When we talk about hygiene standards, typically our minds go to the workspace (or at least the pre-Covid workspaces).
Hygiene standards are the basic requirements employers have to abide by to keep workers safe. Some of the requirements include potable water, bathrooms, and bathroom sanitation.
We wouldn’t really expect to walk into our workplace (where we work eight hours a day) and have them say, “We don’t have bathrooms here. You will need to go home if you have to go to the bathroom.” Talk about erroneous workplace productivity policies.
Hygiene standards are the basic requirements in which we hold workspaces accountable. This got me thinking—we need hygiene standards for every area of our lives, like mental health, health, and our goals. Some call these things red flags; some call them boundaries. However, what I appreciate about hygiene standards is that they keep us focused on ourselves rather than on someone else.
Red flags have us overanalyzing others’ behaviors rather than considering why their behavior is off-putting to us. On the other hand, hygiene standards will have us saying, “Ah, this workplace doesn’t have a bathroom. I need a bathroom. I must leave.” Red flags may have us saying, “Ah, this workplace doesn’t have a bathroom. What a terrible, red-flagged, narcissistic workplace.” What hygiene standards do is keep us focused on what we need in a relationship. And yes, we can have needs and not be needy.
Some may call me an experienced dater, or perhaps someone who has had one too many failed rides on the dating merry-go-round. (I mean, have you read my other articles? Laughing emoji.) However, each ride has given me a solid set of hygiene standards that I keep in my back pocket as my guiding compass.
Here’s how you can create your own:
There are three basic ingredients relationships need to work. Our ideas of love might keep us in a dating loop of looking for someone who appreciates 20th-century art the same way we do, or maybe we bought into the idea that we have to get along with their family for the relationship to work. And while those things might warrant a more ease-filled relationship at times, some of the best relationships I’ve witnessed didn’t have any of those things working in their favor.
So, what is it that a healthy relationship needs? It needs three ingredients: kindness, shared vulnerability, and empathy and understanding. A loving relationship doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to live in the same house, enjoy all of the same activities, and spend every waking moment together, but we do need to feel these three qualities to develop a deep sense of connection with our partner.
For this reason, these qualities will be the foundation of our hygiene compasses.
So, to all those who are wondering if you should write off a prospective partner who still hasn’t replied to your text, use these to create a hygiene compass of your own:
1. Would you do that to a friend? I would say my greatest weakness is giving people the benefit of the doubt. Some people call it empathy; I call it a curse in some cases. To-may-to, toe-mah-to. But when we find ourselves justifying being called a bad name, or being ghosted, ask this: Would you do that to a friend? No? Then it wasn’t particularly kind in your opinion. And your opinion is important and valid.
While we can justify their behavior, “Well, they were doing x, y, z, or I haven’t met them face-to-face yet.” If you didn’t find their actions kind, the likelihood of being caught in another unkind situation in the future is high as you don’t necessarily see eye to eye on the kindness spectrum. So, rather than turn your attention to the philosophical debate of what kindness is, put your attention on what you feel is kind, and call it a day.
If you might’ve done what they did to your friend, pass go, and move on to the next question.
2. How would you have handled the situation? If you were them, how would you have handled the situation? Are the ways you two handle the situation so incredibly different that there is no bridge? Now, it’s okay for you to handle things differently. It’s what makes life beautiful. It’s what makes other people miraculously great planners, and me, only subpar at the task. I still appreciate planners, though; I need ‘em and I’ve learned a lot from them.
But are there differences that you won’t tolerate? For example, you would never throw trash out of the window, and, after a kind conversation, it is evident your partner will always throw trash out of the window. Some differences can’t be bridged.
Would you have handled the situation the same way they did? If so, keep going to the next question.
3. Do you feel safe being vulnerable with them? While everyone has a different comfort level with opening up, if you find yourself running into a vulnerability roadblock time and time again, or maybe you don’t feel comfortable sharing with this person, it may be a sign to pick up shop and move on. If you can’t have an open conversation with them, how can you address some of the other issues you are experiencing?
If you feel safe being vulnerable, move on to the next question.
4. Have you known them for more than six months, or are they always going to be in your life? I ask this because if you have, it may be a great time to have a conversation about it. Say, “Hey, I don’t like the way you threw trash out of the window. Perhaps, next time you can give it to me instead.”
While I don’t think people are great at changing (or at least, it shouldn’t be a built-in expectation), having a conversation about it is key—especially if you value the person enough to include them in your life for over six months. Conversations are great at any time; however, if you’ve known the person for six months, they might hear what you’re saying. I mean, you’ve made it this far.
If you haven’t known them for six months, the answer you seek may lie in the next question.
5. Do you feel understood 80 percent of the time when you share your goals, dreams, and aspirations?
I laugh at this one because there have been so many times when I share that I’m a writer, and it is met with odd stares. Aren’t we all writers in some form? There have also been times when I’ve felt deeply understood. “Getting each other,” or putting the effort forth to try to understand each other, are real things. I like to use the 80/20 rule. Eighty percent of the time your partner will understand you; the other 20 percent of the time, they will look at you funny before asking more questions to try to understand. If this isn’t happening, or you don’t feel like putting in any effort to try to understand this person, it may be time to turn around.
If you feel like the effort is there on both parts, or that you are understood, move on to the next question.
6. Do you feel understood 80 percent of the time when vocalizing a concern? This is big. Do you feel safe and seen when you vocalize a concern? Conflict is going to happen, and you have to feel comfortable talking about it. You aren’t going to be similar in every single way, so you have to be able to talk and feel safe sharing your concerns.
You can only have an impactful conversation if you feel like you will be received and understood, or at least like they will try to understand you. (This is where the 80 percent comes in. They understand you most of the time, and, the other 20 percent of the time, make an effort to try and understand you). If you aren’t feeling particularly safe speaking (calmly) about your emotions or the bathroom seat or that one thing during sex, then there may be someone else who will make you feel safe.
If you do feel safe and you’ve made it this far, your hygiene standards are still intact. Try opening up a conversation about whatever is bothering you.
What is important about hygiene standards is noticing that your opinion and well-being matter. Hygiene standards exist to make people feel safe. In the workplace, those safety standards are similar across all humans—we need a bathroom, water, and food and shelter. However, in other areas of our lives, everyone’s hygiene standards can be different because we’ve all had different experiences that make us more sensitive to specific situations than others, and that’s okay! Different is good.
What is key is recognizing when your hygiene standards have been violated, bringing awareness to how you can bring the relationship back into balance, and noticing when you just need to walk away.
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