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Is putting your partner on probation a good idea?

Are you scrutinising too hard? (Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

When you pass your probation after a few months in a new job, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

The verdict is in and it turns out, you’re a keeper.

Well now, this same idea is being applied to relationships.

The latest dating trend is to put someone you’re newly involved with on probation.

Just like that probation period at a new job, in which you’d be assessed by an employer to see how well you match up to the role, a partner probation serves a similar purpose.

How many boxes are they ticking? Does the dynamic feel healthy? How do they tackle problems?

Creators on TikTok have been sharing their rules for this period, under the hashtag #threemonthrule.

In 90 days, you’re meant to have worked out whether to stick or ditch.

Then, when you’re in a fully fledged relationship, you could try yearly relationship audits, to check all is going well.

Sex and relationships therapist, Kate Moyle, who works with LELO, says: ‘Partner probations are a current relationship trend which we’re seeing a lot of on TikTok.

‘Basically one or both partners set a probation period – like we would have in a working contract at work – to see if something is going to work out.

‘It’s an unwritten contract that sets out the rules and boundaries of what we want in a relationship and states that if we don’t get or achieve those things, the relationship will end because of it.

‘It’s a short-term ultimatum or a test period.

‘Some couples are using them at the start of relationships when they’re dating, some couples are using them as ultimatums for relationship endings.’

Kate says that really, we’re just giving a name to something people have been already doing – which is to see how well someone matches up to your needs and expectations.

Though it’s branded as something healthy to do by those on TikTok, if it’s comparable to an ultimatum, doesn’t that raise a few red flags?

Kate says: ‘The drawback could be that it does make us more critical of our partners. We may focus on the negatives and everything we want to change, instead of focusing on what is working and what does feel good.

‘In relationships, we need to take some of the rough with the smooth, we need to take some of the negotiating and compromising of our needs and those of our partners at the same time – and our needs may not always be the same.

‘In terms of staying healthy, what might help us is to listen to our partners, know what’s important to them, and create clear communication around the differences around the things we see and need.’

There’s also the risk of one partner trying hard to ‘pass’ probation if they know they’re being assessed in this way – which could result in inconsistency later down the line when they think they’re off the hook.

And of course, in a 90 day period, it’s arguable you just won’t know someone well enough anyway to make a decisive judgment call either way.

‘I would say a relationship ultimatum is only healthy and functional if there is a mutuality to it. No relationship can work fully functioning on one partner’s needs without considering the other,’ Kate adds.

‘We have to understand that in relationships, things are not always perfect.

‘There is an element of learning how to be in the moment in relationships and enjoy the here and now, instead of always focusing on what could be better.

‘When setting relationship probation parameters, it’s important to make them realistic and to be able to have longevity and to be able to implement changes on a long-term basis, rather than a short injection which saves the relationship temporarily.’

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