Are you asking for too much…or not enough?

I think one of the cracks in the armor of the heart is low standards, and loose boundaries.

What I mean by that is: We simply accept too much of other people’s crap.

Maybe we’re lonely, or maybe we don’t think we can do any better, or maybe we just don’t really believe that true love exists, so we take what we can get.

As a result, we just…settle. Settle for mundane. Boring. Stale. Meh.

There are a lot of things in life that are vanilla — your love life shouldn’t be one of them.

Here are 12 standards that I believe every relationship should strive to live up to as often as possible.

1: Always put in consistent effort.

Let’s think about the very foundation of building a relationship…or, anything, really.

The work and effort put in must be steady and consistent. We cannot take time off, or be hot and cold, or vary our level of effort and expect the same results as if we showed up and stepped up to the plate with the same energy every single time.

Especially in the beginning stages of a relationship, consistency shows your partner you are serious about them. It shows that you’ll come to the table with your truest self because you know that’s what’s required to make something work in the long term.

To earn their trust. Earn their affection. Earntheir love.

If you set the standard of consistency early on, the people who are not serious will quickly fall by the wayside, and you’ll save yourself a lot of wasted time and unnecessary heartache.

2: Strive for healthy communication.

I understand that not everyone is a stellar communicator. In fact, some people downright suck at it.

But, part of entering into a relationship is making the pledge to do better in many areas of life, communication being at the top of the list.

Healthy communication in a relationship requires not only the willingness to speak openly, but listen actively. Not just allow the other person to talk, but to really absorb and respond to what they’re saying (or not saying).

A couple can thrive when they both feel comfortable and safe allowing their partner to see all of them without fear of being judged. Not just physically, but mentally and emotionally.

It may not come natural, but communication between partners can be learned when the proper effort and attention are put in to making it work.

3: Build a foundation of friendship.

You can have a friendship without a relationship, but you can’t have a relationship without a friendship.

Dating can be steamy, hot, exciting, passionate, and thrilling — if you do it right.

As amazing as all of that is, it is simply the frosting on the cake of real life.

Long term relationships (or even — gasp — marriages) are built on things more like supporting each other, talking about your day, running errands, and quiet nights on the couch.

Sure, the romance needs to stay alive and the spark should always continue to burn — but that cannot be what a relationship relies on to succeed.

When your partner is also your friend, you trust them, confide in them, count on them, and lean on them…as they do with you, as well.

This is what gets you through the good and the bad. The hot and the cold. The ups and the downs.

Anyone can be there with you on the sunny days, but the real test of someone’s love is if they’ll hold the umbrella over you on the rainy days.

4: Give intentional affection.

If you’ve ever heard of The Five Love Languages, you know that everyone expresses affection in their own ways:

Or, a combination of the above.

Oftentimes, how you express your love is also how you receive love. Meaning, your partner needs to be willing to give you affectionate in a language that you understand.

If Rachel’s love language were words of affirmation but mine was gift giving (It’s not, this is just an example), then eventually she would wonder why I don’t ever express my love to her even though I am always giving her gifts.

I’d feel like I was giving. She wouldn’t feel like she was receiving.

This is why not just affection, but intentional affection is so important in a relationship.

5: Embrace each other’s past.

It’s not just your present self that enters a relationship, it is the [Enter your age here] years of life experience that you’re bringing with you.

Experiences that have shaped you, molded you, shown you what you do (and don’t) want in a partner.

Also, experiences that might’ve jaded you, or made you feel insecure, or belittled, or even, abused.

Meeting someone new is like peeling back the layers of an onion. It is a process, and we don’t know what’s underneath the next one until we get there.

This why embracing someone’s past, not just tolerating it, is a key piece of the puzzle.

We must love and accept someone as they arewhen they come to us. If you’re not ready to take the good with the bad, let them go find someone who is.

6: Show passion towards each other.

We mentioned earlier that the spark cannot be relied upon to keep a relationship together, but it is still an integral piece of the equation.

Have you ever been with a partner who doesn’t seem passionate about you?

No fun, is it?

The sexual health of a relationship is a key indicator of the emotional bond that two partners have formed. I always say that intimacy is 70% emotional and 30% physical. The physical piece is the result of the emotional piece, not the other way around.

Real passion isn’t just shown in the bedroom — it’s shown through your actions towards your partner in all areas of life. How you interact with them, treat them, respond to them, and give yourself to them.

7: Give mutual support.

Consider this:

You have a great idea, or achieve a personal goal, or get excited about a new opportunity…

You tell your partner — and — nothing.

No excitement, no encouragement, no “I’m so happy for you babe!”

Just, “oh, cool.”

Or worse — discouragement.

This can take all of the wind out of your sails and feel defeating or discouraging.

Every relationship should set the standard of support and encouragement towards each other. If you don’t stand behind someone’s ideas or values, why would you be with them in the first place?

8: Prioritize each other’s happiness.

When you get into a relationship, you pledge to put “we” ahead of “me.”

This means setting the standard that you both consider each others’ happiness and wellbeing in your decision making.

You are no longer just making choices that affect your life, like you did when you were single.

This means being willing to compromise and also to express the things that you do or don’t like, so your partner can compromise in return.

If one (or both) of you is unwilling to do so, then there is no point in continuing down a path that is bound to come to a dead end sooner than later.

9: Maintain mutual respect.

If two people don’t fully respect each other as human beings, as partners, as fully-functioning adults with their own strengths, ambitions, dreams, wants, needs, and desires — they will never be able to build a bond of trust and love.

10: Give comfort.

Not the comfort that causes laziness or the demise of effort.

Not the comfort that makes you lazy.

Not the comfort that breeds resentment.

I’m talking about the comfort that makes your partner, and your relationship, feel like home.

The comfort you feel after a long day sinking into the couch together. The comfort you feel laying in bed on a Sunday morning. The comfort you feel watching your family run and play.

The right person will enhance the comfort you feel in your life, not take away from it.

11: Focus on SELF LOVE.

Being a great partner isn’t about how you care for each other, it’s also in how you care for yourself.

You can’t pour water out of an empty cup, as the saying goes.

You must keep yourself emotionally, physically, and mentally healthy in order to give and contribute to those around you. In order to live a full life. In order to be fully present.

If both partners in a relationship make the pledge to stay connected to their own identities, their own purpose, and their own needs — they will never feel empty or depleted.

12: Build full, steady, stable love.

Steady and stable love is calm and strong, it is not shaky, uncertain, or questionable.

It makes you feel safe and secure in your relationship, not concerned or worried that it could end at any moment.

No relationship can grow and thrive if it is built on a rocky foundation that could be wiped away by the first strong gust of wind.

Just like any solid structure, it must be built on a strong foundation made up of the stones outlined in this article.

If you and your partner agree to not only set — but maintain these standards, you will build the type of relationship that you once only read about in articles like this.

Go out and make it yours, because that is what you deserve.

Joseph A. Cornacchia