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Prioritization triangle and priorities in relationships

“I don’t feel prioritized by my partner….!”

Prioritizing in relationshipsIn this article you will learn why it is more important to prioritize yourself first, and then your partner, to have a good life and relationship.

You will also learn what it means to prioritize yourself first – without being selfish.

It’s about a somewhat different mindset and perspective that will make your life and relationship significantly easier, more enjoyable, and more loving.

You will be explained how to set healthy natural boundaries for yourself in a respectful way so that others feel safe with you.

Furthermore, I will discuss how childhood experiences can influence our choices and habits in adulthood.

If it turns out to be too difficult to make the changes needed for you to prioritize in a more appropriate way in your relationship, you might consider Couples Therapy as an option to make the transformation easier and faster.

Many people feel insufficiently prioritized

– How should you prioritize in your life?
– What do you give the most attention to?
– Who means the most to you?

Experience shows there is ONE way of prioritizing that is more beneficial than all others!

If you prioritize your work or your children higher than your partner, you will undoubtedly encounter problems in your life and relationship at some point.

The most optimal way to prioritize is first and foremost to feel what you personally desire, and then express it clearly and appropriately.
This will make it significantly easier for your partner to give you what you want.
At the same time, you will appear more confident, thereby increasing your chances of having your wishes fulfilled.

How do you feel about not knowing what your partner wants? Not good, right? And it goes both ways.


It is NOT selfish to EXPRESS your wishes (appropriately, e.g., using my communication tools).
Of course, you might not get all your wishes fulfilled, but it’s important to express yourself in a clear, distinct, and appropriate manner.
Maybe you want an ice cream, or you want to have sex, or you want to go on vacation to a specific country.
You need to feel and tell what you want.
How does it feel to not know what your partner wants and to have to guess all the time?

Next you should prioritize your partner. We all love being the center of attention – especially in our partner’s eyes.
Being prioritized higher than work, children, siblings, parents, hobbies, sports, and so on is important for everyone.
How does it feel to be ignored and belittled by your partner……???

Only after that come job and children, and after that everything else.

There is a clear rationale for this order, which I will elaborate on in this article.

Different Mindset

I often find that the content of this article surprises many people.
It is a completely different way of thinking than many are used to.
But once you get used to the idea, it can make good sense when we talk about prioritizing in a relationship.

As in all aspects of life, it is a matter of choices – and consequences. Short-term or long-term choices with small or large consequences. If I choose to have time and energy for conversations with my clients but not with my wife, what signal does that send to her, even if it’s not intentional? If I choose to have time and energy to massage my children but not my husband, what signal does that send to him (unintentionally)?

John Gray, who wrote “Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,” discovered that he spent significantly more time and effort on his clients than on his wife. So, he chose to view his wife as his last client of the day. This meant that in the late afternoon he had one less client, so he went home earlier and gave his wife his full attention. This significantly improved their relationship – and thereby also his work.


If you get divorced after a strenuous marital relationship, who does it benefit? The children? The career? Yourself? The ex? This is why it is important to prioritize your spouse BEFORE prioritizing your career/business and your children. And before your spouse, you must prioritize yourself – in a non-selfish way. Career and children will get attention. That’s easy.

But prioritizing yourself and your spouse sometimes requires a conscious choice and subsequent effort. The good thing is that if you do this, the rewards and consequences can be incredibly constructive and positive for all parties.

Prioritizing in Relationships

The healthiest prioritization in the long term in a broader context, in my experience, is:

  1. First and foremost yourself
  2. Your partner (i.e., the person you have chosen to live with)
  3. Your children (and stepchildren) or your job / career / business
  4. Everyone else and everything else

Prioritization triangle

The State of Affairs

Let me start by emphasizing that this is the prioritization in relationships you should normally keep in mind in daily life. It is dynamic and not static. Of course, there are exceptions, which I will address later, but the prioritization in the four layers should be the fundamental approach all the time. This will create a good life for yourself, your partner, your children, and everyone else around you.

1. Yourself

How do you feel about not knowing what your partner wants? Therefore, the first priority is that you feel what you desire, and then express it clearly and distinctly. Keep your boundaries intact.

Since it can be a bit difficult to understand, let me spell it out:

  1. Feel what you want and what you desire
  2. Express it clearly and distinctly by speaking from yourself (avoid using the word “YOU”)
  3. Ask a question, e.g., “How does this fit into our plans?”

The top layer in the prioritization pyramid is NOT about doing an ironman or going out or anything else. It’s only about EXPRESSING clearly and distinctly what you want – in an appropriate manner.

