The Three Pillars Of A Successful Relationship

A man and woman stand close to each other, looking into each other
A great relationship is certainly all the feels. But there’s a lot more going on underneath – and you can make sure yours has the best chance of being successful with the 3 pillars of trust, connection, and respect.

While there are many elements that go into a successful relationship, I believe it starts with three, foundational pillars. And those are trust, connection, and respect. This goes for any relationship, but it is especially true for romantic ones. For tips on building better friendships, read my article here.

Trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.  It is fundamental to a successful relationship, particularly an intimate one. When you have complete trust in your partner, you can explore yourself, each other, and even new things with confidence. Trust also gives you the freedom to be totally yourself and confide your innermost thoughts and feelings. Trust also gives you security to socialise separately and rejoin the relationship with renewed energy, vigour and things to talk about.

Connection refers to your bond with your partner. Or family and friends for that matter. We all want to connect with other people, particularly the people we love the most. Everyone connects differently and at different levels, so finding someone that you connect with almost all of the time is the best feeling ever. While you’re connected, you never feel lonely, even when you are apart.

Respect is a feeling of deep admiration for someone or something, elicited by their abilities, qualities or achievements. It is integral to being able to feel proud of the person that you are with on an intellectual level. If you respect your partner, it bodes well for a long term connection of love.

Of course, definitions are great, but let’s talk about what these pillars look like in practice.

How to demonstrate trust in a relationship

A male hiker grasps a hand as he is helped up a mountain. Trust and support are crucial for successful relationships.
Trust is a lot of things, but being consistent in doing what you say and meaning what you say can be a great foundation for a successful relationship.

There are many ways to build trust in a relationship, but the key one is to be true to your word. If you say you’re going to do something, do it, and be consistent. Show that you are trustworthy yourself, and your partner will notice. And hopefully pay you back in kind. Be open and honest in what you are thinking and how you are feeling, and give them the space to do the same with you.

Talk about what you want to do together, and what you want to do by yourself to develop as a person, and what you can do to support each other as you learn and grow together. Trust is hard won and easily broken, so show from the start that you’re worthy of it. If you mess up – and we all do – take responsibility and make amends. It can be a long and slow process, but trust is build from consistency, honesty and kindness. It also comes from open and honest communication, so make sure you both have the space to set your expectations and boundaries inside a relationship. And honouring the decisions that you make together as a team.

Once a strong foundation of trust is established, you’ll be freer to be a apart, knowing that the other person is worthy of your trust and that they can trust you in return.

How to build connection

Connection with a partner can sometimes be that certain something that can’t be explained, it just is. You feel strongly for the other person, you like them, you’re attracted to them, you love them, and don’t want to live without them.

As nebulous as connection can be to define, taking time to understand them can be a great start. Research suggests that connection comes from being vulnerable and genuine, which isn’t always easy. But emotional availability and vulnerability leads to greater intimacy, and ultimately a better connection with your partner.

You could try writing each other a letter telling them everything – or something – they should know, then exchange letters and discuss them. You may be surprised to learn that what you think is a big deal, is really not, which will make you feel more secure and connected to your partner.

Connection can also be built in the bedroom. Talk about your fantasies and how you will fulfil them for each other. Be clear on your boundaries and work together on what you can be flexible on so that you both get what you want. Outside of the bedroom, be affectionate with your partner to show them that your connection is always there.

The more you address your issues, the more connected you will be with your partner, as you work on growing and changing together for the future of your relationship. You’re able to see the world through their eyes and understand their perspective, even if it is different from yours.

A woman looks into the camera over her partner
Being able to talk about your fantasies – and maybe try them – can be a great way to build connection. If you need help bringing up the topic, we have an article on how to ask for kinky sex you might enjoy.

How respect supports relationship success

According to Love is Respect, relationships soar when you listen to each other, value each other and compromise. It’s about being kind, supportive, and giving each other space. So take an interest in what your partner does, support their career and hobbies, and goal they’re striving for. In social situations, be their cheerleader, and tell the world how amazing they are and what they are doing to make things happen.

Communicate with each other about what your dreams are as they evolve and change, so that you can all stay on the same page. You may find a new and growing respect for your partner through the process and discover things that make you love them even more.

Your partner should be the one person that you can be completely yourself with and know that they have your back no matter what. When you have respect from your partner, you know that they want you for not just your body, but your mind too. And together, you can achieve much more than you could apart.

10 green flags of a successful relationship

Two women snuggle and laugh together on a couch in their home.
Talking about the 3 pillars of trust, connection, and respect is great, but it’s how they translate into action that really make a relationship.

If you’re taking stock, or starting a new relationship, here are some green flags that indicate the 3 pillars are present and you’re on firm ground.

  1. You’re completely yourself with them and can be fully honest and open
  2. You can talk to them about anything, including all your feelings
  3. You’re able to talk about the future together
  4. You feel secure enough to socialise separately
  5. You’re attracted to your partner, love being around them, and can’t wait to see them after time apart
  6. You can be completely vulnerable
  7. You’re able to explore each other and the world, together, and separately
  8. Both of you know you have each other’s full support
  9. You respect your partner for everything they are, inside and out
  10. You would trust them with your life.

6 red flags that mean your relationship may need work

If the 3 pillars of trust, connection and respect are missing, you may notice some of the below behaviours happening. While they don’t necessarily mean you’re headed to splitsville, it may mean you both need to put some work in if you’re wanting to make your relationship successful.

  1. They’re not talking to you
  2. They’re not sleeping with you (and neither of you is asexual)
  3. You’re not making plans together
  4. If you feel lonely
  5. You don’t feel supported
  6. You aren’t appreciated as a person

Every single human being on this planet is unique and special. And if your relationship isn’t built on a foundation of trust, connection and respect, maybe look for the four horsemen of relationship apocalypse, and ask yourself if you really should be in it. You can always  take your wonderful self elsewhere where you are honoured and supported. Even if that means being by yourself for a bit.

However you decide to proceed, remember to be kind. Both to yourself, and to others.