When asked what commitment in a relationship is, a lot of people might respond with something like, “promising to be faithful” or “getting married.” While those two definitions may be part of making a commitment for some people, they’re certainly not the end-all be-all. Commitment involves so much more than just making a verbal or legal promise to stay with someone.

We may find ourselves thinking about relationship commitment as the intention to stay with someone, but there need to be actions behind that intention. Think of it this way: if you intended to run a marathon but never went on any training runs, you’d probably have a lot of trouble sticking to your original intention. If you’re really serious about being committed to another person, it’s something you have to work at.

So what makes for a successful committed relationship?

The Components of Commitment

Mutual respect. No relationship can be truly successful unless both partners fully respect one another. You and your partner may not agree on absolutely everything – and that’s fine – but you need to value each other’s thoughts and emotions.

Honesty. Commitment can’t happen unless you’re both clear about what you want out of the relationship. If you’re in a long-term relationship and want it to continue, there will also come a point when you and your partner need to discuss what you want from your shared lives in the future. Set goals together and support each other while you achieve them.

Time together. It’s all too easy to get busy with work, school, and other commitments that take you away from your partner. Even if you’ve got a hectic schedule, though, you need to make sure that you still have private time with your partner in order to strengthen your bond and build the foundation for commitment. It shouldn’t feel like a chore to spend time with your partner; it should be something you’re comfortable with and that you look forward to.

Intimacy. It’s not the only thing you should focus on, but it is an important part of a long-term committed relationship. Intimacy doesn’t just have to mean sex, either. Doing things like unexpectedly kissing your partner or resting your hand on their arm while you’re relaxing show that you’re both familiar with and still attracted to them.

Emotional support. When your relationship first began, you and your partner may have experienced a lot of emotional highs. But as with every relationship that goes on, you’ll experience a wide range of emotions, and difficult events – loss of a job, death in the family – may at some point overwhelm you and your partner. Truly committed partners will be there for one another through both the highs and the lows.

Commitment is something that you have to keep working on throughout your relationship, and if you want to learn more about what you and your partner can do to strengthen your commitment, consider signing up for a couples’ workshop or talking to a Houston marriage counselor.