The Three Keys of Relationships

What exactly does it mean to be in a relationship? The Three Keys of Relationships answers this question. In fact, this is one of the most important questions when dealing with relationship issues. When we have a precise definition of relationship, it’s much easier to pinpoint the problem and begin working on the solutions. Thus, with many years of coaching, interviews and research, we have discovered The Relationship Triangle. This tells us that a Relationship is defined by having Continuous Interaction, Emotional Connection, and everyone Playing by the Same Rules. Simply said, if you and your person do not have these three things, you are not in Relationship, but merely in Interaction. (See Stages of Connection).

Three Keys to Relationships

In order to be in a Relationship,

you must have:

1. Continuous Interaction

2. Emotional Connection

3. And Be Playing by the Same Rules


1. Continuous Interaction

As we say above, Interaction, the second stage of connection, is doing things together, spending time together, sharing your thoughts and interests, making plans and acting on those plans. But why do we say that Relationships need Continuous Interaction? What does the “Continuous” mean? It has to do with the quality and maintenance of connection between you two.  For relationships, Continuous Interaction means “having interactions without interruption.” In other words, it’s about the amount of time spent in connection, and that both of you are focused on the same thing, without distractions.

How much time do we need to spend together in Interaction?

To maintain your beneficial connections, you need to be spending at least 30 minutes per day on average together. Of course, more connection time means stronger and healthier connections. As we have said, there are Stages of Connection, and each stage highlights a different type of connection – physical, mental and emotional. Spending time together will maintain one or more of those connections, depending on what you are doing. But there is a bare minimum to your time together where any amount of time less than that will cause holes to form in your connections. After conducting hundreds of research interviews, we have determined that the average to maintain connection of all three types is 30 minutes per day on average. “Per day on average” means that you could spend 3-4 hours on one day together per week, and still maintain your connections.

Connection Time

If you feel disconnected, take a look at how much connection time, physically, mentally, and emotionally you are spending together. Is it 30 minutes per day – 3-4 hours per week? If not, can you make the time? It’s not rocket science, so it’s easy to figure out that the more time you spend interacting and connecting on an emotional level, the deeper your connections and the healthier your relationship will be. 

If you are spending that much connection time together, then ask yourself if that time is being spent in high-quality connecting activities.

High-Quality Connections

A healthy Relationship needs high-quality physical, mental and emotional connection. 

Physical Connection Requirements:

  • In the same place at the same time (this can be the same virtual place, too, or phone calls).
  • No distractions.
  • Focused on the same thing.

Mental Connection Requirements:

  • Sharing thoughts, ideas, stories, plans, dreams, etc.
  • Hearing the other person – giving thought to what they are saying.

Emotional Connection Requirements:

  • (See Below – Emotional Connection)


  • Focused on each other
  • Having a conversation
  • Walking and holding hands
  • Playing together with your children
  • Enjoying a game or a project

2. Emotional Connection

Emotional Connection is so important and essential for Relationship, that it is its own key. This is the place in our relationship where we get to be real, authentic, and true. Emotional Connection is the source of love that grows for the other person. This is why it is a deeper and stronger type of connection.

Unfortunately for many people, Emotional Connection can also be the most difficult type of connection to create and maintain. This is because we are supposed to learn emotional connection first from our mothers, and then our fathers and rest of the family. But many of us, myself included, did not get the Emotional Connection needed in childhood that would help us create and maintain our Relationships later in life.

Emotional Connection vs. Being Emotional

We came across a story about a married couple in which the husband had a hard time dealing with his emotions. Whenever he encountered stress in the marriage, or with parenting, he would become angry and overbearing. To us, these are signs that this couple struggles to create Emotional Connection. How can we tell? Showing emotions is not the same as Emotional Connection. Some emotions cause a couple to disconnect – anger, hate, resentment, disappointment, contempt.

Creating and maintaining Emotional Connection

When we first are with someone, the body and mind will automatically create Emotional Connection. This is part of the “falling-in-love” process. But after a while, that automatic bonding fades. If a couple does not know how to create Emotional Connection, they will not be able to rekindle the romance, nor keep up their relationship.

