We watch romantic movies and idolize those silver screen couples. There’s nothing more we love than to wade right into serious relationships, telling the other person who we “love them” before we even truly know what that means. While romance is fun and relationships are great, you’re not setting yourself up for success without a firm hold on reality. Good relationships — partnerships worth working toward — require 5 core essentials. Without them, we are creating a disaster and pre-empting heartache in our futures.
The 5 essentials of a healthy relationship.
If you really boil it all down, long-term (healthy) relationships all have 5 core traits in common. At their base is a centered connectedness that is genuine and founded in intimacy. Both partners show up for one another and share a sense of respect. There’s more to it than that, though. Those who are serious about their partnerships are also those who can be vulnerable and connect on irreplaceable levels.
There’s a basic foundation of intimacy that has to happen in a serious relationship. This is emotional intimacy, and it’s physical intimacy too. It’s that deeper sense of closeness and connectedness that makes it safe for you to trust one another in genuine ways. Connectedness like this is right at the heart of everything the stable and healthy couple dreams up together.
Does your partner always show up to support you when it matters? What about you? Do you show up for them? Support is another essential component of a happy and functional relationship. And it’s not just the kind of support we have to ask for (although that counts too). We’re talking the kind of dependable support that happens automatically — without hope of reward or groveling.
If you’ve ever been in a stable relationship, then you know there’s an inherent sense of trust and vulnerability that comes alone with it. You are able to entirely be yourself in these types of relationships. More than that, you’re empowered to show those parts of yourself which most scare you. You are safe to explore and be who you are. Wounds can be shown and scars revealed in good faith.
Without mutual respect, no relationship can thrive. Commitment to someone requires that we can respect them. That means respecting their dreams, their desires, and the way they see the world in general. If you and your partner can’t honor one another in this way, you end up with conflict, resentment, and the end of your relationship as a whole.
There’s a one-of-a-kind connection in genuine relationships that makes them hard (if not impossible) to replace. That’s right. When you find that “right” person, there’s a comfort and an ease that’s hard to replicate. Not only are both of you unique in your own way, you complement each other and your goals in ways that would be hard to find in anyone else going in the same direction as you.
The best ways to build better relationships.
You can build your relationship around these core essentials at any stage in your life, any stage of your relationship. As long as you are coming from a place of honesty — with someone who wants the same things in life — you can find an effective path forward. First, though, you must acknowledge who and what you want. Create healthier expectations and seek authenticity and compassion.
1. Know who you are and what you want
So many of us assume we know what love and connection really mean before we’re really prepared to conceive the truth. We jump feet first into relationships we can’t manage or navigate, with partners who are not aligned to our values or our needs. Never taking the time to weigh our experiences or our needs, we pick all the wrong people and all the wrong things. So, we end up in heartbreak time-and-time again.
You must figure out who you are and what you really want from the relationships that you’re building. There’s no point in investing in every person who comes along. You need to know what the right person looks like, so you can build those meaningful relationships that you’re craving.
How do you want to be treated by your partner? What kind of life do you want to build? What values do they have? How will they treat others? Who will they be when you’re not around? Creating a tangible vision of our partners is the best way to move toward the relationships which matter. We can stop chasing all the wrong things, and better see those who are carrying the same goals and visions as we are. When you figure out who you really are, you give yourself a chance to see who and what you really want and need.
2. Enhance your expectations
Create healthier expectations — both for yourself and for your relationship. Your partner can’t fix you or heal you. They won’t change the course of your life if you’re not already putting in the action it takes to make it happen for yourself. Our partners complement our lives. We can’t make it their responsibility to rescue us or change us.
Instead, seek relationships that help you feel better about the path you’re on; the decisions that you’re making for your career and your future. Expect a partner not to carry you through life, but to encourage you to move yourself forward. That’s what a relationship should be. It should be added value. It should be a piece of our happiness puzzle, not the entire sum of it. Moving from this place of burdening to a place of personal accountability in our own lives can entirely change the quality of the relationships we attract.
3. Never settle for less than needed
Settling is a major reason behind the relationship disasters we find ourselves in. We settle for partners who don’t make us feel good — people who don’t appreciate us — and expect to change them or “fix” them. But fulfilling relationships aren’t started hoping the other person will become someone else. Really loving partnerships are those that begin in good faith and acceptance of the person they are investing in at that moment.
Refuse to settle for less than what you want, need, and deserve in a relationship. You don’t have to accept the first person who will settle down; the first person who will agree to some kind of terms. You want to be happy in your relationships, but doing that requires first being true to yourself.
If you’re in a new relationship and the wrong red flags are going off, then take action now to protect yourself and your future. Giving away space in your love to the wrong partner guarantees that there’s not enough mental or emotional room for the right partner to come in. Being single is better than being with someone who keeps you stuck in a place you don’t want to be. Take a stand in the name of your happiness and invest only in people who align with your core and high-level needs.
4. Communicate more effectively
You already know how important communication is and how powerful it can be in a relationship. We form our first connections by talking to one another, flirting with one another. When conflict arises, we burn it out by talking ourselves down and talking about the hurts and resentments that are lingering between. This communication has to remain in focus at every stage of our relationships.
Talk to your partner. Talk about anything and everything. Talk to each other more than you think you need to. Keeping communicating at the center of your partnership makes it easier to stay on the same page and connected on that deep, essential level. Use compassion and respect, stay focused on resolutions, and don’t seek to blame each other no matter how rough things might get. You can work it out with the right partner, but you have to be willing to be honest with one another.
5. Be authentic and compassionate
There’s nothing more valuable than authenticity and compassion if you’re seeking to establish a long-term and healthy relationship. Being real with one another is how we navigate the difficulties of change. It’s how we can stay interested in one another and excited about our futures. Our compassion also helps us to navigate the challenges of life, and the inevitable disappointments and hurts that are inflicted along the way.
Seek authenticity and compassion in everything you do with one another. Even when you hate the other person’s guts — that’s the time to lean into your compassion all the harder. Remember why you love one another and remember what it is you’re working toward. And in that space, be authentic with your needs and resolutions.
Be genuine with one another. Be up front and filled with integrity. This is your partner. This is the person who should have your back, no matter what. If you want that loyalty to linger, you need to show up for one another. You need to be kind and try to see things from each other’s point of view. Be nothing but yourself. Ask for nothing that you can’t provide in-kind to your partner. A genuine relationship is built on the effort of genuine people. Show up and be present with one another and kind in every possible way.
Putting it all together…
We are a species who love to be in love. We fall fast, but we rarely give ourselves the foundations that lead to relationship success. Without those 5 core essentials, it’s impossible to stay connected throughout the trials that life throws our way. Building those, however, means we have to know who we are and what we want. More than that, we must build healthier expectations, refuse to settle for less than what we want, and communicate with one another through thick-and-thin. Above all else, though, good relationships are built by partners who are present, authentic, and compassionate. Act on these values and your relationships can hold the essentials to a happy future, too.