5 C's of Healthy Relationships

November 8, 2023

Keley Smith-Keller

We’ve all been in friendships or romantic relationships where things just didn’t seem right. Something felt off and it may have been difficult to put a finger on what wasn’t working. According to Dan Heller (2020), there are a few clues into what might make a relationship work. In a research project Heller tackled in 1983 as an undergraduate at UC-Santa Cruz, he found five components present in successful relationships. These components are communication, compatibility, commitment, care and compromise. Heller found that the happiest individuals in his research were those who could identify all five of these elements in their romantic relationships. Let’s take a look at them.

  • Communication: Effective communication is vital in any relationship. It involves actively listening to each other, expressing thoughts and feelings honestly and respectfully, and resolving conflicts in a healthy way.
  • Compatibility: Compatibility refers to the shared values, interests, and goals that bring people together. While differences can be enriching, having fundamental compatibility in important areas can strengthen a relationship's foundation.
  • Commitment: Commitment is a willingness to invest time, effort, and energy into the relationship. It means prioritizing the partnership and working together to overcome challenges. Both partners should be dedicated to making the relationship work and be willing to make compromises when necessary.
  • Care: Care in a relationship involves showing love, affection, and support for your partner. This can manifest through small gestures of kindness, empathy, and consideration for each other's well-being. It's about being there for your partner in good times and bad.
  • Compromise: Relationships require compromise from both persons involved. This means finding common ground and making sacrifices to meet each other's needs and desires. Healthy compromise is a collaborative effort that ensures both individuals feel valued and respected.

So, whether a friend relationship or a romantic relationship, the advice is similar: Keep the five C’s in mind and tend to those you care about.

Want more? See Mona Chalabi’s short TEDx on what makes friendships last at https://www.ted.com/talks/mona_chalabi_what_makes_a_friendship_last



Heller, D. (2020, August 8). Components of romantic relationships: the 5 C’s. Medium. https://argv01.medium.com/components-of-romantic-relationships-the-5-cs-bc2c3ca74790

Whitbourne, S.K. (2023, July 8). How we can master the 5 C’s of intimacy. Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fulfillment-at-any-age/202307/how-to-make-the-5-cs-of-intimacy-work-for-you



Face-to-face counseling: To make an appointment with Dr. Keley Smith-Keller, campus counselor – contact her at keley.smith-keller@mountmarty.edu

Tele-counseling: In addition, all Mount Marty University students now have access to free tele-counseling, crisis consultation and life coaching through the Virtual Care Group: www.thevirtualcaregroup.com/mountmarty