A Completely Calm David Beckham

Watch a video that beautifully describes what it means to feel, and then express yourself clearly, distinctly, and kindly.
David Beckham is about to see a statue of himself for the first time, but it clearly does not meet his approval (5:09 minutes into the video). He has been given too large a chin, too long arms, and too big a butt…

9:51 minutes

So, prioritizing yourself first means feeling and expressing yourself clearly

Prioritizing in a relationship by prioritizing yourself first is about being aware of how you feel and what you want. In other words, feeling yourself. Next, you need to be able to express this in an appropriate and clear manner. Isn’t it wonderful when your partner is clear and distinct about their desires and needs in a self-responsible and diplomatic way?

It is also about setting healthy natural boundaries and respecting yourself for who you are. Taking responsibility for creating security for yourself by clearly communicating this to others (to your partner). In short, being at peace with yourself and feeling good.

And here’s a fun video about prioritizing…

1:53 minutes


Learn to set healthy boundaries, so others don’t steamroll over you. If you let people invade you, at some point you will react (very) negatively, and what good will that do you? So when you can set boundaries, it is a success for everyone: Yourself, your spouse, your family, your friends, and everyone else in your life. They know where they have you and can relax, even if they don’t agree with you.

Space in the relationshipAs in all other contexts, it is not good to have either too much or too little. This is especially true when you prioritize yourself first. If you prioritize others or something else higher than yourself, you will thereby teach your children to sacrifice themselves for others. Your partner may lose respect for you, and your self-esteem may suffer. None of you will benefit from either, and this is why you should prioritize yourself first.

The Oxygen Mask in the Airplane

Imagine you are sitting in an airplane with your young child, and the cabin pressure suddenly drops. In front of your faces, oxygen masks fall down, and over the loudspeaker, you are instructed to put them on. Who should you put the mask on first: Yourself or your child? The correct answer is yourself. Because if you help your child first, and it struggles and doesn’t want the mask on, you both risk dying. If you have the mask on, the child can struggle as much as it wants until it passes out. Then you can calmly put the mask on the child.

You can only help others if you yourself are in a position of strength. If you are both in quicksand, you are not able to help anyone.

Prioritizing yourself, for example, means not allowing yourself to be disturbed when you are in the middle of something important.

Is Your Partner in Disagreement?

What happens if you prioritize yourself first, and your partner may not agree with you on this?

In the short term, it will create friction and conflicts, but in the long term, he/she will know where you stand, and they will learn your positions. This is significantly better than you wavering without a clear goal. For a child, alcoholism in the family is worse than violence.

Both are of course harmful, but with an alcoholic parent, the child can never safely rely on anything. The alcoholic lives by an emotional logic that can shift from second to second. This can destroy a child’s self-esteem more than if it is subjected to corporal punishment.

But neither is acceptable, of course. So if you prioritize in the recommended order with yourself first, then your partner, and lastly your children, job, and everyone else, it will both give you a better and easier life, and it will make it easier for your loved ones to be with you.

Prioritizing yourself first is not selfishness if you feel and express yourself. If, on the other hand, you just grab everything and at any cost want your needs met, it is selfishness, and it belongs at the VERY BOTTOM of the prioritization pyramid.

Childhood Traumas and Deficiencies

If you expect your partner by themselves to give you what you need and want, it indicates that there is something from your earliest childhood that you did not get enough of from your mother.

You cannot expect your partner to ever do it for you – except in the infatuation phase. When the real relationship begins (where the problems start), you must build a solid relationship with mutual respect at eye level. You must create understanding, trust, security, and many other things that belong in a relationship.

If you still feel lacking, and expect your partner to guess your desires and then willingly fulfill them, you need to work on it individually in psychotherapy. Then it is you who has a problem. Do not burden your partner with your personal problems and unrealistic needs. Nothing equal, loving, and good will come out of that relationship.

In other words: If there is something you want, ask for it – in an appropriate way.

If you do not tell how it is for you, that is, what you believe, feel, and think, it can go terribly wrong in the relationship….

Prioritization triangle

2. Your Partner

The second in the prioritization triangle is your spouse/partner, the person you have chosen to live with.
How do you feel about being highly prioritized by your partner?
Isn’t it wonderful?
And how do you feel about being ignored by your partner in favor of everything else? (“My partner doesn’t prioritize me! Boo-hoo…“)
Therefore, you should set your partner as the second most important person in your life. You two are the relationship, which is the backbone of the family.
When you are doing well, your children and work will also do well.
The opposite is certainly not always the case.

If you prioritize yourself and your spouse higher than anything else, your marriage will flourish year after year, and at the same time, your children and job will likely thrive more and more. Prioritizing the marriage means, for example, that you have adult time together, where the children have been told that mom and dad do not want to be disturbed.
It also means that the phone is turned off and the computer/TV is turned off.
Thus, you can give each other presence and attention.
Listen to each other’s needs and concerns, hopes, and dreams.
Be together!

