve given this year.

This second list of Bottom Lines centers around the behaviors you will always engage in, no matter how angry, hurt, resentful, or exhausted you feel. You can think of them as bare minimums — the things others can count on you doing regardless of how you feel in the moment. 


Healthy relationships make the people in them feel safe. One of the ways we build safety is to create consistency and predictability, which is particularly important during times of strife because those moments happen in all relationships.   

Here’s an example of mine.


I will always…

  • Respond to I love you with “I love you.”
  • Take your call — unless I’m losing my shit, in which case I’ll call you when I’m sane. 
  • Honor the commitments we’ve made together, like following through on plans, helping you when I said I would, etc.
  • Kiss you goodnight <-Steph specific.
  • Respond graciously when you apologize. 
  • Participate in a repair (participate in making up) when you initiate it. I will also initiate on my own.
  • Let you know if I’m nearing a breaking point in the relationship — well in advance of needing to walk away — so there’s ample time to fix things.
  • Fight for our relationship — and respect your decision if you want to end it. 



Please never…

  • Lay your hands on me in anger. 
  • Call me names / attack my character.
  • Threaten to break up with me / threaten to end the relationship.
  • Ask or enable loved ones to choose sides during a disagreement.
  • Cheat on me. 
  • Ghost me. I will not chase.

Here’s the bottom line on bottom lines: 

They’re not universal. 

We each have our unique raw nerves that we don’t want our loved ones to press on.

The most important thing is for us to identify ours and communicate them to those closest to us.