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What Are the Three Most Important Things in a Relationship?

There are two things all relationships have in common: ups and downs. While relationships have their seasons and are bound to have their rough patches, a strong foundation can help you weather the storm and continue to grow and strengthen your bond as time passes.

Fortunately, no one has to take on relationships alone. Establishing and maintaining a healthy relationship is hard, and a therapist can help you navigate difficult times and develop essential relational skills.

At Dana Group, we offer individual therapy and couples therapy. You can get support on your own or attend sessions and work through your relationship with your significant other. We have offices is Needham, Norwell, and Hanover, so you can schedule an appointment with one of our many mental health providers at a time and location that’s convenient for you.

As you evaluate the health of your relationship and consider opportunities to strengthen it, make sure you address the basics first. Here are the three key building blocks of a successful relationship.

Ready to build your relationship from the ground up? Schedule an appointment with us.

1. Intimacy    

You may think of the sexual aspect of relationship when you hear the word intimacy, but this relational building block covers so much more. More broadly, it can be thought of as closeness between people. A relationship with strong intimacy allows both partners to feel emotionally connected to one another, encourages trust and vulnerability, and nurtures a sense of acceptance or shared values.

While romantic relationships normally start out with high levels of affection and attraction, intimacy takes more time to develop. Few people feel comfortable exposing the innermost parts of themselves from the get-go, and how the other person responds to these displays of vulnerability can either build intimacy or extinguish it.

How Can You Grow Intimacy In a Relationship?

Creating a foundation of intimacy in your relationship takes work. Whether you’re new to a relationship or years in, there are a few ways you can build or restore intimacy.

  • Spend quality time together: Make spending time together a priority —even amid busy work schedules and children. Engage in an activity you both enjoy, limit distractions, and take time to simply talk and enjoy one another.
  • Follow through with your actions: Intimacy and trust are closely related, and both take time and work. Build trust by displaying your faithfulness, following through with what you say you’ll do, and being honest even when it’s hard.
  • Practice being vulnerable with yourself: Being vulnerable with your partner starts with yourself. Allow yourself freedom to accept and love who you are, make your own choices despite pressure from others, try new things, and admit when you need help.
  • Apologize first and show your appreciation: Saying you’re sorry takes courage, and it can be uncomfortable to admit you’re wrong or try to make up after an argument. And it takes intentionality to acknowledge the big and “small” things your partner does daily that you appreciate.

How Can Intimacy Affect Mental Health?

For someone living with a behavioral health concern, such as depression or anxiety, building intimacy may be more difficult to do but is crucial for developing a healthy relationship. Past experiences starting in childhood and trauma from previous relationships can make it a challenge to be vulnerable with others or develop trust.

Fear of intimacy and emotional vulnerability can lead to unhealthy codependency or, on the adverse side, self-sufficiency. Codependency is a deep emotional reliance on another person, which can lead to anxious behaviors, poor boundaries, low self-esteem, and withholding of emotion. On other hand, while a certain level of self-reliance is healthy, only relying on yourself and your abilities rather than being vulnerable and trusting of your partner can inhibit intimacy in the relationship.

A therapist can help you and your partner identify what baggage and learned mindsets are affecting your relationship. With work, you can rebuild a strong, healthy foundation that fosters intimacy.

2. Commitment

Commitment can be thought of as a mindful and consistent decision to invest into a relationship. It is this building block that helps push relationships through times of difficultly and stagnation. It is different than simply cohabitating the same together or remaining in a labeled relationship without actively engaging in it.

While people often associate certain markers with commitment, such as being married or living together, these benchmarks are not true indicators of whether your relationship has a strong level of commitment. For a relationship to be successful and healthy, both partners must actively work towards its growth.

What Do You Do When Your Partner Won’t Commit?

Not being equally committed in a relationship can pose real problems down the road. In some cases, one partner may be afraid about commitment because they’ve been hurt before, or they may need more time to establish their feelings in a new relationship. Others may not want a long-term relationship, even if they don’t state so openly, and want to have relationships with other people.
If you have a partner that doesn’t seem committed to the relationship, it can be a very painful experience. You may not know whether to continue with the relationship or part ways. Encouraging open communication can help you get a clearer understanding of where you both stand.

Couple’s therapy can offer a safe place to do this. Together, you can learn how to better meet each other’s needs. You or your partner can also benefit from individual therapy to better understand and address factors that may be preventing commitment.

3. Communication

Even if a couple has strong commitment and intimacy with one another, bad communication skills can lead to unhappiness in a relationship. Conflict is sure to surface and knowing how to handle it in a healthy manner can help mitigate damage caused by careless words and even strengthen the bond in the long run.

Communication is a skill that needs to be learned, and many people grew up in homes where healthy conflict resolution wasn’t demonstrated or taught to them. Both you and your partner need to identify the bad communication habits you have now and establish healthier routines. This can include learning how to calm yourself down when you’re stressed before engaging in a conversation or avoiding shutting down when issues do arise.

While there are many ways to improve your communication skills, the following tips can make a world of difference:

  1. Prioritize listening over speaking: Let the other person finish their point and make an effort to actively process what they’re saying. Avoid getting distracted, considering your next point, or making judgements.
  2. Pay attention to your nonverbal actions: Crossed arms, lack of eye contact, tapping feet, and clenched fists all send a message without using any words. Be aware of your body and avoid making motions that may send a negative message.
  3. Makes requests and express your feelings: Rather than demand certain actions from your partner or pose them as the bad guy, let them know how you’re feeling and request how they can change their actions in the future to better meet your needs.  
  4. Always try to be empathetic: As you process your concerns and listen to your partners words, avoid only thinking about the situation through your lens. Try to put yourself in your partner’s shoes and understand their point of view.

Relationships are tough, but with the right building blocks in place, you and your partner can thrive. No matter the circumstance, our mental health providers at Dana Group are here to help you find happiness and satisfaction in your relationship.

Ready to watch your relationship grow? Contact us today.