The 3 Key Relationship Roles for Fulfilled Partnerships

Painting of couple who are best friends sitting on the roof of a car watching the sunset

Intimate relationships require 3 key relationship roles to bring intimacy, passion, and meaning to conscious partnership.

Whether for you that is about resolving a past relationship and letting that go, changing the dynamics in current relationship/s, or building a relationship with new partner/s, each of these roles plays a very important part in creating conscious partnership.

What we will do is identify;

  • Which are the things that you already do well, that are really strong,
  • which are the things that need to be tweaked a little bit, and
  • which are the things that we need to completely rebuild?

As we each navigate our lives through different environments, events, and contexts, we find ourselves inhabiting a variety of roles.

Let me give you some examples;

  • When I am in Adelaide, I am a daughter, niece, cousin, aunt, and sister. Of course I am always these things, but in the presence of my family these roles are conscious and immediate.
  • With clients I am a relationship coach, woman’s circle facilitator, and non-linear movement method teacher.
  • When I’m in a café with a friend I am friend, confidante, playmate.

Those roles are a reflection of individual behavioural flexibility, as well as self-awareness and purpose. Sometimes we play those relationship roles in a reflexive or reactive way because it is part of the dynamics of our family or cultural locations.

Ideally we become clear about those relationship roles and have agency in choosing which and when to enact. It's important to be able to define those relationship roles (somewhat), as well as to weave them together with threads of continuity that are congruent to your sense of self.

That is, what does it truly mean to BE those relationship roles? How do you DO those relationship roles? What are the actions? Expectations? Agreements?

In the words of Esther Perel "When you pick a partner, you pick a story - and often you will be recruited for a play you didn't audition for".

3 Relationship Roles Venn Diagram
© Tara Thomas 2018

What are the 3 Key Relationship Roles?

To cultivate that intimacy, passion, and meaning, we need to focus on the three key relationship roles;

  • How you connect with each other, that is being best friends
  • How you attract each other, your relationship as lovers, and
  • How you create together, the team work in your relationship.

I also want to say that not every couple desires this kind of relationship! Some people have other partners or people who fulfil those relationship role in their lives. Some people don't want, or don't like engaging relationally in one or more of these ways. The most important thing is that YOU explore & decide what matters in your relationship so that together you are creating your unique relational dynamic.

Relationship Roles #1 - Best Friends

There are two girls lying with their heads together and their bodies in opposite directions, they have their hands over each others eyes and are smiling.

Relationship roles: Best Friends is about your ability to connect with each other.

It is the element that sustains your love beyond any challenge or change in your lives. Given that 69% of relationship issues are unsolvable, and 16% of those lead to gridlock, wherever we build connection we will also find contrasts.

The deepest work in navigating these differences, is discerning for yourself “can I bring grace & generosity to accepting this contrast will persist? Am I ready to engage & generate solutions? Or is this, in fact, intolerable? And this deep work requires strong friendship.

The Relationship Role of Best Friends is about;

  1. Building Trust
  2. Causing Fun
  3. Contributing Quality

The relationship roles of lovers creators will lead to passion, but no trust without the expectations, communication, and connection of best friends.

Venn diagram of lovers & creators without best friends.
© Tara Thomas 2018

Do We Need to Work on Being Best Friends?

Let's consider relationship roles of Best Friends, and whether your current friendship with your partner is strong, could use some time, energy, & attention, or needs to be rebuilt. You can consider the following questions;

  • Are you reliable?
  • Do you have good clean boundaries?
  • Do you own your mistakes, apologise, and make amends?
  • Can you give & receive feedback without escalating emotionally?
  • How well do you navigate conflict?
  • Do you trust each other?
  • Do you feel safe together?
  • Do you feel emotionally close to each other?
  • How often do you have fun together?
  • Do you share ideas about what is fun?
  • How much time do you spend together each week (just the two of you)?
  • Do you and your partner know each other well?
  • Do you listen to each other?
  • Does your partner know your plans & dreams?
  • Do you try to meet each other's needs?
  • Do you help each other to process stress?

How Do We Improve Our Connection?

There are 3 areas that you can explore as you build relationship roles as Best Friends;

  • Build Trust
  • Cause Fun
  • Contribute Quality.
[Read More: 3 Practical Approaches to Being Best Friends With Your Partner]

Relationship Roles #2 - Lovers

There is a couple silhouetted and kissing. The background is tinted red and is a forest.

Relationship roles: Lovers brings the real magic of any relationship. It isn't only about eroticism & sexuality, it is about vitality, creativity, and delight.

Sexual energy is the energy of creation. It is the energy of life, this vital energy is the source of passion in all our relationships and in life.

Relationship role of Lovers are about;

  1. Celebrating Difference
  2. Cultivating Desire
  3. Creating Frisson.

The relationship roles of best friends creators will lead to meaning, but no spark without the vitality, creativity, and delight of lovers.

Venn diagram illustrating best friends and creators (no lovers)
© Tara Thomas 2018

Do We Need to Work on Being Lovers?

Let's consider the relationship roles of Lovers, and whether your current chemistry with your partner is strong, could use some time, energy, & attention, or needs to be rebuilt. You can consider the following questions;

  • Is your relationship romantic?
  • Is your relationship passionate?
  • What do you do to turn yourself on?
  • Do you feel like your life together is filled with vitality?
  • Do you know how to create chemistry for yourself & each other?
  • What do you like sexually?
  • How do you give yourself pleasure?
  • Are you satisfied with the quality of your sex life?
  • Are you satisfied with the frequency of your sex life?
  • Is the spark still alive?

How Do We Improve Our Chemistry?

There are 3 areas that you can explore as you build your relationship roles as Lovers;

  • Celebrate Difference
  • Cultivate Desire
  • Create Frisson.

I'm working on some resources right now (November 2021) to support you in this growth! Watch this space...

Relationship Roles #3 - Creators

A woman is painting on an easel, there is a man laughing and holding a paintbrush towards her.

The third and final relationship role is Creators. This is about team work, and is the key measure of the longevity of your relationship.

A relationship without a purpose will die.

The relationship roles of Creators are about;

  1. Imagining the Future
  2. Inventing a Model
  3. Igniting your Talents

The relationship roles of best friends lovers leads to intimacy, but no future without the conception, collaboration and legacy of creators.

Venn diagram of best friends & lovers without creators.
© Tara Thomas 2018

Do We Need to Work on Being Creators?

Let's consider the relationship roles of Creators, and whether your current team work with your partner is strong, could use some time, energy, & attention, or needs to be rebuilt. You can consider the following questions;

  • Are you a good team?
  • Do you have shared passions & projects?
  • Can you give & receive feedback without emotional hooks?
  • Do you support each other?
  • Do you know, and leverage each others strengths?
  • Do you support each others personal dreams?
  • Do you have and work towards your shared dreams?
  • Are there clear & articulated agreements on the roles you play? For example, chores, financial, parenting, sexual, business partnership.
  • Are there clear & articulated agreements about your expectations within those roles?
  • Have you brought forward dysfunctional family patterns?
  • Do guilt and/ or resentment feature in your relationship?

How Do We Improve Our Creation?

There are 3 areas that you can explore as you build your relationship roles as Creators;

  • Imagine Future
  • Invent Model
  • Ignite Talent.

I'm working on some resources right now (November 2021) to support you in this growth! Watch this space...

Where Do We Go From Here?

What I most want you to know is that each of the aspects of the 3 key relationship roles have associated skill-sets that are 100% teachable.

That means that no matter your challenge, there are resources available to support you to navigate them together.

My orientation towards working with couples is that all the tools I share are PRACTICE based. In this series of blogs, I will share education, tools, and practices that allow you to explore your own experience of what it means to relate, not as a fixed idea or template but as an unfolding of your unique relational dynamics.

The insights & answers will come from you, and be for you. That means that the solutions you find will be distinctive to you & your partner (this is what makes love so fucking cool).