So many of us deeply desire a committed, loving relationship, but we can also feel confused about how to make one last. Fortunately, there’s a key that’s not often discussed but has a huge impact on the long-term potential of every partnership. It’s the quality of respect.

When relationships break down, you can bet the respect has already gone out the window. Either we stopped treating ourselves with respect and our lover followed suit; or we lost respect for our partner, and the trust and passion went downhill from there.

So rather than trying to figure out all the different components of how to make love last, focus instead on creating an atmosphere of respect with your partner. The more you can do this, the more other vital elements of the relationship, like trust, intimacy, passion, love, and so on, will naturally flourish.

Here are five practical ways to begin increasing the level of respect in any relationship:

1. Take your own life seriously. Your health, your finances, your career, your mental and emotional wellbeing. It’s your responsibility (not your partner’s) to ensure that you are functioning as a healthy adult.

This doesn’t mean you have to be perfect or that you can never receive support from your partner. In fact, it’s vital that you’re able to receive as graciously as you give.

But what taking your own life seriously means is that you take the initiative for keeping your own life on track. You keep your body in decent shape and visit the doctor when you need to. You work towards paying off credit card debt and saving for retirement. You visit a therapist to heal old wounds rather than treating the relationship like your emotional dumping ground. You stay engaged with friends and activities you love.

When you respect yourself enough to take your own needs and responsibilities seriously, you set an important precedent of healthy accountability and build an atmosphere of self-love that will benefit and intrigue you both.

2. Express gratitude. Every day, look your partner in the eyes and say, “thank you” when he does even the simplest thing to make your day nicer. It’s amazing how easy it is to take those closest to us for granted. A simple, but thoughtful expression of gratitude will help you remember how special it is to have someone care about you. And, it will ensure your partner feels acknowledged and appreciated.

3. Be real. When challenges arise between the two of you, avoid cheap ways of discharging your pain by name-calling, eye rolling, sarcasm, ignoring him or being intentionally hurtful. Try this instead: Take a deep breath and place your hands over your stomach or your heart (whichever helps you connect with yourself more) and notice what you’re truly feeling. Try communicating that instead — without all the drama. You can simply tell your partner, “I need to be quiet for a while and sort out my thoughts.” Or, you could say, “I feel really helpless and afraid right now.”

It takes practice to become clear about your true emotions and then to express them simply. But taking steps towards authentic communication will build respect, create trust, and open the space for exciting new possibilities to unfold in your relationship.

4. Focus on what you do respect about your partner. Is your man great at his job? Does he have a kind, compassionate heart? Is he a committed father? What you focus on expands and this is definitely true in our relationships. When you intentionally choose to admire and appreciate your partner, you will begin to notice more and more of the things that make you feel proud to be with him.

5. Accept that your partner has legitimate needs. Just like you, your man will need emotional and physical safety, regular touch and closeness, a sense of purpose, solitude, recognition, etc. When we spend a lot of time with someone, we can forget that he is a separate individual with valid needs of his own. We see this often when a woman dismisses her husband’s drive for sexual intimacy or his need to zone out for a while after work.

If we want our man to fully show up for us, we need to give sincere consideration to what he’s expressing (verbally or non-verbally) about what his needs are. This doesn’t mean that we put his needs above our own – it means we see him, we communicate respectfully, and we genuinely work together to make sure everyone has what they need to thrive.