Over the years, I’ve attempted to figure out what makes or breaks a romantic relationship.
I wanted to untangle through the confusion and solve one of the biggest riddles ever laid before us.
I was just a teenager when I entered the dating world. Since then, I have actively participated in said dating activities.
I kept mental notes on what I thought worked and didn’t work over the years. And just when I thought I understood it all, I realized it changes throughout our lives.
What worked when we were 16 years old didn’t have the same ingredients when we were 30 something. At 16, we were still figuring out who we were. So, for most of us, we couldn’t keep up with the demands a relationship required in order to make it work. We had our entire lives before us. How could we possibly devote ourselves to make a relationship work?
In our 20s, the game changed altogether. We landed our first job and started working in our new careers. We were living our dreams and trying to figure out this adult thing on our own. Making a relationship work while trying to “adult” on our own was a struggle.
In our 30s, our biological clock started a slow, quiet tick. The pressure to find our forever person began to build. Time was moving along, and each relationship felt a little bit harder than the one before. We wanted the perfect partner. The person who was the one. We were emotionally wounded from the relationship roller coaster.
The pressure continued to build. As time moved along the clock was ticking even louder. Some began to rush in and out of relationships, trying to hold on to “good enough.” It didn’t help that everyone around us was coupling up. We did our best to keep up.
In our 40s, some of us were starting over again. Making a relationship work as a single parent is next to impossible.
While trying to unravel the mystery of what makes or breaks a relationship, I discovered there are five basic elements that seem to be universal for all romantic relationships, regardless of age:
1. Open communication.
Communication is necessary in order to openly talk about our needs and what we feel. Communication is not just about talking, but listening to what the other person is saying and actively respond so our partner feels heard.
Communication helps with working through disagreements. It helps with understanding each other.
Honesty will provide the foundation for trust within the relationship. It is something that develops throughout the relationship. And we must continue to maintain unwavering honesty within it.
When we trust, we feel safe. Trust establishes confidence that our partner will not hurt us emotionally, physically, or mentally. Trust lets each other know they can believe in the promises and commitments of the relationship. Trust is necessary for the relationship to function and thrive.
Trust allows us to show our vulnerability with each other. It allows us to open up without having to protest ourselves.
Respect is accepting each other for who we are, but also inspiring each other to be the best version of ourselves. Respect is accepting who we become throughout the relationship as we change and grow. Respect is accepting your partner even if you disagree with each other. Respect is recognizing and acknowledging each other’s boundaries.
Having respect within the relationship builds trust, safety, and well-being for everyone. Respect is taking care of each other with words, actions, and behaviors.
Intimacy isn’t just about sex. Intimacy is the intimate connection we share with one another. The affection and attention only to each other. Something just between the two of you that connects you as one.
Besides the basic elements, there are a ton of important factors that go into a relationship such as expressing gratitude, collaboration, forgiveness, growing together, adapting—to name a few.
Despite all the elements and factors that go into making a relationship work, there is really one thing that makes or breaks a romantic relationship.
It all comes down to both partners wanting it.
If both partners want it, they will do what it takes to make it work.
They fail when they don’t.
When both partners want it, they will participate in all the necessary elements and factors to make the relationship work.
They will communicate even when they might not want to because they understand that communication is vital to keep the relationship strong and healthy. The moment communication stops, a wall begins to erect between them. Two people who truly want to be together will do all that they can to keep the lines of communication open—always.
They will be open and provide complete honesty in that relationship, even if it’s a little scary to be vulnerable. Because that relationship deserves truth in order to build a solid foundation within it.
They will build trust in order to be completely open and giving.
They will both learn what it means to respect and believe in each other, even with all the differences they may have, and provide complete acceptance in each other, understanding that each person is different from one another.
To allow each other the space to be their own kind of different.
They will keep the intimacy alive by actively communicating by feel and touch in order to keep the physical connection.
For anything in our lives, when we want something, we do the work to make it happen. The same goes for relationships. We can have all the necessary elements and factors within a relationship, but it won’t last unless both partners want it.
We will make the necessary sacrifices. We will make the commitment. We will do the hard work.
Be with someone who wants it. Someone who makes the necessary sacrifices. Someone who makes the commitment. Someone who does the work.
But whatever you do, be with someone who wants it as much as you do.