Relationship Rights and Responsibilities: Know What Matters

“Happily ever after is not a fairy tale. It’s a choice.” – Fawn Weaver, CEO

You’ve just met someone special who makes your cheeks blush, your heart race, and the world seem brighter. 

Ah, to be freshly in love. There’s nothing quite like it!

But if you want it to work out, you’ve got to balance those relationship rights and responsibilities. If you do that, you’re golden.

In any healthy relationship — be it with a BFF, parent, or significant other — it’s all about striking a fair balance of rights and responsibilities. It’s only by fulfilling these that both parties can find happiness and satisfaction.

Let’s start with the basics!

Key Takeaways

  • Healthy relationships are a fair balance of rights and responsibilities: Understanding both your rights and responsibilities is crucial for healthy connections.
  • Respect is nonnegotiable in a relationship: Everyone deserves respect and safety and to have their boundaries honored.
  • Communication is a must: Openly expressing your needs and sharing your feelings is vital for building trust and resolving conflict in a relationship.
  • Responsibility fosters growth: Taking responsibility for your part in a relationship allows for mutual growth and creates stronger bonds.

What Are Rights and Responsibilities in a Relationship?

A healthy relationship is everyone’s right, but it’s also a huge responsibility for everyone involved. You can’t just take and take and take and expect the other side to be happy with that arrangement.

It’s give-and-take in healthy relationships. At least it should be.

First of all, you’ve got to know your rights in relationships.

Your right, above all, is to be safe and respected. But you also have the right to your own identity, without anyone making you feel guilty about it or breaking your personal boundaries.

But just like you have certain rights, the other side also has theirs. This is where your responsibilities kick in.

Essentially, you have the responsibility to respect your partner’s rights. It’s up to you — and your partner — to cultivate a healthy relationship dynamic, which requires fulfilling certain important responsibilities.

Striking a fair balance between these rights and responsibilities is key to a healthy relationship.

You know how they say relationships are hard work? Yap, this is what they’re referring to.

@rachelecox

#stitch with @Liver why are men like this

♬ original sound – Rachel Cox

Yes, you give a lot, but you also receive a lot in return!

Why Are Rights and Responsibilities Important in Maintaining Healthy Relationships?

Maintaining rights and responsibilities is important for healthy relationships because when you don’t nurture such aspects properly, you end up in a downward spiral of resentment, codependency, and distrust.

But when you maintain your rights and fulfill your responsibilities, the sky’s the limit.

Consequences of poorly maintained rights and responsibilities

If you don’t want your life to start looking like a teen drama on the CW, you need to acknowledge and balance your rights and responsibilities.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Being with someone who couldn’t care less about you will do that for you.

Relationships in which one or both partners fail to respect rights and responsibilities risk a cocktail of dysfunction. In most cases, the relationship will end and you’ll move on, but others can lead to something much worse. 

Resentment, anger, and, sometimes, even abuse.

According to psychologist and author Dr. Steven Stosny, these three are killers of love.

In his book You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore, he says, “Not surprisingly, all three demons — resentment, anger, and abuse — damage the bonds of love in the same way, for all three feel like betrayal. All are a betrayal of the implicit promise your loved one made you when you formed your emotional bonds.”[1] 

Look out for these signs that your rights and responsibilities are not being properly maintained:

  • Feelings of self-doubt and lack of self-worth
  • Hurt and disappointment
  • Codependency, or feeling responsible for the emotions and behavior of others
  • Resentment
  • Lack of trust
  • Toxicity

It’s difficult for a relationship to recover from such consequences. If it were easy, couples therapy wouldn’t be such a lucrative field.

Benefits of well-maintained rights and responsibilities

So, what happens when you both fulfill your responsibilities and respect each other’s rights?

That’s when you thrive! 

When you give each other mutual respect, trust, and space to be authentic, you create emotional security.

Take Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street for example. Bert might find Ernie’s antics frustrating, but at the end of the day Bert appreciates Ernie’s carefree attitude. And Ernie never once disses Bert’s love for pigeons. He may be a rubber duck man, but he respects Bert’s right to vibe with pigeons.

This type of mutual acceptance allows for mutual growth and development.

As for their responsibilities, they each have their strengths. Bert is the old faithful, a reliable fellow that Ernie can always count on. And Ernie? Well, he’s caring and empathetic. Equally important qualities.

