What Is Loyalty?

Two Young Latina Women Leaning Together, Smiling and Happy

Justin Lewis / Getty Images

Table of Contents
View All
Table of Contents

What Is Loyalty?

Loyalty is a virtue we value in several types of relationships, including among family, friends, romantic partners, workplaces, organizations, religions, and nations. But what is loyalty, and why is it important?

“People tend to define loyalty by what it is not (for example: not being betrayed, cheated on, or abandoned), but loyalty is much more than the absence of mistreatment,” says Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and professor at Yeshiva University.

Loyalty is faithfulness, dedication, honesty, trust, and support in a relationship, says Dr. Romanoff. It requires an emotional commitment and engenders a sense of identity.

This article explores the characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of loyalty, as well as some strategies to build loyalty in relationships.

Characteristics of Loyalty

Below, Dr. Romanoff explains some of the characteristics of loyalty.

Steadfastness and Support

Loyalty means being there for someone through the highs and lows, and staying by their side regardless of the circumstances.

Loyalty involves accepting and loving someone for who they are, and not threatening to leave them when things become challenging. People display loyalty by weathering storms together, providing support, and sticking it out.

Consistency

Loyalty means being consistent in your treatment, behavior, and regard for another. It’s important to be reliable and dependable—someone who can be counted on to show up. Loyalty also involves consistently treating the other person with kindness, fairness, and generosity of spirit.

Honesty and Transparency

Being vulnerable and not hiding parts of your identity or parts of your life are important aspects of loyalty. People who share their thoughts and feelings display a willingness to be known and to know others in an authentic and open way.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Loyalty

Loyalty can have both benefits and drawbacks. Dr. Romanoff lists the pros and cons of this trait below.

Benefits of Loyalty

Loyalty can strengthen relationships because people are more honest and forthcoming when they know the other person is loyal. It engenders trust and closeness in relationships.

Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

Relationships with loyalty are stronger because both people can be themselves and share what they’re experiencing without fear that the other person will abandon them.

— Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD

This is true for romantic, work, family, and social relationships as when we feel others are loyal to us, we can be more authentic and take off the socially acceptable filters that we tend to display our behaviors through.

Loyalty helps build support, which is important for mental, emotional, and physical well-being. Knowing you have people who have your back and will be there for you when you need them can help you feel secure.

Drawbacks of Loyalty

Loyalty can be harmful when your allegiance to the other person becomes consistently detrimental to you.

Some people remain in relationships that no longer serve them. In these instances, their sense of loyalty can cause them to become exploited or abused. While loyalty is an important trait, it should not be used against someone.

It can be hard for someone who is loyal to recognize when they are being manipulated by someone they love. It can be helpful to get an outside perspective from a friend, family member, colleague, or therapist who has their best interests at heart.

While it may not always be possible to sever relationships, it’s important to set boundaries in relationships with people who are manipulating you because of your loyalty.

How to Build Loyalty

Loyalty is a characteristic that can be developed and earned in relationships. Dr. Romanoff suggests some tips to help build loyalty:

  • Show your appreciation: Show the person that you value them. Communicate how important they are to you and how significant their presence is in your life. Don’t take them for granted. Showing someone your loyalty to them can help encourage them to be more loyal to you.
  • Be supportive: Offer support when they are struggling and help them face their problems. Don’t give up on them when challenges arise. They should know you’re there for them through thick and thin.
  • Maintain their confidence: If they share their secrets, hopes, plans, fears, or insecurities with you, ensure that you keep their trust and maintain their confidence. Respect them and avoid passing judgment.
  • Keep your promises: If you make promises or commitments to them, make it a point to follow through and not let them down. If there’s something you can’t do, be honest and upfront from the start.
  • Don’t be unfaithful: In romantic relationships, it’s important to honor your commitment to your partner and remain faithful.
  • Be honest: Be transparent and honest with the person, and avoid keeping secrets from them. It’s also important to be authentic with them, even if that makes you vulnerable. Being your true self with them helps promote trust and loyalty.
  • Act in their best interests: Having ulterior motives when you’re dealing with someone, talking behind their back, or embarrassing them in public are acts of disloyalty.
  • Address problems within the relationship: When there is a problem in your relationship, manage it directly with the person instead of talking about it to other people. This shows that you respect and value the relationship with the person instead of seeking external validation by talking about them and your problems to others.
  • Treat them fairly: If you’re having a disagreement, it’s important to hear their perspective, even if it clashes with yours, instead of ignoring or avoiding difficult conversations. 

A Word From Verywell

Loyalty is an important component in relationships, whether romantic, familial, social, or otherwise. It can help build stronger bonds and create social support. Loyalty can be fostered by being honest, supportive, respectful, appreciative—and, yes, loyal.

3 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Loyalty.

  2. Hong JW, Hong AJ, Kim SR. Exploring implicit and explicit attitudes of employees’ authentic organizational loyalty. Front Psychol. 2021;12:666869. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2021.666869

  3. Harandi TF, Taghinasab MM, Nayeri TD. The correlation of social support with mental health: A meta-analysis. Electron Physician. 2017;9(9):5212-5222. doi:10.19082/5212

By Sanjana Gupta
Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness.