Top 10 Priorities in a Relationship

Should your relationship be your top priority?
on September 11, 2023
Read time: 10 mins
by Moraya Seeger DeGeare

Feeling like your partner’s number one priority — now that’s a nice feeling. 

However, when it comes to priorities in a relationship, how are you supposed to know the order of your priority list? And does your relationship always have to come first? 

Relationship priorities should be a collaborative process, with both partners agreeing to satisfy each other's emotional needs. Since every relationship is different, we can’t come up with your whole list — but we can give you a head start! 

What do priorities mean in a relationship? 

Priorities in a relationship are things that partners consider most important and central to their commitment. These are the aspects of their relationship that they feel should receive the most attention, time, and effort. 

Priority lists naturally evolve over time, reflecting what each partner values and how they choose to allocate their time and energy. When you enter a relationship, it’s natural to shift your priorities in order to be on the same page as your partner — aligning your beliefs and goals in order to put a solid foundation in place for the future. 

Research shows that high-quality close relationships depend on a relationship partner’s responsiveness, whereby that person understands and prioritizes their emotional needs. Further studies show that if this belief is present, relationship satisfaction and commitment are much higher. 

Therefore, it’s important to understand and respect each other's relationship priorities to build a strong and fulfilling partnership. For this to happen, both partners need to communicate their emotional needs openly and work collaboratively to strike a balance that accommodates both partners’ needs and desires. 

If this collaboration isn’t possible, with one person continuously pushing their priorities over yours, it could be a clear sign of incompatibility. 

Should your partner be one of your top priorities? 

When you’re in a love bubble, it seems like a good idea to put your partner on a pedestal and make them your number one priority — leaving your own life to one side. 

However, research suggests that although partners do shift their priorities and goals when in a newly developing romantic relationship, there are potentially some negative consequences to these choices. 

For example, this study showed that although romantic partners adjusted their goals to reduce conflict, goal devaluing has consequences for relationship satisfaction overall. Therefore, even though people are willing to shift their priorities to make room for their new relationships, this isn’t always for the best. 

Even though it may seem romantic to abandon everything else in favor of your relationship — real success is about striking a balance. Neglecting other crucial areas of your life, such as self-care, family, friends, career, and personal development may lead to resentment in the long run. 

Being attentive to your relationship, while also catering to other aspects of your life leads to a more well-rounded existence — leading to higher relationship satisfaction overall. 

How do you set priorities in a relationship? 

Setting priorities is an important step in any healthy relationship. Just like setting boundaries, this conversation relies on open communication and mutual understanding. 

Before approaching the subject, it’s essential to take some time to check in with yourself and what you value most from a romantic relationship. What do you want from a partner? What are your expectations about the future? What are your dealbreakers

Once you have this clarity, it’s easier to have a conversation about your shared goals and values — about family, career, or personal growth. Try and list your relationship priorities based on importance and urgency, working collaboratively to find a middle ground that respects both perspectives. 

It’s normal for individuals to have different priorities, so these conversations naturally come with compromise. The most important thing is to acknowledge and support each other's personal goals, while also balancing what you need for a loving relationship. 

Top 10 priorities in a relationship 

Setting priorities in a relationship is a very subjective experience, with priority lists varying greatly depending on individual preferences and values. 

However, there are some common priorities that contribute to a healthy, functioning, and fulfilling relationship that should feature on your list — in whatever ranking you choose! 

1. The relationship itself  

It goes without saying, but your relationship should never fall off your list of priorities. In a long-term relationship, couples can fall into bad habits and can start to take each other for granted once they’ve become comfortable. 

However, even if you’ve been together for fifty years, romantic gestures should never go out the window. To tailor your relationship to your partner’s needs, it’s important to understand their love language — whether it’s words of affirmation or quality time. 

Spending time with your significant other and organizing date nights helps to keep the spark alive. No matter how busy life gets, there should always be space in your calendar for your loved ones — including time for physical intimacy! 

2. Happiness 

Without all the frills and extras, we’re all just searching for a bit of happiness — or even a happy ending. 

However, if you’re deep into a toxic relationship, happiness can seem far from achievable.  In order to achieve happiness in a relationship, you have to be happy within yourself. This is why self-care and focusing on your own wellness is so important. 

