What Does It Mean to Level Up in a Relationship?

“The next level is always the best.” – Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

By: Tahlia Maskey

Life is too short for shallow connections. 

Whether you’re going from Tinder dates to meeting their mates, or simply striving to cultivate better connections in a long-term partnership, leveling up is a key part of growing your relationship.

There’s a world of benefits in advancing to the next stage with someone, but getting there is a ride.

Buckle up, and I’ll explain what it means to level up in a relationship and how you and your partner can reach maximum potential.

Table of Contents:

What Does It Mean to Level Up in a Relationship and Why Does It Matter?

So, what is leveling up in a relationship? 

If you’re familiar with leveling up in a video game, this concept will be easy for you to grasp. If you’d rather swallow a bag of hair than play a video game, it’s still a simple concept.

Leveling up means taking your relationship to the next level, whatever stage that might mean for you. 

For example, going from Tinder match to weekly date. From friend to boyfriend. From boyfriend to partner. From casual to exclusive. Dating to engagement. 

You get the picture. 

Leveling up is important because when you fail to progress your relationship, it can grow stagnant.

A relationship that doesn’t grow might have nowhere to go.

If you’re certain you want to move things along in your relationship, you’ll want to consider a few things, like if your partner feels the same.

Things can get tricky otherwise.

You may think it sounds easy, but a relationship growing means shifting dynamics, and change can be rocky for anyone. 

In general, though, leveling up is totally worth it. It brings with it deeper connections, stronger bonds, and greater satisfaction in your relationship. 

How to Level Up and Connect in a Relationship

When relationships start, they’re naturally quite passionate and fiery. Think about that really spicy first date you had.

But as time goes on, this light may fade a bit, and the spark can dull to an ember. Don’t let it discourage you — this doesn’t mean it’s the end. 

You just need to level up.


Changing and growing together is crucial to your relationship’s success. We all change so much through our lives, and if our relationships don’t, they can easily be left behind. 

Leveling up can look different depending on your situation. It can be a milestone, like getting engaged or married, or moving in together, or even something as simple as leaving your toothbrush at his place.

Date yourself first

This may sound counterintuitive, but if you really want to take things further with your partner, you need to make sure you’re someone who’s worth leveling up with. And for that you need to focus on yourself.

Embracing the self-care era is more than just doing yoga once a year or shaving your legs and putting on a face mask every now and then. It’s about truly facilitating self-love. 

Because if you want to love and be loved, you must first love yourself. 

And experts agree.

A 2022 article in the journal Wellbeing, Space and Society argues that those who value themselves engage in self-care and also prioritize a positive atmosphere around themselves, encouraging others to grow and develop as well.[1]

You are one whole half of the relationship, so make sure you give yourself love before you try to love someone else. 

Self-care might look like booking in your favorite spa treatments, investing your time in sports training, or even meeting friends for margaritas. 

It’s so crucial to have your own identity, independent goals, and dreams to give you purpose. 

This is a huge aspect of developing a healthy identity and self-esteem. 

Having a solid idea of yourself and some hefty self-confidence is the best foundation for a healthy relationship. 

Build trust and intimacy

Trust and intimacy are the foundations true love is built on. 

In fact, in a study published in Couple and Family Psychology, authors Jarnecke et al. found that lack of intimacy and trust are among the most common reasons couples seek marital counseling.[2] 

But what actually is intimacy? It’s all well and good to say it’s the goal, but it does no good if you don’t even know what it is beyond all its ambiguity. 

Trust, of course, we know. Merriam-Webster defines it as “a confident dependence on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”[3]

But it’s intimacy that evades us. 

Author and Cornell University professor R. J. Sternberg defines intimacy as “feelings of closeness, connectedness, and bondedness in loving relationships.” He says intimacy comprises “emotional investment in the relationship.”[4]

Seems simple enough when you put it that way.

A recent article in the Journal of Sociology and Ethnology explains that trust and intimacy go hand in hand, and that

individual characteristics, relational dynamics, and environmental factors are undoubtedly important factors that shape intimacy and trust. A thorough understanding and balance of the relationships between these factors can help individuals build stable, healthy interpersonal relationships and lay a solid foundation for cultivating intimacy and trust.[5] 

With open communication, consistent support, and understanding and empathy, you can navigate these key factors and level up a relationship founded on trust and intimacy.

Set healthy boundaries

Dr. Faith Harper explains in her book Unf*ck Your Boundaries,

“Boundaries are the constructs that differentiate us between ourselves and someone else.”[6]

While growing together is great, it’s important to set respectful boundaries in your relationship for your own growth and well-being. 

Remember, you are yourself before you are someone’s partner. If things get hazy, or you go through a breakup, it’s nice to know you’ve established some healthy, definitive expectations. 

It’s also easy to get caught up in your relationship, with a sort of tunnel vision, forgetting your life before them (the so-called honeymoon phase), which naturally means your own preferences can be pushed to the side. 

Types of boundaries include physical, emotional, energy and time, and digital. This means your body, your emotions, your energy, your social media accounts — everything — are yours to control, not someone else’s.