Adult Time

A good relationshipDo not wait for adult time until you have already gone to bed. That is not sensible prioritization in the relationship.
Adult time should be when you are both fresh and can sit, stand, or walk together. The bed is for sleeping and making love.

You might, just before you fall asleep, go over the good, positive experiences from the day, where you each mention some things you are grateful for.
It’s a fantastic way to fall asleep and a good prerequisite for a peaceful night with deep sleep.

It doesn’t matter if your partner is the child’s other parent or a step-parent.
You are role models for your children, and at the same time, all children want to see their parents doing well and thriving – not least with each other.
The way you treat your partner will be reflected in how your children later treat your in-laws and how they are treated by their spouses.

At the same time, a good relationship with your partner will make you all relax more in everyday life, both yourself, your partner, and your children.
When you have a good relationship, it is reflected in your work life, family, and health.

It is important to realize that the top two steps in the triangle are the relationship.
You need to get better at saying YES to these steps and more capable of saying NO to the two lower steps.

(And where do children learn anything about relationships? Is it a subject in the school curriculum? No, right! Not yet!)

Prioritization triangle

3. Children and Job

Children in the relationship

Typically, women (or rather the feminine in all of us) are more likely to prioritize the children, and men (the masculine) will prioritize the job. It is deeply ingrained in us. How often have you heard the woman say: “Do you always have to sit in front of that computer?”, and the man say: “Aren’t those kids going to bed soon?”

When Do You Prioritize Inappropriately?

– For example, you do this if you come to the daycare to pick up your child, and your mobile phone is glued to your ear from when you arrive until you leave. You have significantly prioritized your work over your child. What experience does this give your child, when you dress them and wave to the caregivers, but you talk business uninterruptedly with someone not present?

– What would your boss say if you did a lot of private stuff at work? How much should it fill and how long should it last before they won’t tolerate it anymore, and you get a warning or are fired?

– Do you watch TV, read the newspaper, or send SMS messages while you eat? How will others around the table feel about the attention you give to something else?

– Some people can also interrupt a conversation with their partner if the child says something (which turns out to be insignificant). This is bad for both the partner and the child. It shows them both that the partner is the lowest priority.

– Others might answer a phone call in the middle of a meeting or meal. This sends a very unfortunate signal to the people who had your attention until then.

– Or the food is served, and you continue talking on the phone, instead of saying: “Hey, we need to eat. The food is on the table. Can I call you back in half an hour?”

Poor Upbringing

If you prioritize your child higher than yourself and your partner, you are teaching your child that the relationship is under-prioritized, and the spouse can be treated disrespectfully. The child will use this learning in their future marriages, which is probably not what most people want.

If there are blended families, the picture becomes more complex. Should the new partner be prioritized higher than your own children? Often the answer is yes, and sometimes the answer is no. If you always prioritize your children highest, it will affect your relationship, and how many more divorces are you willing to go through for the sake of your children? Will it benefit the children to see one of their parents in a poor relationship with the new partner? Will the children benefit from seeing how a relationship is under-prioritized? Will this experience help them when they form their own relationships and become parents?

For the Woman

– If you prioritize your children higher than anything else, you are asking for the problems that will inevitably come in the relationship. Do you, for example, have plenty of time and energy in the evening to give your children foot massages, presence, and full attention? But as soon as they are tucked in, do you run out of “fuel” and choose to go to bed because you are tired!

Your husband will, with good reason, feel that you take him for granted and that you prioritize him lower than the children. If he is not able to set boundaries, you will slowly drift apart, with greater or lesser relationship problems as a result. “If you only give your husband the crumbs left on the table after the meal, he will eventually starve.”

For the Man

Work life and relationshipIf you prioritize your career or your business higher than anything else, you are asking for the problems that will inevitably come in the relationship. Do you, for example, have plenty of time and energy in the evening to give your customers and your computer full presence and attention? But suddenly it has become very late, and you have no “fuel left in the tank.”

Do you then choose to go to bed because you are tired? Your woman will, with good reason, feel that you take her for granted and that you prioritize her lower.

If she is not able to set boundaries, you will slowly drift apart, with greater or lesser relationship problems as a result. “If you only give your woman the crumbs left on the table after the meal, she will eventually starve.”

The Children

If the children and the job constantly have top priority at the expense of everything else, these two areas will have a temporary short-term advantage, but it will harm both the children and the job in the long run because the whole has suffered. And when the kids have left the nest, and you have retired from your working life, you only have each other left. The better you prepare for your old age, the better it can be.