Emotional Connection Requirements:

  • Mutual trust
  • Safe space to be emotionally open.
  • Each person is open to the other person, acknowledging, accepting and appreciating.
  • Sharing deep thoughts, feelings, emotions.
  • Each person gets to be authentic
Examples of Emotional Connection
  • When doing something together, for example, preparing a meal:
    • Emotional Connection – I’m cooking, she’s helping me prep food, and we’re having a conversation sharing our thoughts, stories, ideas, emotional high and low points of the day, etc.
    • Ø Not Emotional ConnectionI’m cooking, she’s helping me prep food, and we’re listening to music, not looking at each other, just discussing what needs to be done for the meal.
    • Ø Not Emotional Connection – I’m cooking, she’s helping me prep food, and one person is doing all the talking. 
    • Ø Not Emotional Connection – I’m cooking, and she’s in the kitchen too, but on the phone with family.
  • When you see each other after being apart for the day or longer:
    • Emotional ConnectionSmiling and looking into each other’s eyes, sharing all the good feelings you have for each other.
    • Ø Not Emotional Connection – Giving a quick hug and talking about the tasks that need to get done.
  •  When you share something difficult from your past:
    • Emotional ConnectionYour person hears you, empathizes with you, and lets you know that you’re safe.
    • Ø Not Emotional Connection – Your person tells you to get over it.
What gets in the way of Emotional Connection?
In a nutshell, there are basically three things that destroy Emotional Connection. The first is anything that causes you or your person to no longer feel safe sharing about their authentic self or emotions. The second is resentment, which is basically any negative thought or feeling you have about your person or the relationship. There are many things that can cause resentment. But recognizing that you have resentment in the first place is key to getting back to Emotional Connection. The third is when one person is controlling the other person, or has a controlling attitude. 
Learning Emotional Connection

In our courses and coaching, we spend a lot of time on Emotional Connection. We know that the process of creating Emotional Connection can be uncomfortable and scary for most people. Opening up yourself emotionally can feel risky, because not only are you exposing your inner pains, wounds and traumas, but you are also putting yourself out there for more possible heartache. This is why we take this very seriously and slowly, helping you to understand all of the steps.

When you begin to understand how to create Emotional Connection, the results are amazing. 

Emotional Connection Killers

Not Feeling Safe and Secure

3. Playing By The Same Rules

Whether we know them or not, all of us have Relationship Rules. “Playing by the Same Rules” means exactly that – you both buy into each other’s list of Do’s and Don’t’s. Think of a game that you like to play. What if you started with a friend and that friend started going by their own rules. What would happen? Conflict and chaos – that’s what would happen! This is the same for Relationships. Conflict in relationships happens because two people are playing by two different sets of rules, and often they don’t even know it.

Chris & Sarah, founders of Partnership and Love
What are the rules of your relationship?

Becoming aware of these rules may take a bit of thought and time. This is because many rules are unconscious and unspoken. Some rules come from our instincts, and others we ingrain into our thought patterns starting from early childhood. They can come from our parents, family, culture (including pop culture), friends, and especially personal experiences. We, as human beings, often think that our personal rules are universal and obvious when in truth they are not. In other words, we think our rules are the same as everyone else’s and that everyone else knows them. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.

This isn’t soul searching. This is getting to the core of what you believe a relationship should be like. Being as thorough as possible on this question will open the gate to a healthy relationship.  So set aside ample time to think about how you expect you and your person to be in this relationship. What do you expect them to say? do? how to act? 


If you haven’t guessed by now, expectations come from the rules you have about relationships. This is because you expect the other person to follow your rules just as you follow your own rules – even if you make up rules as you go along. 


Who’s Ruling Whose Rules?

Read this example of a woman in a relationship that we pulled from an article: 

“He always left dishes piled up in the sink until mold grew and didn’t really pick up his clothes. It turns out, mommy did everything for him, so he never thought much about it. I should have realized this wasn’t going to change when we moved in together.”

This woman had a rule along the lines of “When someone moves in with me, we will share the housework.” In other words, she has an expectation that her boyfriend or husband would help her clean, especially once they lived together. On the other hand, the man had a rule which is something like, “The women in my life clean up my messes.” Hence, as we can see, these two are not playing by the same rules. Hence, they will quickly fall out of Relationship unless one of them accepts the other’s rule, or they agree on a new and different set of rules.


What is your relationship to the rules?

Even if you know your relationship rules, you also need to understand your relationship to rules. Are you a rule follower? A rule breaker? Or do you make up rules as you go along to suit your mood? Do you have to be the one who makes all the rules? Being aware of how you approach rules will also help you understand how you approach relationships.


As you interact with your person, put yourself in a high level of awareness such that you question everything you think and say in regards to your relationship.  This will lead to further awareness of each other’s rules.

“How you approach rules is also how you approach relationships.”


Join our weekly live interactive sessions to learn how to apply these principles into your relationships – hear stories of successes – get more examples of the Three Keys – Discover more about connection.

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The Stages of Connection