I find human behavior …and my own..so intriguing. If I invite you to play a new board game and do not tell you how it is played, and we start the game with one of us not understanding the rules, I guarantee one of us will be trying to figure it out and one or both of us will be frustrated..maybe even angry . Maybe the one who was not made privy to the rules will not care that they do not know how to play, and will just make up the rules as they proceed with the game. Maybe the one who did not offer an explanation of how the game is played will get so frustrated that they just walk away , assuming the other is stupid. Maybe the one who did not know the rules will speak up and ask pertinent questions enabling them to understand what is it the other wants to happen. Maybe the one with the information of the game will resent the other for not figuring out what they believe anyone should know. Human beings sure are interesting, aren’t we?
Of course we have social norms that are unspoken, unwritten rules such as not taking or asking for the last piece of pie, leaving something better than when you found it, being kind and courteous to people working in a service position, not whispering to someone when you are in presence of a group of others, replacing toilet tissue if you used the last ply, using the rule of letting people get off the subway/public transit before you get on, never apologizing with an excuse (I am sorry, BUT….), etc. So many social rules are assumed we all are aware of instead of them being stated or written.
Then there are unspoken rules in interpersonal relationships between friends , family, and partners such as avoiding letting go of old resolved conflicts from the past by not bringing it up again, never using the other’s weakness or flaws against them, keeping things private that have been spoken in confidence to avoid the other feeling betrayed, letting them know you are on their side, giving each other and yourself personal space with alone time, avoiding your own insecurities by allowing time for them to be with their friends without you, and by all means being yourself authentically: it is crucial you do not pretend you like everything they think or do, and especially do not verbalize you do! My all time favorite : drop the desire to play the blame game to try to make them wrong so you can sanctimoniously feel right!
Setting ground rules in any relationship is important. Since there is not a rulebook, it is important to express what YOU FEEL at the onset of a relationship. If you have not done this, when things start to get hairy it is a very good idea to re-state your wants/needs and voice your deal breakers. When we do not start a relationship of any kind with boundaries and our “rules” we will experience the relationship crumbling, and we will be faced with a choice to decide how much value the relationship holds for us..and if we want to sit down in discussion with the other or not.
What I have personally observed in inefficient unspoken rules within relationships are clearly poor communications where the other person “assumes” their partner or friend knows what is expected when it has never been discussed; and, passive-aggressive , power struggles result. Not always , but usually the case exists that the reason deal breakers have not been discussed is because no talk or no communication rules exist; and/or one of the involved has allowed the unacceptable behaviors to continue without opening their mouth to say it is unacceptable or uncomfortable. Healthy disagreements within any relationship are part of a growing relationship. When a resolution cannot be reached, perhaps it is time to walk away into the sunset without guilt or remorse even if a long history between you has been your experience. Even with that choice, would you use one of your unspoken rules and just walk away or would you voice what you have decided to do?