Respecting each other’s rights and knowing your responsibilities creates mutual trust and understanding between partners.

In a 2013 issue of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Luchies et al. describe how important mutual trust is in a relationship. According to them, “Trust is the expectation that a partner can be relied upon to be responsive to one’s needs and to promote one’s best interests, both now and in the future.”[2]

The authors go on to explain that those with high trust in their partners are more likely to forgive past transgressions than those with low trust. 

This type of “blind faith” helps forge a bond between partners.

Your bond grows stronger and stronger because you truly feel like you’re in it together and not against each other. 

Thus, the end result of maintaining rights and responsibilities in a relationship is a happy, healthy, long-lasting relationship.

Rights in a Relationship

In an ideal world, there would be some kind of manual on relationships given out to everyone. That would solve a lot of us a lot of trouble, am I right?

But yeah, we’re not living in an ideal world, so for now, articles like this will have to do.

One special chapter in this mythical book would be dedicated to a person’s rights in a relationship.

You need to understand your rights if you want to maintain a healthy connection. Here’s what you shouldn’t settle on:

The right to be treated with respect

According to research team Hendrick, Hendrick and Zacchilli in a 2011 article from Acta de Investigación Psicológica at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, “Respect is an important aspect of human relating, both in intimate, personal relationships and in more formal role relationships, where respect is part of interpersonal civility. In fact, it is implicitly tied to nearly all relationships (e.g., partner, family, friends).”[3]

You deserve to be respected and treated as an equal in any relationship. This means you should be free to openly express your feelings, opinions, and personal boundaries without fear of judgment.

For example, if you’re trying to communicate your feelings of hurt, your partner should respect them and hear them out without dismissing you.

They should validate your feelings and show empathy (Ernie would).In a separate article in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Hendrick and Hendrick describe respect as both positive attitudes about a partner and behavior that reflects those positive attitudes.[4]

It’s all well and good if your partner thinks you hung the moon, but they need to act like it too.

The right to safety

Let’s not forget one important basic human right that you should have in all your relationships: your right to safety.

Any kind of name-calling, belittling, or similar toxic behavior is abuse and has no place in a healthy relationship.

There are three types of abuse in relationships: physical, sexual, and emotional.

As Dr. Vera E. Mouradian explains in her research Abuse in Intimate Relationships: Defining the Multiple Dimensions and Terms

It is frequently the case that two or more types of abuse are present in the same relationship. Emotional abuse often precedes, occurs with, and/or follows physical or sexual abuse in relationships. Sexual and non-sexual physical abuse also co-occur in many abusive relationships, and, as with emotional abuse, sexual and non-sexual abuse often are combined elements of a single abusive incident.[5] 

So, it’s important to always be on the lookout for early warning signs in relationships. 

That gut feeling telling you to stay away? Listen to it.

That anxious feeling telling you something isn’t right? Trust it.

Those signals are your body’s way of telling you that something may be wrong in your relationship.

In The Predictive Validity of Intimate Partner Violence Warning Signs, authors Charlot, Joel, and Campbell, list some of the warning signs that predict abuse:

  • A partner acting arrogant and entitled
  • Disagreements about something sexual
  • Being forced to have sex even when you don’t feel like it
  • Uncomfortable public situations
  • Partner reacting negatively when you said no to something they wanted[6]

Remember, you deserve to feel valued, respected, and, most importantly, safe!

The right to self-expression

When you’re free to be your true authentic self, that’s when you’re your best self.

So, you shouldn’t let anyone, not even your loved ones, dim your light. You want people in your life to see you for who you are and allow you to be your authentic self.

Your quirks, your deepest passions, your goals — these are the things that make you who you are.

In the wise words of Taylor Swift, your individuality should be celebrated, not tolerated.[7]

I wait by the door like I’m just a kid
Use my best colors for your portrait
Lay the table with the fancy shit
And watch you tolerate it

Never settle for anyone who stifles your right to self-expression. Be bold, be brave, and stay true to yourself.

The right to have your own space

If you want to be in a meaningful relationship that doesn’t suffocate you but makes you thrive, you need to nurture your identity and set your personal boundaries.