Author Taras Chernata says in Personality and Environmental Issues that boundaries are an “important aspect of mental health . . . they help individuals remain true to themselves, feel harmony, define their needs and desires, and protect their psychological and emotional integrity.”[7]

And of course you need to respect your partner’s boundaries as well. 

Setting, acknowledging, and respecting boundaries are essential to leveling up a relationship. Without such mutual respect, you can’t truly thrive with someone.

Level up as a team

As renowned orator Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore once said, “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”


If you’re planning to move to the next stage with your partner, you need to do it together, united in the cause. Otherwise you’ll end up all lopsided and confused. 

If you tackle change together, you will both feel better.

Setting relationship goals can help you achieve the next stage. 

Nervous about meeting their parents? Set a deadline to do it by New Year’s Eve. 

Get into the habit of ticking off these goals together. 

Want to spend more time together but are sick of movies and bars? Take the leap and book a cooking class together or sign up for a yoga retreat, or volunteering. 

The best thing to do is have new experiences and get out of your comfort zone together.

By working as a team, you’re both on the same page, which leads us to the next important point.

Practice effective communication

This one can be hard. 

In-depth, explicit communication with another person can naturally cause a bit of discomfort, no matter who it’s with — especially if you have conflicting opinions. 

This can be more daunting if things are feeling a bit rocky between you two, and lowkey makes you want to surrender to avoidance and retreat into a cave and hide. 

But the effort and awkwardness are worth it. 
As authors Nyarks and Hope tell us in their 2023 article in the International Journal of Research in Education, Science and Technology,

“The act of communicating not only helps to meet your needs, but it also helps you to be connected in your relationship.”[8]

Now, that might seem pretty obvious, but it’s actually something many people forget about in relationships.

Listening is so important. So, zip your lips and listen without judgment! 

It can be hard for anyone to open up about their true thoughts and feelings, so what’s really important is creating an emotionally safe space. And when it’s your turn, a bit of vulnerability goes a long way. 

Taking the time to actively listen to your partner opens up the door for further, deeper connection. They learn they can trust you. 

It might be uncomfortable at first, but who knows, it could be the first step to the best time of your life. 

Continue learning and improving

Even if you’re right where you want to be, you will always need to continue learning and improving to truly thrive.

Adopting strategies to better yourself and your relationship is a mindset of maturity, and it’s never been easier. You might want to listen to podcasts, read a self-help book, or even start therapy, either alone or with your partner, to help you identify areas for growth.

Just like with any goals, the work never stops. When you achieve your fitness goals, you don’t just regress to being a couch potato, do you? 

You’ve put in the work for your relationship, you’ve leveled up, now it’s time to keep up your skills as a partner.

Conclusion

Life is constantly changing; therefore, your relationship should be too. This means growth is key. 

But also, this isn’t a game of Donkey Kong — there’s no final stage or major boss to conquer to finally be happy in your relationship. You have to keep leveling up as life goes on. 

The most important part is committing to trying. If you can commit to these steps and give your partner the space to do so, too, then that’s a great start. 

When you feel the joy of leveling up together, you’ll understand the hype.

If you want to read more about topics about being in a relationship check out our page here.

FAQ Section

What is the concept of leveling up?

The concept of leveling up means moving to the next stage of your relationship with someone. By leveling up your commitment, you can build a deeper connection and stronger bond.

How do you level up in a relationship?

How you level up in a relationship depends on your specific partnership. But love, trust, and intimacy are critical elements of being with someone, and expressing your emotion and communicating your feelings is crucial.

How can leveling up improve the overall quality of a relationship?

Leveling up can improve the overall quality of a relationship by enhancing your connection, reinforcing your commitment, elevating your goals together, and allowing you to get more from your partnership.

References

1. Torres-Soto, N. Y., Corral-Verdugo, V., Corral-Frías, N. S. (2022). The relationship between self-care, positive family environment, and human wellbeing. Wellbeing, Space and Society, 3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wss.2022.100076

2. Jarnecke, A. M., Ridings, L. E., Teves, J. B., Petty, K., Bhatia, V., & Libet, J. (2020). The path to couples therapy: A descriptive analysis on a veteran sample. Couple & Family Psychology, 9(2), 73–89. https://doi.org/10.1037/cfp0000135

3. Webster trust definition

4. Sternberg, R. J. (1986). A triangular theory of love. Psychological Review, 93(2), 119–135. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-295X.93.2.119

5. Tianqi, X., & Jinhao, J. (2024). Intimacy and trust in interpersonal relationships: a sociological perspective. Journal of Sociology and Ethnology, (6)3. https://dx.doi.org/10.23977/jsoce.2024.060306

6. Harper, F. G. (2020). Unf*ck your boundaries: Build better relationships through consent, communication, and expressing your needs. Microcosm Publishing.

7. Chernata, T. (2024). Personal boundaries: Definition, role, and impact on mental health. Personality and Environmental Issues, 3(1). 

8. Nyarks, A., & Hope, M. M. (2023). Impact of effective communication in a marriage. International Journal of Research in Education, Science and Technology, 4(2), 33–40. https://globalacademicstar.com/download/article/impact-of-effective-communication-in-a-marriage-81830.pdf