The Importance of Relationships
As human beings, we are born with an innate biological and neurological need to establish connects or bonds with other human beings.
We are essentially the sum of the quality of our relationships with others. We are not hard-wired to be detached, free-floating islands, however, we can often find ourselves experiencing moments of utter isolation, even when we are surrounded by others.
We acknowledge that humans are social creatures and that establishing positive and reciprocal relationships are critical elements to our overall sense of wellbeing. As individuals, we are happier and healthier when we develop healthy bonds with others throughout all stages of our life.
Why are relationships important to us?
As eloquently described by Balfour and Vincent (2012) ‘The evidence now is clear: the quality of our relationships has profound implications from our earliest years, for the emotional, cognitive, and physical development of our children, to our latest years, in old age, affecting the likelihood of hospitalization, the rate of progression of disease in dementia, and even some mortality rates. In these materialistic times, we can say with some certainty that the apparent nebulous world of our close attachments to our partners [and relationships] has the most material, measurable consequence for our lives’.
The quality of our relationships and connections with others, such as our parents, siblings, romantic partners, friends, colleagues, mentors, and tribes, have the potential to directly influence our ability to create a prosperous, healthy and meaningful world for ourselves. Quality relationships assist us in dealing with life’s challenges and pain.
Human beings need connection and relationships when they are afraid, anxious, or unsure of themselves and want to compare their feelings with those of others. Relationships help people to confirm and validate thoughts, feelings and experiences as well as creating a foundation of self-esteem and self-worth.
What happens when we lack positive relationships in our lives?
In our technology-pervasive world that we find ourselves living in, a lot of us have seen a dramatic shift in our ability to connect. The world almost seems smaller. The elements of distance and time are no longer barriers to communicate and the volume of social connections has significantly increased.
Then why do so many people nowadays feel alone or isolated? It’s due to the quality of our connections or relationships. Not all relationships are meaningful, nor do they satisfy our most basics needs or yearnings for connection. Some relationships can be harmful, considerably impacting our health, our well-being and sense of self-worth.
How can we establish positive and nurturing relationships?
Relationships are fluid, evolving entities and they require ongoing care and attention. Comparable to the idea of self-care, we need to care for and nurture the relationships that in turn, support and nurture us. This reciprocal relationship takes time, patience and energy. Developing quality relationships also entails some basic proficiency in connecting with others and being open to the experience. Here are some interpersonal elements to consider when creating healthy bonds with others.
- Define your relationship needs: what is a positive, reciprocal relationship to you?
- Identify, establish and manage healthy boundaries.
- Accept and celebrate differences in others.
- Offer compassion and express gratitude.
- Create space and time to connect.
- Listen and be present.
- Forgive and offer exoneration.
- Develop effective communication skills.
- Be open to offering and receiving constructive feedback.
- Learn to trust and respect others.
- Be open to the experience of connecting.
- Manage conflict quickly and considerately when it arises.
- Be real – as Oscar Wilde cited, ‘Be yourself; everyone else is already taken’.
Take a few minutes this next week to write down a short list of some of the more important relationships in your life.
Think of a relationship with another person who consistently recognizes you, acknowledges you and endorses your feelings and ideas? How important is this relationship to you?
Next, write down a short list of the relationships you would like to nurture. Take mental stock of why each of these are important and how you would like to enrich the relationship.
Over the next 4-6 weeks, connect with each person. After this period, sit back and reflect on how your life has been enriched.
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Simon Niblock, MA is an Austin TX based, Marriage and Family Therapy Associate who is dedicated to helping men, couples and families find peace, direction, and meaning in their relationships. Click on the button below to book a consultation.
Balfour, A., Morgan, M., & Vincent, C. (2012). How Couple Relationships Shape our World Clinical Practice, Research, and Policy Perspectives. London: Karnack Books.
Web, L. (2013) Developing positive relationships. Retrieved from https://trainingmag.com/content/8-tips-developing-positive-relationships
Flickr image by: Farhad Sadykov