The Power of Relationships
A relationship is any connection, association or involvement between people.
Relationships can be healthy.
Healthy relationships are enjoyable and respectful and provide opportunities for many positive experiences that affect self-esteem.
We can develop healthy relationships with anyone, including family, friends, and dating partners.
It takes time, energy, and care to develop positive, healthy relationships. There are also many lessons to be learned from the relationships we already have.
Relationships can also be unhealthy.
Relationships generally start out with good intentions. As they develop, disagreements and conflicts may arise.
In some conflict situations, people may use behaviours that are considered unhealthy or abusive, and may include negative or manipulative emotional, physical, sexual or financial elements. These behaviours can lead to negative mental health issues.
Conflict is not necessarily negative if we deal with it appropriately. How we deal with conflict is based on a given situation, as well as on previously learned behaviours.
Healthy relationships can make us feel positive emotions. Some important characteristics of a healthy relationship are -
Shared Goals and Beliefs
Healthy relationships are satisfying, and also promote individual growth. Our psychological health and physical well-being depend heavily on our ability to form close relationships.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development (Waldinger, R. 2016) found –
Good relationships really do keep us happier and healthier!
1 - Social connections are really good for us and loneliness kills
2 - It’s not the number of friends, or being in a relationship; it’s the quality of close relationships that matters
3 - Good relationships protect our bodies and our brains
For 75 years they tracked the lives of 724 men starting in 1938
Year after year they asked about their work, their home lives and their health
Of the original 724 men 60 are still alive and still participating in the study, most now in their 90’s
2 groups of men were studied. The first started as softmores at Harvard College; the second were boys from Boston’s poorest neighbourhoods, from poor and disadvantaged families.
To get the clearest pictures of their lives, they are interviewed in their homes, they give access to their medical records from their doctors, they give blood for analysis, have their brains scanned and the researchers talk to their children. They are videotaped talking to their wives about their deepest concerns.
They learned three big lessons about relationships –
1 People who are more socially connected to family, friends and community are happier, physically healthier and live longer than people less well connected
People who are more isolated than they want to be from others are less happy, their health declines earlier in mid-life, brain functioning declines sooner and they live shorter lives.
2 Living in the midst of conflict is really bad for our health. For example, high conflict marriages without much affection turn out to be worse for us than getting divorced. Good warm relationships are protective. The study showed it’s not things like cholesterol which predicted a happy, healthy older life. The men at age 50 who had the most satisfied relationships were actually the healthiest at age 80.
3 Good relationships buffer us from the pains of getting old. The happiest men in their 80’s report that on days they had physical pain, their mood stayed just as happy. The people in unhappy relationships, on days when they had physical pain, felt the pain was magnified even more by emotional pain.
Being in a securely attached relationship to another person in your 80’s is protective. Those who feel they can count on the other person in times of need, their memories stay sharper, longer. Those who can’t count on anyone experience earlier memory decline
How do we learn to relate to others?
Our first relationships are with our parents or caregivers.
When caregivers feed and nurture children, they provide a sense of security, trust, and belonging, thus forming a powerful mutual bond
Children who are benefitting from healthy, loving, and nurturing relationships will seek proximity or contact with their caregivers.
As adults, these individuals will be more likely to trust other people, feeling secure that they won’t be abandoned or rejected.
This initial relationship with caregivers has implications on many of the relationships that will follow.
From the Manitoba Education online article.
What we learn at that young age will affect our relationships for the whole of our lives. However, if we are struggling as adults as a result of not developing these skills, we can still make changes so we can have positive healthy relationships and know to avoid unhealthy ones. Self-awareness allows change.
Working with the right counsellor can support change. It is important to acknowledge the past, but we can’t change it, so there’s little value in forever dwelling upon it. As a person centred counsellor, I work with clients in the ‘here and now’. We will work on what holds you back today so you are free to be your natural best now and grow going forward.
Without looking inwards, understanding and making changes to how we are in relationships with others, positive change is not possible. This can often be difficult to achieve alone, but working with a counsellor provides a supportive space for self-development.
Say you’re 24, or you’re 40 or you’re 60. What might improving relationships look like? The possibilities are practically endless. It might be something as simple as replacing screen time with people time or livening up a stale relationship by doing something new together. Long walks or date nights or reaching out to that family member you haven’t spoken to in years because those all too common family feuds take a terrible toll on the people who hold the grudges.
Waldinger, R. (2016)
Whether you want to work on how you relate to others as an individual or whether you want to work on your couples relationship together, counselling can help. I will help you understand how relationships effect your wellbeing and mental health and I will help you return to your natural self, free to decide who and how you should be. I recognise and respect you are unique and free to choose who you should be and what your values are. Get in touch and we can discuss how counselling with me will improve your happiness and wellbeing.
‘The good life is built with good relationships.’ Mark Twain