Relationship Success Requires Giving Your Partner Priority Status

After years of meticulous observation, and study of thousands of couples, researcher Dr. John Gottman came to an important conclusion about successful long-term relationships. In the healthy relationships he studied, each person felt like a priority to the other.

Why is priority so important?

When your partner gives you priority, you feel safe, loved, and seen.

One of the reasons priority is so important is that it shows your partner you’re in tune with, and responsive to, his or her emotions. Responding to your partner’s emotional needs is crucial in relationships—you each need to know you have an effect on the person with whom you’re sharing your life.

Let’s say your partner has plans to attend a conference for work. Attending the conference is not mandatory, but it would be a good professional move to attend. If one of your parents suddenly becomes very ill, you might want your partner to stick around to deal with the crisis alongside you. You’d have emotional support, and just as importantly, you’d feel like your needs are a priority to your partner.

Love in a long-term relationship isn’t the dramatized agony of romantic movies; chances are, you wouldn’t want that kind of love anyway. Real-life, long-term love is singling your partner out as a priority in your life, demonstrating that you value each other’s companionship and care, and proving that your relationship is something you will go to great lengths to cultivate and preserve.

A great lasting romance means being partners.

How can you tell if you’re true partners?

Gottman found that priority and partnership are sometimes harder work in heterosexual relationships, due mostly to old stereotypical gender roles. Gottman believes that one of the main ingredients in a successful relationship is accepting influence from the other—another way of saying, “giving priority.”

Interestingly, Gottman found that the ability to accept influence mattered most in men. The women Gottman studied usually had much more practice accepting influence from men. The willingness of men to be women’s equal in their relationships can make a significant difference in creating a relationship that is a partnership.

Giving your partner priority is a promise you make to each other—that when things get tough and your partner needs you, you’ll be there, no question. When you give your partner priority, taking time out of your day to take on some of your partner’s responsibilities during a stressful period, you are responding positively to a request for help. When you put down your smart phone, tablet, computer, or turn off the TV, and spend a few minutes connecting with your partner, you show that your partner is a priority to you.

How can you start giving your partner priority status?

Giving your partner priority doesn’t come up only in dire situations like a parent’s serious illness. It can be as simple as connecting at the end of the day to share the day’s events with each other.

“What if we’re both so busy, we can’t find time to connect?” you might wonder. Making a few “five-minute connections” throughout your day can make a big difference when it comes to how important you feel in each other’s life. A small act of kindness from your partner, or a few minutes cuddling in the morning, lets you know you’re important even when your daily routines diverge.

Share moments and stresses from your day. When you listen to each other’s ups, downs, you demonstrate that you support your partner.

If you’re struggling to give priority to your partner, or feeling that you are not receiving a priority status from your partner, it’s a problem worth working on together. Prioritizing your partner in your life is a measure of commitment to your relationship. How much importance do you place on your relationship, and how much work are you willing to put into your relationship to make it last?