As Anne Katherine, author of the book Boundaries, says, “Good boundaries enable us to define ourselves. They enhance our physical and emotional health and promote recovery. Good boundaries yield healthy relationships. True intimacy is possible only between two whole distinct people who have good boundaries.”[8]

Yes, your life comes first. This doesn’t mean you’re selfish. It means you love yourself.

You can’t pour from an empty cup, right?

Well, in practice, that means you need to have your own space and freedom to pursue your dreams.

So, allow yourself (and your partner) to pursue your individual interests and activities. Maintain your close friendships. Prioritize your me time.

These things may sound trivial but are fundamental to a strong and fulfilling relationship.

The right to say “NO”

I can’t stress this enough: You have every right to say “no” to anything that doesn’t sit right with you in a relationship.

Your personal boundaries are nonnegotiable!

Whether it’s a date night idea or an intimate activity that doesn’t feel right, you should never feel pressured to go along with it.

In her book The Best Part of My Day Healing Journal, author Sharon E. Rainey explains, “No is a complete sentence. It does not require an explanation to follow. You can truly answer someone’s request with a simple No.”[9]

Your well-being and mental health come first, no questions asked!

Responsibilities in a Relationship

Put simply, your responsibilities are to acknowledge and honor your partner’s rights.

According to Dr. Michael D’Antonio, a specialist in relationship responsibility with the Council for Relationships, a research nonprofit, “Each of us is required to be 100% responsive to others, that is, to hear them out, take them seriously, and respond with equanimity, taking them, ourselves, and the circumstances into account.”[10]

Knowing your rights is important, but it’s equally vital to honor your responsibilities in a relationship so you can create a stable and positive dynamic. 

So, let’s go through some of the most important obligations in a relationship:

Responsibility to respect others

Treat others with the same level of respect you expect for yourself. Yes, it’s that simple. 

Just as you have every right to be respected, you also need to respect others you care about, whether that’s your partner or your bestie.

You show respect by actively listening and hearing the other person’s perspective. Do your best to understand their viewpoint, even if you don’t agree.

You don’t necessarily have to agree on everything — nor should you — but you have to respect their experience and honor their boundaries.

Honoring their boundaries includes respecting their physical autonomy. We are all responsible for respecting the safety and wellness of our partners.

Responsibility to communicate clearly

There’s a good reason they say open communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship.

I mean, nobody is a mind-reader, right? So, the only chance we have is to learn to communicate clearly with each other.

According to Dr. Angela R. Wiley, a family life specialist and professor at the University of Illinois, there are many elements of healthy communication.

In an article published in the journal The Forum, she summarizes the most effective strategies for communicating as a couple:

  • “Keep it clear”: Emotional responses in relationships don’t always need to be direct, but they should still maintain the emotional connection between partners
  • “Keep it soft”: Partners who communicate “softly” and gently without aggression are more likely to have positive outcomes in relationships
  • “Keep it safe”: Positive interactions that validate feelings, soothe, and avoid judgment create a safe emotional environment where intimacy can flourish.
  • “Keep it positive”: Positive emotional interactions, especially during conflicts, predict happy and stable relationships, fostering cooperative resolution and mutual support.[11]

If you want to build a thriving relationship, you need to be open and express your feelings constructively and directly.

Yes, conflict is not pleasant, but staying silent on the things that bother you will leave a huge rift in your relationship, and you’ll regret it later.

So, make sure you learn to talk things out without any accusations or manipulation. With time, it will come naturally to you, and it won’t feel like a responsibility but a normal part of your dynamic.

Responsibility to be supportive

Let’s face it: Having someone who’s got your back through thick and thin is the DREAM. 

It’s even healthy for you!

As Brant R. Burleson, professor of communication at Purdue University, shared in his research in the journal Personal Relationships, those with supportive social networks have better physical health than those with unsupportive networks.[12]

So, if you have a supportive relationship for yourself, it’s time to step up and be that rock for your loved ones.

Celebrate their wins. Cry at their losses. Recognize when they’re having a hard time and show up for them.

It will help them get unstuck, move past tough times, and climb any mountain (sometimes quite literally).

Nothing feels better than having your own cheerleader, so be that person for your person!

Responsibility to work through conflict

When you care about someone and you want your relationship to work, you compromise.

Now, I know that may sound like a different word for “sacrifice,” but let’s not be dramatic.

It’s not about giving up what matters to you. And it’s not about sacrificing your own identity to make someone else happy.

