I used to think lists and written goals were silly, an overly bureaucratic waste of my time. I'm not really sure when this changed, but I find that I am so much more focused and self-aware when I set goals. It still feels weird and slightly unfamiliar, but so does not having them. The last few weeks I find myself collecting ideas and thoughts about relationships, reading things that I want to carry around, finding methods I want to put into practice. I'm creating this list, knowing I will add and edit it over time, to remind myself of what I find important. It uses feminine pronouns because I'm dating someone female-identified currently, but I think this list goes for anyone. Most of these will take daily work, and I will fail repeatedly at all of them. But failure is not a final answer, simply an opportunity for learning.
Things I strive for in our relationship:
1) To actively listen to her, to try my hardest not to interrupt, and to provide a response that fits what she is asking for. Not to split my attention. To remember that most, if not all, of what she says is important to her. I want to be present, and active listening is a huge part of that.
2) To determine whether she is asking for a sounding board, emotional support, or advice, and to provide what she needs without my own opinion or assumptions. To acknowledge her feelings, even if I don't agree, and to recognize that those feelings are valid and important to her.
3) To be honest and open with her. I struggle often to talk about my own feelings, and thoughts may roll around in my head for weeks or months before I have the courage to say them out loud. I will work on overcoming my fears about being emotionally vulnerable so that I can open up to her. I will talk with her about the things that are important to me, to us. I will work on acknowledging my mistakes, my baggage, my shortcomings, and my fears.
4) To always support her autonomy, her desires and dreams, and the things in her life that are important to her. To acknowledge and respect her friendships, her relationship with her family, her dreams, her hobbies, and her work. To give her ample freedom and time to cultivate all those things without my interference and often, without me. I want my girlfriend to always have a life outside of me, and I don't want her to have to check in, verify, or ask my permission to act on her own. I do not need to know where she is constantly, what she is doing, or who she is with. I will respect her privacy, and I will never violate what is hers -- her texts and emails, her online accounts, her journals or writing, her private correspondence and conversations. I will respect her space, her routines, and her relationships with other people. I will exercise no control over what is hers, and I will recognize that her life is not "mine" or "ours."
5) To always make time for her, to do things which she enjoys (even if I don't), and to enjoy time with her without expecting it. To thank her, praise her, and acknowledge what she does for me. To do small things that please her. To show my love to her through words, actions, and time.
6) To respect her sexual boundaries, to keep exploring within our sexual relationship, to ask for what I want without fear or shame, and to treat sex as a privilege, not an expectation. To remember that sex is not a quid-pro-quo exchange, and that we both want and need different things at different times. To receive her requests to not engage in sexual activity at a given moment with grace, not with surliness or frustration. To be conscious of how she feels and responds to my sexual energy.
7) To forgive and forget. To fight fair. To respect when she needs to walk away and take a break, and to ask for the space to do so, too, if I need it. To verbalize what I need and what I want when I am upset, because she cannot read my mind. To apologize when I am wrong or when I hurt her. To never revive an argument or mistake if it has been settled and forgiven. To acknowledge my capacity for mistakes, and to try my best to never act out of passive-aggressiveness toward her.
8) Be mindful of what she does not like, and respect that we desire different things. For example, if she does not like gifts, then refrain from buying her things.
9) To never promise anything I can't provide. See: forever.
10) To respect our agreement to have an open relationship, to act within the boundaries we have set, and to give her the space to act on her attractions to other people. To acknowledge my jealousy and my insecurity, but to remember that I cannot let these feelings overwhelm me or affect how I treat her. To always be honest and conscious of the feelings and needs of my lovers. To take steps to protect everyone involved and ensure that I act in ways that are consentual and respectful.
11) To really take this idea to heart: That commitment, instead of being a promise for a future, can be a devotion to radical deep presence, with longevity as a by-product.
12) To remind myself that my crazy is mine -- she does not know pain and history if I do not tell her. To acknowledge my baggage and unfamiliar, uneasy, or painful feelings when they arise. To allow her the ability to rewrite the script, and to talk with her when my past affects us. To release my fears, anxieties, and pain when possible. To remember that she is not my former lovers, and to try my best not to assume her actions and reactions will be the same as theirs. To remember that she has her own pain and history, and to do my best to support her in working through her own baggage.