3. Respect 

Respect should be a non-negotiable in any relationship, not just romantic ones. 

A lack of mutual respect for each other in a relationship may not be instantly recognizable, with subtle cues suggesting that you’re not a priority. 

Over time, this can start to feel emotionally draining and damaging to both parties. When deciding who you allow into your life, always consider this important factor. 

4. Honesty 

Prioritizing honesty isn’t always easy.

Honest communication can lead to difficult conversations, but it’s better than bottling things up. After all, what matters is how you handle situations, even if your viewpoints don’t align. Lying to avoid these confrontations suggests that your relationship priorities may be eschewed — even if it’s something small, it’s better to be honest.  

5. Trust 

Trust is a fundamental aspect of any relationship, and therefore should be high on your list of priorities. It’s impossible to have a fulfilling relationship without it. 

Building trust takes time, requiring vulnerability, understanding, and open communication. If you’re in a one-sided relationship and your priorities don’t align, it’s impossible to build the foundations of a loving relationship. 

6. Boundaries 

Setting healthy boundaries in a relationship is just as important as outlining your priorities. 

Boundaries are a sign of healthy communication, as they establish what is acceptable behavior in a relationship. In line with your priority list, it’s important to establish boundaries that can help protect both parties from feeling suffocated or unheard. 

7. Loyalty 

Loyalty is a fundamental aspect of a healthy relationship, and should never drop down your priority list. 

In a relationship, loyalty is all about faithfulness, commitment, and support for your partner. When partners are loyal to each other, they feel confident that they can rely on one another and that their commitment is unwavering. 

Common examples of disloyalty include cheating or infidelity, or if your partner doesn’t defend you when you’re not around. 

8. Empathy 

No matter what you have going on in your life if your partner is going through something, you should treat them with the respect and empathy they need. 

lack of empathy in a relationship suggests that your partner isn’t prioritizing your needs, or even considering your feelings. Showing empathy is all about taking the extra step to understand how you’re partner is feeling and what you can do to support them. 

9. Shared goals 

Everyone has dreams, and even if some of them may differ from your partner, it’s important that goal conflict doesn’t impact your relationship overall. 

Supporting your partner as they chase their dreams is an essential part of any romantic relationship. However, it’s also important to have shared goals that you can work towards together. 

Whether it’s saving up to buy your first house, or deciding to start a family, having shared goals allows you to align your priorities — working as a team to achieve your dreams! 

10. Independence 

As tempting as it is to want to spend every waking moment with your loved one, preserving your independence should always be a priority. 

Pursuing your own interests and hobbies can keep a relationship fresh and exciting. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t prioritizing your partner, it just means that you’re valuing your independence. 

Ideally, both partners should aim for interdependence — life is all about balance! 

How do you prioritize each other in a relationship?

Prioritizing each other in a relationship involves making a conscious effort to show your partner that you value their well-being and happiness. 

As your relationship progresses, your priorities naturally shift to accommodate different life changes but it all hinges on communication. It’s important to show your partner that you value your relationship and that you see them as a priority. 

This involves showcasing your appreciation and affection for them regularly. Surprise your partner with thoughtful gestures or acts of kindness to show that you’re thinking of them and that even when you’re busy, they’re still a priority. 

Even though romantic gestures are important, it’s important that your partner feels they can always rely on you. By making your partner feel valued, appreciated, and loved to create a fulfilling and mutually rewarding relationship. 

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Who comes first in a relationship?

    Every couple prioritizes things differently. If you feel like you should be your partner’s number one priority at all times, and you aren’t willing to reciprocate the gesture — maybe it’s a sign that your priorities aren’t in order! In healthy relationships, both partners should feel valued and respected, with their needs and well-being taken into consideration. The ideal scenario is a relationship where both partners come first for each other and that they genuinely care about each other.
  • What is the most important priority in a relationship?

    The most important priority in a relationship is entirely subjective and varies depending on your individual values and circumstances. As we’ve outlined, relationship priorities should center around communication, connection, and trust building. All of these elements work together to create a fulfilling relationship — with priorities malleable to the situation at hand.
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