What Makes a Relationship Work? Love, Gratitude, and Respect

Young queer couple embrace happily while leanign on outdoor railing against bridge As a couples counselor, I have the unique and rewarding experience of helping people strengthen and improve their relationships. This experience has allowed me to witness firsthand the common traits of healthy, happy partnerships.

Those traits may not be what you think. When people are struggling with their relationships, they often believe they have to resolve all of their problems, learn complex communication strategies, or understand what is behind their partner’s negative behaviors. That’s simply not the case. Most relationships can be improved with a few simple strategies anyone can implement: love, gratitude, and respect.

Love

Love is not just a feeling; it is also an action. You can behave lovingly, even when you aren’t feeling loving.

By demonstrating acts of love, you not only improve your relationship, but you put yourself in a different frame of mind. How different would your daily interactions be if you responded to your partner’s comments and actions with love? If your partner is upset with you, how different would the interaction be if you stopped and thought about how you could respond with love? Rather than getting mad about the fact they are mad, you could step back and think, “I wonder what is going on with my partner to make them this upset.”

It changes everything you say and do when you focus on how you can show more love to your loved one. And if you make love a daily action, the loving feelings will follow.

Gratitude

Gratitude is another tool that can be used to strengthen a relationship. I’m not simply talking about saying “thank you” when your partner does something for you (although that helps).

When was the last time you thanked your partner for continuing to make the choice—over and over, every day—to be with you?

When was the last time you thanked your partner for continuing to make the choice—over and over, every day—to be with you? Do you take it for granted they will be there tomorrow, no matter what? No matter the level of commitment, no matter the vows made, it is a continuous choice to stay together. Take a moment and appreciate that. Continue to have gratitude for all the little things your partner does, but also take a moment every chance you get to be grateful for the big stuff.

What kind of response do you think you would get if you thanked your partner for sharing their life with you? Why not find out?

Respect

Respect is a basic need for most of us. It’s unfortunate this need so often goes unmet.

Do you show respect to your partner? An easier question may be, do you feel your partner consistently shows you respect? Respect is something that needs to be shown in ways the recipient can acknowledge and appreciate. Have you ever asked your partner, “What can I do to show how much I respect you?” Many people don’t bother to ask. Try it, though, and see what kind of response you get.

Some of the most common ways of showing respect are to show interest in and provide support for the person’s interests, recognize and utilize their strengths within the relationship, involve the person in daily decisions, and ask questions that demonstrate you value their opinion. Celebrate their successes with them, and support them during times of failure. Accept them for who they are, not who you think they could be. Plan on having a judgment- and blame-free conversation sometime soon to discuss how you could better demonstrate your mutual respect.

How different do you think your relationship might be if you incorporated just one of these strategies into your daily routine? It’s a great place to start for all couples, not just those experiencing challenges. If there’s harder stuff to deal with after trying one of the above, at least you go into it with a foundation of love, gratitude, and respect. That foundation can get you through just about anything.

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The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Billie

    Billie

    February 13th, 2017 at 7:40 AM

    It isn’t enough contrary to what most of us believe, that love is all you need. Yes you do need an ample amount of that, but you also have to be willing to appreciate the things that your partner does for you and to be thankful that he or she is a part of your life. We can pretty easily hurt someone that we simply like or love, but it is a whole other ballgame when you have this deep mutual respect and gratitude for someone. It really does make you think twice before you act when you are genuinely concerned about how the other person feels too.

  • kaye

    kaye

    February 13th, 2017 at 11:33 AM

    when you don’t have respect for the person you are in a relationship with then why on earth would you even wish to be with this person?

  • Ryann

    Ryann

    February 15th, 2017 at 11:48 AM

    My last relationship was such a bummer because here I thought that this guy really liked me but come to find out I was like a habit to him that he couldn’t break because it was easier just to stay put. So you can imagine what a boost that has been to my self esteem!

  • Sarah

    Sarah

    February 16th, 2017 at 10:12 AM

    By ending the relationship, it frees you up to find someone who does truly value you.

  • francine

    francine

    February 20th, 2017 at 7:47 AM

    Most of the time we start a relationship working so hard to make this other person love us and taking the time to really care for them as well. But something always seems to happen along the way, and it isn’t that you stop caring so much what they think but you start feeling like oh this is easy now, I don’t have to put in all that effort anymore.
    But the early stages are the easiest! And if you intend to be init for the long haul then there is always work to be done to secure that the relationship itself doesn’t break down.

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