The Four C’s of Relationships

I’m on a mission…one relationship at a time…to restore hope in love and marriage. Let’s put an end to the senseless debate about who among us is worthy of a legally recognized union and engage in an honest and fearless dialogue about how to discover and sustain that “love of your life” relationship. In truth, “real” marriage is not about who we love but rather how we love. While traditional commitment is not for everyone, if you want it you can have it.

As a psychotherapist with almost two decades of experience working with couples, it is my observation that the key to success in romantic relationships is really quite simple. Making a thoughtful decision about who and what you want at the onset and putting in the work to build trust and intimacy will create a solid foundation that withstands time and endures life’s inevitable ups and downs.

With these concepts in mind, please allow my introduction of “The Four C’s of Relationships”. Despite oftentimes complex variables which influence how a couple interacts, certain rules transcend all relationships. The Four C’s of Relationships is my interpretation of how the happiest, most fulfilled couples find and maintain that true and lasting passion that endures a lifetime.


Simply put, a strong relationship begins with a healthy dose of both physical and emotional chemistry. When your senses are triggered (sight, touch, smell, taste, sound), you are alerted to a potentially good mate. This may sound a bit primitive, but that’s exactly how it’s intended. A combination of nature and nurture combines to create attraction. Listening to yourself and responding openly and honestly to what you think and feel about another is a true test of compatibility for the long term. It’s okay to be picky; in fact, it’s encouraged. Don’t be discouraged if, as the saying goes, you have to kiss a few or more toads. Each kiss can help you learn more about your preferences. Trust your instincts, share openly and honestly, explore even those that at first glance may not catch your eye or interest, and above all be yourself. Confidence is a major turn-on. The good news is that there is truly someone for everyone.


It can be so simple yet sometimes we make it so hard. From the initial dating phase, be honest about what you’re looking for in a relationship, even if you’re not sure and simply exploring. Too often, dating turns negative when expectations are unclear. Remember too that communication is learned and no two individuals experience the same developmental influences on how to engage with another both verbally and non-verbally. It’s important that you remain true to your own style while respecting and affirming that of another. Over time, couples oftentimes hold onto long-held patterns of ineffective and potentially damaging patterns of interaction. While there are basic skill-building strategies to help couples resolve past hurts and learn new ways to communicate effectively with one another, every couple is different and benefits from unique approaches to building or re-building trust, understanding, and intimacy. There are no limits to what can and should be discussed between you and your romantic partner. Honest, direct dialogue is the cornerstone of emotional and physical health and strength for any couple.


Alright…not our favorite thing to do, but in almost every aspect of a relationship compromise is critical for harmony, contentment, and satisfaction. From the initial, formative steps involved in building a foundation to the on-going realities, challenges, and demands facing a couple, both parties must communicate wants and needs openly and honestly in order to negotiate an agreeable lifestyle. Of course, this means you won’t always get what you want, but at the same time it’s important that you get enough of what you want to create a sense of equity and balance. Keep in mind the basic concept of “give and take”. You win some; you lose some. Take some risks to reveal what is true for you, maintain a compassionate stance when hearing what is true for your partner, and don’t agree to something you don’t really mean which will likely lead to strain and resentment. Compromise is a part of life, and when done well, can provide significant returns on your investment.


This is where many face their biggest challenge but the real rewards for tough work are realized. Once you’ve communicated openly and honestly about your wants and needs for the relationship and compromises have effectively been established, you’re set to go. It’s now about behaving in ways that are thoughtful and determined. Commitment will lead to trust, security, and unlimited potential for growth emotionally and physically in a relationship. In many ways, a relationship is like a contract. As with any contract, agreements are binding until circumstances change. If you find yourself having a change of heart or mind related to the terms of your relationship, it’s important to be forthcoming and communicate what is going on for you. LIfe is unpredictable and, as a normal human being, you are fallible and capable of making poor decisions at a time of self-doubt or vulnerability. Unfortunately, certain actions can be hurtful if not fatal to a relationship. If trust is breached by either you or your romantic other, it’s time to assess damage and create a plan for recovery, which most often means resolving a betrayal and re-negotiating the terms of the relationship assuming both parties are willing and able. While you’re capable of making mistakes, you’re also capable of forgiveness and change. In the best of circumstances, a broken relationship can mend in a way which clarifies and strengthens the connection. It’s important to remain open to possibilities and, as always, maintain hope.

So there they are…the 4 C’s of Relationships. Whether you seek to find that ultimate love, whether you’re recovering from a betrayal by your mate, or whether you struggle to maintain that chemistry that brought you and your soulmate together, you can achieve success in your romantic relationship. Consider it a challenge. Give some thought to the 4 C’s. When it comes to the one you love, are you living up to your potential?

Douglas Jensen, MSW, LICSW is a Board Certified Diplomat in Clinical Social Work with a private psychotherapy practice based in the Twin Cities.

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