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Relationships

The Bare Minimum in a Relationship You Should Have

Waiting for their text and smiling like a fool is a nice feeling, but is it really enough when that’s the most you can get out of your partner? 

A relationship is a connection between two people based on the grounds of love, mutual respect and commitment. It’s a connection that you can cling to, when all the other chapters of your life feel regular or empty. 

Having a partner or being in a relationship is like an add-on to your own life, where the only purpose is loving & being loved. So when you start dating someone, you are doing it to add romantic feelings and joy to your daily regular life. 

This means a partner is in your life to keep you happy, and you also got the same job! 

But, what if they start bare minimum-ing you?

Bare minimum-ing your lover is offering them only the minimum of your time, effort, attention, commitment, and emotions. It’s sharing the least part of yourself with someone, just to keep them connected. 

If your partner is only doing the bare minimum in the relationship with you, it may be helpful to step back, think about the situation, and set new boundaries for yourself. 

There need not be any debate around this. If you’re on this ride together and expect your relationship to last in the long run, you need to set your boundaries and accept that you deserve more than just the bare minimum.

What is the bare minimum? 

Bare minimum is the least a partner can do for you in a relationship. This is what you can count as the bare minimum expected from your lover: 

  • Respect
  • Love
  • Efforts 

However, this list doesn’t just end here. If your partner cares about you, there’s much more effort you can expect from them, without even having to ask. 

What is the point of a relationship if your significant other cannot even meet you halfway? Relationships should be easy, not draining or one-sided. Respect yourself enough to deserve more and not just the minimum. 

You shouldn’t be left to just scrape through the leftovers they give you. When you put in your 100%, it is okay to expect your partner to do the same and make things better! 

Now that you are reading this, let’s help you identify the signs that either you or your partner are doing the bare minimum in the relationship.

Signs your partner is doing only the bare minimum 

Sometimes your partner does something nice that is technically required of them, but you end up finding it extraordinary. This is because they may be doing the least for you, and you just love it when they put even the smallest effort! 

Here are some signs of bare minimum efforts: 

1. Sharing love

Being loved by your partner shouldn’t feel like an occasional feeling. It isn’t a birthday gift or a feeling for a special day. Being loved is a part of your romantic relationship. 

Love is not something that should be earned, especially with your best friend. It is a human right to love and to be loved! 

So, when your partner shows you only small bits and pieces of affection, kindness or respect, it is them doing the bare minimum. 

2. Commitment 

couple holding hands

You must have heard someone expressing how they are so thankful that their partner doesn’t cheat on them and is committed to them. Would you really be amazed and heart-touched if your partner isn’t cheating on you? 

If you have such low expectations from your relationship, it is important that you re-evaluate what your needs are and what you deserve. This is because loyalty is the most basic unsaid rule in any connection, that should be coming from within without compulsion. 

You need not wish for them to stay loyal, it’s the bare minimum that needs to be done when they are dating you. 

3. Equality

When you date someone and plan to stay with them, of course, you would like to feel respected and be treated equally. But isn’t being treated equally a human right for everyone?  

If your partner treats you equally, it is not something to praise. We are conditioned to think that we should settle for the very least when your emotional feelings are involved. Instead, you must understand this is the bare minimum in any relationship. 

Love is not about who has a better seat, or who wins a particular argument. Love is when you both put equal efforts to make something work together! 

4. They support your interests. 

Human beings like to connect through the things that they do, which is why support is a necessity in all relationships, romantic or not. It is sad when you love someone, and they aren’t excited for you or your interests in life. 

couple working out

Passions and goals are the core foundation of your personality. If you don’t have the space to express these goals with your partner, it can feel suffocating. 

Supporting your interests is something that they are supposed to do as it shows that they care and respect your passion or goals in life, which is a basic requirement. 

5. Accountability 

Whenever conflicts arise in a relationship, it is usually a partner’s natural reaction to get defensive and try to save their own hind. 

