The One Thing Relationships Absolutely Need In Order To Thrive

Most people know that love itself isn't enough, but many of us are still confused about what is.

happy couple Jonathan Borba/ Pexels 

Growing up we were taught that love conquered all. That if we loved each other enough, we could get through anything. However, social media influencer and podcast creator Jimmy Knowles begs to differ.

Love is not enough to make a relationship last, he insists.

What do relationships absolutely need in order to survive?

"I had to learn the hard way that love doesn't sustain a relationship," says Knowles. "Connection and intimacy and safety and trust do."


"It is how we treat and care for each other that makes a difference," he continues.

Famous psychologist Dr. John Gottman agrees. In a stitch of his own, Gottman says, "Those small moments where you respond to your partner without defensiveness but with understanding and caring and respect and affection really do make all the difference.”

So, how do we keep our relationship alive and why do the little things matter?



RELATED: For The Times When Love Just Isn't Enough


Little Things That Matter More Than Love

1. Showing respect

"If you want to make your relationship last you have to master respect," says Gottman.

When one partner is rude and inconsiderate, the more likely it is the other spouse or partner will behave in similar ways. So before you snap, take a deep breath and keep your emotions in check. Don't invite disrespect into the conversation.

Keep your behavior in check and don't use sarcasm or criticism to shut your partner down.

Instead, incorporate these two methods:

  • Adjust your own behavior.
  • Don't police your partner’s behavior.

Licensed counselor Tiffanie Brown adds to the conversation, suggesting using 'I' statements instead of 'you' statements. Rather than saying, "You are making me feel this way," try saying, "I feel this way." This lessens the defensiveness in your partner.


Learn to appreciate your differences. Brown writes, “You can disagree with someone and still respect their opinion.”

2. Remaining affectionate and caring

Kindness is hard to come by when you're feeling frustrated. However, showing a little grace is necessary to make your relationship last.

Psychotherapist Sanaa Hyder pulls from Gottman, writing, “Kindness doesn’t mean that we don’t express our anger, but the kindness informs how we choose to express that anger.

"To show kindness to your partner is to keep your behavior in check. To explain how you're feeling instead of tearing down your partner," writes Hyder.

And when we choose this route, we're setting up the foundation for mutual respect and affection.


If you struggle with showing kindness, try:

  • Think positively about your relationship. What nice or kind things has your partner done lately?
  • Take accountability for your feelings. Reflect on why you feel the way you do and journal your thoughts.
  • Go out of your way to be kind to each other. Set up a date night or send a sweet text message.

RELATED: Why You Need To Stop Believing Your Love Isn't Enough

3. Listening to your partner

Not understanding your partner is a recipe for a disastrous relationship.

And understanding your partner is more than just hearing what they say. Rather, it requires both openness and non-defensiveness.

"When our partners bring up past hurt it can cause us to get defensive," writes couples therapist Kyle Benson. Which is why we lash out and make hurtful comments. These hurtful comments can diminish the love and security we've built in our relationship.


"Instead of lashing out, try writing down what your partner is saying to better listen to them," recommends Gottman. Through this, you can better address what they said and how you feel.



If you struggle with staying calm, write down what you love most about your partner on the same notepad. It can be a memory or a funny quote.

Remember to take calming breaths and don't take what your partner says to heart. Their complaint is about their needs, not yours.


4. Expressing understanding

Pushing our ego aside paves the way for better understanding. And understanding is the heart of any relationship.

understanding couplePhoto: Just Life / Shutterstock

Human beings thrive off connection. So, when we feel we are unconnected to our partner, it can cause us to feel rejected.


According to the American Psychological Association, "Social rejection increases anger, anxiety, depression, jealousy and sadness."

So, how do we prevent this from happening?

Try walking a mile in their shoes. How would you feel if you were in their position? How would you hope they would react?

Next, notice their body language. Do they look closed off or sad? Sit near them and let them know that you're there for them. Being honest in your communication, they will appreciate you more.

Making a relationship last requires more than just love. As Knowles puts it, "Love alone isn't sufficient. It's the quality of your love and how you express it that truly matters and makes a difference."


RELATED: Why Love Alone Isn't Strong Enough To Make Your Relationship Last (And What Is)

Marielisa Reyes is a writer with a bachelor's degree in psychology who covers self-help, relationships, career, and family topics.