Have you ever stopped to consider these questions:
How do you feel about the each of the relationships you have?
What is the value of each of those relationships to you?

Our relationships play a very important role in our lives. How beneficial those relationships
are strongly influences our health, happiness, and longevity.

Robert Waldinger, M.D. is the Director of The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which may be the longest study of adult life that’s ever been done. For 75 years they tracked the lives of 723 men, asking about their work, their home lives, and their health. The relationships in the Harvard study were not referring to business relationships or any other kind of relationship that serve a temporary or superficial purpose. They were looking at relationships that had personal value and meaning. You can check out the TED talk at this link:

The study found that having positive relationships produces benefits on how healthy and happy we are, and how long we live. The key word is: positive.

As we well know, relationships come in all shapes, sizes, and benefits. From spouses to family members, to friends, to business associates and community or religious organizations, we have the opportunity to form relationships with many different people. So what constitutes a positive relationship? And how many relationships do you need or want in your life?

How many and what kind of relationships you have are a matter of choice and your willingness to be open to meeting new people and forming connections. Some people would rather have fewer relationships; others would like to have as many as possible. The relationships we are talking about here involve real-time face-to-face interactions. (This article is intentionally leaving out the “relationships you form and maintain on social media–that’s a subject for another blog).

All too often I’ve seen people maintain relationships that are unhealthy or are lacking in personal fulfillment. Often the reason these relationships are maintained is because the person doesn’t know how to end the connection or because the person needs frequent contact with others. Another reason is fear–of negative repercussions from the other person, social judgment, hurting someone’s feelings, or of being alone. When the relationships are family members, the choices can be stickier if the interactions are difficult. The challenge here is to find ways to sustain the relationships with sincere and creative efforts to make the time spent worthwhile.

What makes a relationship positive for you? What are the qualities you value? What are the qualities you bring to the relationship to sustain and enhance the connection? What are your expectations for the relationship? Are they reasonable? For example, do you expect the other person to meet all your needs, whether emotional or behavioral? Do you expect the same for yourself? These are questions that require serious thought, and likely can’t be answered
easily or quickly.

Here’s a list of some qualities that people value in their relationships. Check the ones that apply to you, and ask yourself if you are willing and able to give as much as you would like to receive.

  • Companionship
  • Support–willing to listen, understand and provide help when needed
  • Trust
  • Honest, kind and helpful feedback –not criticism
  • Non-judgmental attitude
  • Willingness to receive constructive feedback based on a genuine desire to improve yourself and the relationship
  • Consideration of the other person’s needs and struggles
  • Mental stimulation
  • Opportunities to learn more about yourself and the other person
  • Fun and laughter
  • Affection
  • Willing to participate in equal give and take
  • Desire to share time, energy and experiences

What would you add to this list? What do you need or want to do to include these qualities in your relationship?

As you may realize, the subject of relationships is multi-faceted and this article is by no means comprehensive. Let me know if you have questions or thoughts that you would like to see covered here.

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