If your partner is being fair during conflicts and is later taking accountability for the things they said and did at the time of conflict, it is self-awareness. This is something that is not to be celebrated or lauded, but is to be held as a bare minimum within your relationship.

Having a partner that does not take accountability during times of conflict can make one feel misunderstood and unheard within their relationship and its space.

Now that we have recognised what it looks like to do or receive the bare minimum, let’s move on! 

Why do we accept the bare minimum? 

“We accept the love we think we deserve.”

In a world where basic kindness and human decency is rare, most of us will choose to put on a pedestal the most ordinary acts of kindness—particularly in romantic relationships. 

This is especially true for those used to: 

  • Abuse
  • Abandonment
  • Public ridicule
  • Excessive cruelty 
  • Low self-esteem 
  • Being called annoying and worthless
  • Not having received the love and attention in past relationships/childhood 

Having gone through this, any form of kindness is seen as a sovereign treatment. We end up being grateful for what little is being given to us, not daring to ask for any more. 

Hence, do not continue to accept less than what you deserve, or else the bare minimum will keep finding you.

How should a relationship be more than just the bare minimum?

A fulfilling and healthy relationship may differ from couple to couple. Nonetheless, the following are some traits your romantic partner can possess to show their care for you is beyond expectations: 

Respecting your boundaries 

Being around your romantic partner should be a space where you feel safe, understood, and accepted. Your partner must consider the limitations you’ve set when spending time with you. 

domino effect being stopped

Being aware of your boundaries is a bare minimum—something that should be a given. But, when a partner shows that they are willing to put in the extra work to form a deeper understanding, that’s what you deserve.  When they try to learn what events may trigger certain emotions in you, it shows that they want to do all they can to make sure you feel safe and comfortable. 

Stepping into your partner’s shoes

Building on the previous point, empathy is an admirable quality in a romantic partner. However, do not make the mistake of assuming sympathy as empathy. 

Sympathy is when you understand your partner’s situation from your own perspective, and show concern towards it. People may hold sympathy for you across different situations. They may seem sorry for you or express concern, but that is where it ends. 

Empathy, on the other hand, requires one to go the extra mile. It is when you put yourself in their shoes to better understand what your lover is going through. When you try to look at circumstances from their perspective, you have a better meter to gauge with them and help them when they need support.

Doing things you love 

A person taking up hobbies or trying to engage in activities that bring their significant other joy and fulfillment shows that they love them to the extent where they would take up things to connect to their partner’s interests.

For example, if your partner is into reading books, giving their favorite books a read offers you two a chance to share thoughts and opinions. Similarly, consuming media together allows for discussions that can give one insight into their partner’s qualities and interests. Them doing things you love is a sign they want to know everything that makes you, you.

Connecting with the people in your life 

When your partner makes an effort to get to know the important people in your life, they are going beyond surface-level pleasantries. 

Getting to know your partner’s friends and family makes you realize more about their quirks and the experiences and interactions which bring them joy. There is a saying that goes, “you are who you surround yourself with.” Keeping this in mind, speaking to your partner’s near and dear ones facilitates a deeper connection between the two of you.

Going above and beyond.

You cannot expect your relationship to run on a 50-50 system. Both partners need to put in more effort than just how much their partner is putting in. 

This involves taking time out of your schedule to do what your partner loves, fun dates, cooking them their favorite meal when you know they’ve had a bad day, or even surprising them with a gift of something they’ve been looking forward to for a long time. 

When partners in a relationship go above and beyond, it is a sign that your relationship is not merely running on the ethos of the bare minimum but your relationship standards.

couple holding hands together

What does a healthy relationship look like?

A standout indication that you are in a healthy relationship is not having to question whether your relationship is a healthy one. 

It is important to not just have but also maintain that healthy relationship. Staying in a relationship requires effort and love. Nevertheless, the following are what a healthy relationship comprises of–in most cases:

  • Knowing each other’s needs.

Knowing your partner’s needs ensures that they receive what they require to feel loved and satisfied within a relationship. 

With time, the constant hunt of fulfilling each other’s needs builds your natural ability to understand each other without having to express all the time. That is one of the paramount signs of a healthy relationship!

