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Understanding Your Rights & Responsibilities in a Relationship

by Oluseye Igbafe

I recently facilitated a training where one of the modules dealt with the issues regarding rights and responsibilities in learning. I realized that the underlying principle of that module is universal; it applies to love relationships as much as it does to work relationship. 

The principle of rights and responsibilities simply states that for every right you exercise, you have a corresponding responsibility. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that the bane of most relationships or marriages is either the desire to exercise rights without fulfilling 
corresponding responsibilities; or the enjoyment of the responsibilities others bear without allowing them their rights. Of course, there are those  who are simply not aware that they have rights in a relationship.

In this context, the term "rights” is used a bit loosely because they may not be legally enforceable; nonetheless, this does not invalidate them in anyway. Rights simply refer to “what you are entitled to”.

I strongly believe that as  adults, we must define our rights for ourselves before we go into relationships and then, share it with your partners. Defining what we believe is the minimum or standard of a relationship will go a long way in guiding us into healthy relationships and help identify red flags when in unhealthy unions. They are the goggles that help us see clearly through our otherwise blind love.

Responsibilities on the other hand, are the corresponding obligations we owe our partners. They are the actions we must undertake in ensuring our partners enjoy the same rights we desire.

Below is a list of 7 rights and responsibilities for a healthy relationship, as well as the corresponding #RedFlags:

1. The right to be and feel safe : Everyone has the right to feel safe no matter the day, time or situation. This means being free from fear and the threat of violence, hurt, injury and abuse. Violence is never okay or justified. Safety is Number 1 priority and should never be compromised for a relationship.
We equally have a responsibility not to create an abusive environment, threaten or physically harm others.
#RedFlag: Being afraid of your partner or feeling unsafe around them.
2. The right to self expression yourself and consideration of needs: A fundamental requirement for a healthy relationship is the ability to voice opinions without  fear or ridicule. We must be able to say what we want/need/feel and have it listened to and considered.
We equally have a responsibility to listen to our partners, consider their opinions, thoughts and idea, and support them in the best way possible.
#RedFlag: When self expression is restricted or ideas and thoughts are ignored or stifled.
3. The right to be consulted on decisions that affect us: As long as a person is alive and in sound mind, s/he should be involved in decisions that have direct impact on the. . While we can have an agreement that one party should make decisions about certain issues, decisions about our life, health, job/career or any life changing decision  should not be made without our consent or input.
We equally have a responsibility to involve and consult our partner in making decisions that may affect them.
#RedFlag: Major decisions are made on a partner's behalf without their consent and irrespective of their choice or opinion.

4. The right to be respected in public and in private : While it is absolutely normal for couples to fight and disagree, no one deserves to be publicly humiliated, insulted or embarrassed; and this is for both genders. Each partner must always be treated like an adult and not belittled.
We have a responsibility to listen to how our partners want to be treated and ensure we dignify them at all times
#RedFlag: Your partner feels no restrain in putting you down or humiliating you publicly.

5.  The Right to have fun and follow your dreams : We have only one life to live and we should be able enjoy it  and have fun. A partner must be interested in contributing to the other's enjoyment of life and not distract from it.

Each partner therefore have a responsibility to accept the other person as they are, support the things that bring them joy and encourage them to follow their dreams.

#RedFlag: A relationship that makes you cry and stops you from following your dreams!

6   The Right to give and withdraw consent for intimacy : Each partner's right over intimacy and his/her body is sacrosanct and lies with him/her at all times. Intimacy must always be with consent, even in marriage. (I know this is a sensitive topic for a few and I hope to write on it soon)
We therefore have a responsibility to seek consent and respect our partners’ choices/ right to say no, even when we do not agree with it.
#RedFlag: Recurrent coercion or manipulation for intimacy against your consent.

7.  The right to end a relationship where your rights are not respected : The rights listed above are the barest minimum anyone must have in a healthy relationship; the right to end a hurting relationship is yet another, especially when you are single. You mustn’t force a relationship filled with abuse to work.

We have a responsibility not to hold on to a partner who is abusive or hurtful. We must respect each other's right to want out of a relationship.

#RedFlag: A partner, who makes the other unhappy, is unwilling to let go and yet makes no effort to work things out, is an abuser. 

Standing up for all these rights does not in any way make us choosy, picky, difficult, unreasonable, or demanding; and no one should tell us differently. We must know who we are and what we are worth. These rights listed here are the least of that. If at any point,  we find that our relationship ticks yes for any of the #RedFlags, it's important to reevaluate the relationship and work to correct or eliminate the #RedFlags where possible.

The truth is, we deserve all these things as the barest minimum in our relationships.


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