When I’m talking about rules in relationships here, I’m not meaning the difference between rules and boundaries (though you should know that as well). Rules can have a bad reputation (see that post about boundaries for some of that), but that, like structure, is because of how they get used.
For me, a successful rule has two qualities:
- It is about achieving a specific (and usually concrete) goal. “Protecting the status quo” is not acceptable here, though helping someone else deal with their feelings may be. While it’s easy to find examples of the latter that can be a problem, that’s eased by the next point.
It is open to revisitation and revision. This is really the special sauce. If you and your partner(s) make a rule, combine it with a specific time (a week, a month, whatever) that you’ll come back together and see what effects that rule is having (both good and bad) and whether or not it needs to stay the same, be tweaked, or be gotten rid of.
By combining those two, you can get the “benefits” of rules while avoiding most of the rigidity and conflict that can arise around them.