  • Not being afraid of conflict.

Nobody likes conflict. It is not enjoyable to have disagreements with anybody, let alone your romantic partner. 

However, when conflicts arise in a healthy relationship, both partners take it easy, knowing that mild conflicts are not going to tear their relationship apart. 

With this also comes the knowledge that both partners will listen to each other and make sure that the other one is heard. That is how conflicts are managed healthily and do not affect a relationship.

  • Not expecting reciprocity.

Healthy relationships are a constant game of equal give and take with the people involved. But you should never keep counts of favors or efforts within you. You doing something for your partner should not make you expect things in return. This should be done purely out of love and care. 

There is no resentfulness when there is no expectation of reciprocity. The give and take equals out over time. This does not mean that there should be no give and take within one’s relationship; it just means that one can rest easy when another does something for them.

  • Partners allow each other room for growth.

A healthy relationship is one where partners allow each other room for growth. It does not stop you from going your separate way; instead, it pushes you to reach your own goals. 

  • The ability to adjust and compromise.

All relationships require minimal compromises. In healthy relationships, one can adjust and make compromises to keep the relationship intact while also doing things that benefit the relationship. 

Compromises do not have to be big. For example, even the small act of not keeping flowers in your home because your partner is allergic to pollen is a tiny compromise. 

  • Patience

When a relationship progresses, it might become harder to deal with a partner’s smaller idiosyncrasies and foibles. That is, it can get harder to remain patient, especially when a situation demands it. 

There may be discoveries of more differences within partners, but when a partner can put their irritability aside to make room for their partner’s eccentricities, a healthy relationship thrives. 

How to remind yourself not to settle for the bare minimum? 

High standards are protection from unhappiness. There’s nothing wrong with wanting better for yourself, expecting more, and not settling for the bare minimum. When you know your worth, there is nothing to negotiate. Your relationship standards are set and no one can change your mind.

girls eyes being reflective

Whenever anyone tells you that your standards are too high, ask yourself: 

“Does lowering my relationship standards serve their agenda or mine?”

At the end of the day, 

Know what you deserve.

Honor it.

Stand your ground.

Bare minimums will never satisfy your soul. So, don’t let the bare minimum be the reason to stay with someone, as it is keeping you away from better things. Instead, it’s a solid reason to step back. 

If someone values you, they make efforts that feel amazing. It feels like you stand at an important place in their life, where you and your existence matters. 

Whereas in the other case, you’re confused all the time. They may do things when you ask for them, but it doesn’t make the best for you. Your existence is already something temporary in their mind. 

We know acknowledging and processing this truth might be hurtful. But that’s how you know it’s time to separate your ways because you owe yourself much more than that. You can’t disrespect yourself like this. It’s not worth it!

You crave efforts that do not only make your heart flutter, give you butterflies, or make you feel adored, but also which make you feel special, composed, calm and safe.

Four types of love you need:

Physical love—touch, closeness, and presence. 

Mental love—understanding, thought-provoking, and safe.

Emotional love—feeling seen, connected, and wanted. 

Spiritual love—chemistry, energy, and meaningfulness.

Go where this is fostered and grown, and leave where you don’t find this in a person. You deserve to be flooded with love, not searching for dried-up wells. Don’t ignore the red flag. Always remember your relationship standards.

Crave that energy where you can feel both physical and spiritual highs. It feels like heaven when you find such a person. Until then, don’t lower your standard. You deserve so much more!

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by Genesis Gutierrez

Genesis is the founder of Harness Magazine, a digital media company that celebrates and elevates the voices of women around the world. A first-generation college graduate, Genesis holds a degree in from UCLA with hopes of going back for a Masters in Social Work.

Through her work as an editor-in-chief of Harness, Genesis has dedicated herself to amplifying the stories of women specifically marginalized communities. She is committed to creating space for those who are often left out of mainstream conversations, and believes that storytelling is one of the most powerful tools we have for building community and sparking social change.


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