If you are like me, you want to have quality personal relationships, relationships that are strong. But how do we get them? Is it as simple as having good values and putting these into practice? If we are respectful, kind, and engage in loving acts will this do? Or do we get lucky if we choose the right person and are perfectly matched? If we are matched with people who have similar interests, values, and goals will we have a quality relationship?
When did your general practitioner (GP) last ask you how is your relationship? If you are not sleeping well or angry and irritable are pills the answer? They may help temporarily but is there a longer-term option? It is time to look closer at our relationship and fix what it not working. What do we do when our car is not working? We get it fixed! Without strong relationships our wellbeing is at risk.
Now that we are all grown up.
Once we reach adulthood the ‘penny drops.’ Then comes the realisation that quality personal relationships can be hard work. Strong relationships require resilient people who will watch, listen, learn, and grow.
It might have been chemistry that kicked off your relationship, but will this be enough for it to last? I know people who have had a laissez faire approach to their relationship. If it does not support everything they want – it is over! But that is not how relationships should work. There is no serendipity in quality relationships. People make them happen.
I could author a book on the intricacies of quality personal relationships. Relationships are complex, driven by the fact that human beings are complex. It takes time and effort to understand what grows a relationship and what causes it to wither and die.
In 2018 in Australia there were 49,404 divorces, like 2017 with 49,032. These figures have remained constant across 2019 and the 2019/2020 years. The high-risk group for divorce is people in their 40s. The median duration of marriage in 2018 was 12.3 years.
In 2018, 41.45 percent of married people got divorced. People put time, their hopes and dreams, their energy, finances, and a lot of loving into marriage. Then when it gets too tough, they let walk away and it falls apart. Apart from the impact of divorce on the adults lives, 47.3% of divorces involved children.
It is vital for our health and wellbeing to continue to invest in our relationship. By investing I mean to understand what makes a strong relationship even stronger. If we do something to improve our relationship (investment) then we will get back (a return). The bonus return is that a strong relationship will enhance our wellbeing.
There are three areas we can work on (invest in). If we do, these will enhance our personal relationships and our wellbeing. These are connectedness, communication, and compromise. But for now, my focus is on connectedness.
Relationships are about connectedness. We cannot have a relationship with ourselves.
If we want quality relationships, then we have to connect and relate. If we are in a relationship and ignoring one another or living a single life this will affect our wellbeing. If you are in a relationship of two separate people, there is a disconnect.
We need connectedness with another person to feel alive. Once we experience an authentic connectedness, we find we have something to live for. We will then be happier and healthier.
If our personal relationship is not going well, then usually we are not doing well. We are not feeling good about ourselves, or the life we are living. It is a stressful experience when relationships break down and yes, it has an impact on our wellbeing.
I have been reading about the 80-year long Harvard Study of Adult Development. I also listened to the 2015 TED Talk given by Robert Waldinger (the current director of the study). Waldinger tells us that the data is clear. If we have good relationships, we will be happier and healthier. Waldinger encourages people to ‘lean in’ to their relationships. Often when things get tough in a relationship people ‘walk away.’ But this is the time to ‘lean in.’
The Harvard study found that strong relationships have a positive impact on our physical and emotional health. Strong relationships also increase our memory capacity as we grow older.
Yet, even in strong relationships people have disagreements and challenges. Then what is the difference between people who ‘lean in’ and those who ‘give up?’ Those who ‘lean in’ do the work, they go the extra distance and then reap the benefits. If we ‘lean in’ there are six things we can do.
Six things to do to strengthen your relationship.
To develop quality relationships with our partner there are a number of things we can do.
- Replace screen-time with people-time (make time to talk things over).
- Keep positive.
- Plan time together (go on outings or to new places).
- Take a holiday, just the two of you.
- Become an active listener.
- Show empathy (make it about them, not you; respect opinions; validate feelings)
Do not ‘lean in’ with only your intellect (head) but also with your heart (feelings and emotions). Understanding how your partner is feeling and solving problems together respectfully can and will enhance your wellbeing.
These six tips are not a panacea for quality personal relationships. However, they are a start, and we all have to start somewhere. Our wellbeing is at risk if we do not strengthen our relationship with our partner.
Think on these statements.
‘The best kind of relationship in the world is the one in which a ‘sorry’ and a ‘smile’ can make everything back to normal again.’
‘Good Relationships are like arms of the clock. They only meet sometime, but they always stay connected.’
In reality, the only way a relationship will last is if you see your relationship as a place that you go to give, and not a place that you go to take.’ Anthony Robbins
‘The most important ingredient we put into any relationship is not what we say or what we do, but what we are.’ Stephen R. Covey
‘A strong relationship starts with two different, yet spirited people, who are willing to give each other 100 percent.’ Kathryn Johnston