It is said that our children are our mirrors. They reflect us either directly or inversely, meaning they either do exactly the same as us – or exactly the opposite. But they mirror us whether we want it or not. Therefore, the children are also our best teachers because in them we can see an enlargement of ourselves, both the good and the bad sides.

All normal (meaning healthy) parents want their child

to grow up as a well-balanced individual who thrives and is well. So why do some children still face major personal challenges in their relationships with others? The truth is that we choose how our child will be because the child copies our behavior in every detail – either directly or inversely. Among other things, your child mirrors you in how you prioritize.

New Partner

If there are blended families, the picture becomes more complex. Should the new partner be prioritized higher than your own children? Often the answer is yes, and sometimes the answer is no. It can be a particularly difficult dilemma that requires great understanding for each other with acceptance, respect, trust, and security.

Prioritization triangle

4. At the Very Bottom and Last

…in the prioritization pyramid should come everything else and others. This includes family, friends, politics, religion, grandchildren, sports, hobbies, TV watching, leisure activities, travel, summer house, going out, answering the ringing phone, etc.

Relationship and Prioritization

Static and Dynamic

The order in the prioritization triangle is not static, but dynamic and only a guideline.

However, it must always be kept in mind. This means you are always aware of your boundaries, and you always have a virtual arm around your spouse’s shoulder.

You must not exclusively prioritize three days a week with the children when they are there, and the remaining four days for your partner. This is not how the balance should be calculated. It would also send a very unfortunate signal to the children about the distribution at home and how to have a good relationship.

But, of course, the order is constantly shifting as life’s pulse beats. If, for example, a family member has an accident, that person is temporarily given top priority, and everyone else must step aside.

But once everything is back under control, that person must return to their place in the prioritization triangle. If the child gets hurt, or there is a phone call, it will get full attention for as long as it lasts.

Just be aware that if you want to have a good life and be a good role model for your children, the prioritization triangle as a structure must be fundamentally in your consciousness.

Here is a sweet story about how to prioritize your time

Imagine a very large and empty jam jar. First, you fill it with golf balls. Is the jar completely full now? Yes, it is.

Then you take some pebbles and pour them into the jar. When you shake the jar lightly, the pebbles will settle between the golf balls. Is the jar completely full now? Yes, it is.

Now you pour some fine sand into the jar. The grains of sand will fill the remaining spaces in the jar. Is the jar full now? Yes, it is.

Finally, you pour water on top. There is also room for that.

Prioritization is essential to make room for everything. If you had started with the sand, there would not have been room for anything else – except the water. The golf balls represent the most important things – yourself! Between the balls, there is room for the pebbles – your partner. But there is still plenty of space for both job and children between the pebbles. Finally, all other things will overflow the space that is left.

Prioritization in the relationship applies to money, time, living space – and relationships.

Why do some people stay together, even when there is neither understanding, trust, security, respect, nor forgiveness between them?

The answer to that question typically involves factors like having children together, or it being too scary to be alone, or knowing what they have but not knowing what they could get. What I attempt to describe in the above article and on the video, is that with some small changes in the order of prioritization, you can radically change the dynamics in the relationship, and thereby achieve trust, security, and respect for each other in the relationship. It does not come by itself.

First, you must become aware of what the problems are. Most of what bothers our partner, we have no idea about.

Next, you must learn some new strategies and skills to get different results.

Finally, new good habits must be firmly established so that you do not risk falling into the same old ruts again when everyday life comes knocking.

Mobile Phones

Here is a very harsh video showing how with incorrect prioritization things can go really wrong.

4:15 minutes

It’s all about prioritization…..

What if both of you had better strategies and habits, so you were good at prioritizing each other and the relationship, and thereby could have your wishes fulfilled and your needs met?

By learning better communication strategies and gaining greater understanding of your differences, you can relatively quickly and easily learn this in relationship coaching.

Are You Thriving ♥ – or Is It Hurting in Your Relationship?

  • I can save and improve your relationship quickly and effectively with very specific communication tools and strategies, so you come to understand each other.
  • If the relationship is in chaos with fear, anger, confusion or stress, there may be a need for overview, structure, and firm mutual rules to create mutual understanding for each other.
  • I am a kind of driving instructor who teaches “The Traffic Rules of Relationships”. In a way, it’s about both theory, parallel parking, city driving, night driving, and skid control. All of this must be thoroughly learned before you find your own driving style – also in the relationship!

Feel free to call me at phone 21 79 18 50 to arrange a time for a non-binding clarifying conversation over the phone, where I will help you gain clarity on the life and relationship you desire. The conversation is free of charge for you.