It’s actually about finding solutions TOGETHER. This is the keyword, ladies! You’re in this together.

If you want a happy relationship, you need to be ready to admit when you’re wrong and apologize when it’s needed. 

I know. I hate apologizing too. But try to avoid “I’m sorry if . . .” It takes the onus off of you and puts it on your partner. It’s the opposite of helpful.

When you meet your partner halfway, you protect the greater good of your relationship.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, your relationship should be your happy place. It should feel like coming home. 

Fostering meaningful connections has even been shown to improve your overall health. According to Gitnux’s Marketdata Report 2024, individuals in a healthy relationship exhibit 35% fewer health complaints.[13]

But for that to happen, you need to be ready to put in some work. Fulfill your responsibilities and respect your partner’s rights. It’s a two-way street, after all!

If you need support along the way, don’t hesitate to ask for professional help! Talk to a therapist or join a support group that will give you the tools and encouragement you need to build healthy and genuine relationships. 

FAQ Section

What are the human rights in a relationship?

The human rights in a relationship are respect and personal boundaries. You deserve to be respected and regarded as an equal. You have the right to feel safe and secure without anyone disregarding your boundaries or diminishing your worth. You have the right to be your true, authentic self without fear of judgment.

What are 5 responsibilities in a relationship?

The five responsibilities in a relationship are respect, communication, support, conflict resolution, and safety. To thrive, a relationship requires mutual sharing of responsibilities.

How do you show responsibility in your relationships?

You show responsibility in your relationship by treating your partner with respect, support, and trust. Examples of showing responsibility include honoring your partner’s perspective even if you don’t agree, actively listening to their concerns, and showing support during challenging times.

Who has more responsibility in a relationship?

No one person has more responsibility in a relationship; both parties should have equal responsibility. While every relationship is unique, with its own dynamics and needs, every relationship requires balance.

References

1. Stosny, S. (2006). You don’t have to take it anymore: Turn your resentful, angry, or emotionally abusive relationship into a compassionate, loving one. Atria Books.

2. Luchies, L. B., Wieselquist, J., Rusbult, C. E., Kumashiro, M., Eastwick, P. W., Coolsen, M. K., & Finkel, E. J. (2013). Trust and biased memory of transgressions in romantic relationships. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 104(4), 673–694. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0031054

3. Hendrick, C., Hendrick, S. S., & Zacchilli, T. L. (2011). Respect and love in romantic relationships. Acta de Investigación Psicológica, 1(2), 316–329.

4. Hendrick, S. S., & Hendrick, C. (2006). Measuring respect in close relationships. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 23(6), 881–899. https://doi.org/10.1177/0265407506070471

5. Mouradian, V. E. (2000). Abuse in intimate relationships: Defining the multiple dimensions and terms. National Violence Against Women Prevention Research Center, Wellesley Centers for Women: Wellesley College. https://mainweb-v.musc.edu/vawprevention/research/defining.shtml 

6. Charlot, N., Joel, S., & Campbell, L. (2023). The Predictive Validity of Intimate Partner Violence Warning Signs. Social Psychological and Personality Science. https://doi.org/10.1177/19485506231209076

7. Swift, T. (2020). Tolerate it [Song]. On Evermore [Album]. Republic.

8. Katherine, A. (1993). Boundaries: Where you and I begin. Touchstone.

9. Rainey, Sharon E. (2016). The best part of my day: A healing journal for chronically ill patients. Pinctada Publishing.

10. D’Antonio, M. (2023, May 3). Relationship responsibility. Council for Relationships. https://councilforrelationships.org/relationship-responsibility/

11. Wiley, A. R. (2007). Connecting as a couple: Communication skills for healthy relationships. The Forum for Family and Consumer Issues, 12(1). https://www.theforumjournal.org/2007/03/03/connecting-as-a-couple-communication-skills-for-healthy-relationships/ 

12. Burleson, Brant R. (2003). The experience and effects of emotional support: What the study of cultural and gender differences can tell us about close relationships, emotion, and interpersonal communication. Personal Relationships, 10(1), 1–23. https://doi.org/10.1111/1475-6811.0003313. Liddner, J. (2023, December 20). Healthy relationship statistics [fresh research]. Gitnux. https://gitnux.org/healthy-relationship-statistics/