Couple holding hands in heart shape

What does an ideal relationship look like?

Judy has been in a relationship with Mark for eight months. On the one hand, the relationship has been going fairly well.  On the other hand, Mark’s neediness is driving her a bit crazy. Judy wants to be needed.  But not all the time—not every second of the day; not when she is meeting with her boss and Mark is having an “emergency” that, he believes, requires her immediate attention, and when the emergency turns out to be that he can’t find his lunch box and needs to get to work soon “or else.”  Judy is not sure how much longer she can take Mark’s seeming always to rely on her for one thing or another.


Judy’s dilemma reveals something many, if not most of us have encountered.  Sometimes we can have too much of a good thing.  We may want a partner who needs us, but not necessarily someone who needs us continually and for minor matters for which he or she could and should take responsibility.

How much intimacy, passion, and commitment are ideal in a relationship?  There is no one answer that perfectly fits everyone. Rather, there are three principles you need to take into account in determining ideal levels of each.


1. Having higher levels of intimacy, passion, and commitment, usually is better.

In general, higher levels of intimacy, passion, and commitment are better in a relationship. In the triangular theory of love, high levels of all three are referred to as consummate love.  Total amount of love is a function of all three of intimacy, passion, and commitment. One actually can add up levels of the three to get a sense of the total amount of love being experienced in the relationship.


2. Having matching levels of intimacy, passion, and commitment usually is better.

At least as important as how high levels of intimacy, passion, and commitment is whether your and your partner’s levels match.  If one partner wants a lot of passion but not much commitment, but the other partner does not care much about passion but cares a lot about commitment, the prospects for the relationship are bleak.  You need to find someone who wants, more or less, what you want!


3. Having at least minimal levels of each of intimacy, passion, and commitment usually is better.

For a relationship to survive—to make a relationship work at all--you need at least someintimacy, passion, and commitment. If you can’t trust a person at all, or if you find the person totally unexciting, or if you care not a bit about the future of the relationship (even into the next day!), then the relationship is unlikely to survive.


There you have it—the three principles of love in close relationships:

  • First, you generally want more of intimacy, passion, and commitment, but often, only up to a point.  That point is determined by your needs and your partner’s.
  • Second, you generally want, to the extent possible, to match your partner’s levels of intimacy, passion, and commitment.  If the two of you are seriously mismatched, it is hard to make the relationship work.  And simply agreeing to what your partner wants, if you don’t want it, is not going to work in the long-term.
  • Third, you need at least a minimal level of intimacy, passion, and commitment.  Without at least some of each, the relationship likely will implode because you don’t communicate or trust or care about each other; you feel no excitement for each other; or you are not committed even into the very short-term future for what happens to you as a couple.

We are currently preparing a test that will help you assess the levels of intimacy, passion, and commitment in your relationship. If you're interested, subscribe to our newsletter and stay tuned!

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