Forming relationships is a necessary part of human existence. Relationships are as vital to well-being as engaging in regular physical exercise. Individual mental and emotional health are strongly dependent on maintaining healthy, meaningful relationships. Belonging to healthy social networks increases happiness, reduces stress, and leads to a better quality of life.
Conversely, being alone or involved in predominantly unhealthy relationships can have adverse effects on a scale comparable to obesity, high blood pressure, and cigarette smoking. Therefore, it’s vital to cultivate healthy relationships while avoiding unhealthy ones.
Building and maintaining healthy relationships provide the following beneficial outcomes:
There are studies showing a strong link between relationships and overall happiness levels. Romantic relationships increase oxytocin – a chemical that promotes bonding. Oxytocin increases happiness, and this is why partners in healthy relationships want to be around each other.
Promotes Healthy Behavior
A spouse, friend, or loved one can encourage you to engage in healthy behaviors like exercising, eating healthy, or avoiding drugs through their lifestyle. It’s easy to pick a healthy habit when you’re surrounded by people who practice the same.
Healthy relationships can help people live longer, according to some research. Emotional support is an effective aid to recovery. Having meaningful social connections helps promote healing after an accident or surgery. A partner reminds you to take your medications and distracts you from the pain.
The emotional support from healthy relationships reduces the production of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. This University of Chicago study shows that married people or individuals in committed relationships have lower cortisol levels. People find it easier to go through stressful situations when they know someone profoundly cares for them.
Fun and Fulfilment
Everyone wants to share their good times, and having healthy relationships makes it easier to enjoy those great moments. Being in a healthy relationship also makes you feel like you’re part of something bigger than yourself, leaving you with a sense of fulfillment and well-being.
Being in an unhealthy relationship can cause negative physical, emotional, and psychological consequences. A person in such a relationship may not even see the red flags. Here are unacceptable behaviors that show you are in an unhealthy relationship:
Communication is a vital indicator of the state of a relationship. An unhealthy relationship is marked by sarcastic, abusive, hostile conversations that make a partner feel useless or unworthy.
Thinking about your partner should release feel-good chemicals in the brain. If thoughts of your partner constantly set you on edge, it might signify that something is wrong with the relationship.
A relationship where one partner adopts a controlling posture is unhealthy. This behavior can manifest as trying to know where you always are, wanting to know who you’re with at all times, anger when you don’t reply to calls immediately, and other manipulative behaviors.
Ignoring Other Relationships
If your relationship makes you stop spending time with other people (family, friends, colleagues) to avoid conflict with your partner, you may be in an unhealthy relationship.
If you suddenly have to make up lies about your whereabouts or who you’ve been with to your partner, then you may be in an unhealthy relationship.
The pressures from an unhealthy relationship can make a person stop caring for themselves as usual. They may neglect their hygiene, withdraw from hobbies, and use their time for less fulfilling activities.
In some cases, especially when multiple signs from this list are exhibited within the relationship, it can indicate that one party is a victim of narcissistic abuse, which can have long lasting mental impact and can be hard to overcome.
Maintaining a healthy relationship requires taking deliberate steps to keep it going. A relationship will fizzle out if the parties involved aren’t intentional about maintaining it. Here are some practical tips to keep relationships thriving:
Keeping the lines of communication open is crucial to the health of any relationship. Effective communication isn’t just talking about stuff. Listening to understand the other person’s feelings and perspectives without interrupting is essential in communication.
Everyone wants to feel heard. Taking away mobile devices and other distractions during conversations can also make your partner feel valued.
Set Realistic Goals
It’d help if you were receptive to the possibility that a person may not be all you want them to be. Not accepting people for who they’re or attempting to change them can irreversibly damage a relationship.
Your partner should be able to rely on you. Show up to appointments on time and send a message if you’ll be coming late. If you have a responsibility, follow through with it. Your partner is more likely to do their part in a relationship if you’re doing yours.
Be Fair in Conflicts
Disagreements happen in relationships and how the partners handle them sets the tone for the next phase of the relationship. Try to calm down when you have fights, accept responsibility, focus on the current issues, and talk about your feelings. Trying to hurt the other party with your words or actions can severely deteriorate a relationship.
Realize That’s It’s a Process
A healthy relationship is more of a process than a destination. It’s tempting to look at others and see what they have that you don’t. Building and cultivating a healthy relationship takes time, and this knowledge relieves you of pressure and lets you take things a step at a time.
It’d be difficult to form a healthy bond with someone if you don’t love yourself. Be authentic and open about your strengths and vulnerabilities. You want a relationship with people who accept you the way you are.
Having healthy relationships is essential for well-being, so it’s an aspect of our lives that demands attention. A healthy relationship isn't formed in a day, so individuals must be willing to put in the necessary work.
Chances are, we may be in and out of different types of relationships throughout our lives. Thus, we must learn from previous experiences to make better decisions in the future.