Why are relationships so important? A decade-long ongoing study of Harvard undertaken in 1938 by studying 724 participants all over the world and asking questions and reviewing medical records every two years gave them an answer. Contrary to what many of us may think, it is not career achievement, money, exercise, or a healthy diet that keeps us happy. The most consistent finding they learned is that a positive relationship helps us to be happier, healthier, and live longer.
Human existence is intrinsically linked to relationships. We are inherently social creatures, wired to form connections, seek companionship, and thrive in the intricate web of human interaction. Our relationships come in various forms, each with its unique dynamics and impact on our lives.
There are various kinds of relationships beginning with those with parents, with siblings, with friends, and with teachers. There are also romantic relationships like the one between lovers or husband and wife. There are relationships at the workplace with colleagues, bosses, and subordinates which are also critical as we spend a lot of waking hours at work.
Family relationships are the first in our lives and keep changing as we grow. We are first completely dependent on our parents and our siblings, and this role is reversed when we are old, and we become dependent on our children though not exactly in the same way. As we grow up, we become more independent and form relationships with the outside world, especially with our teachers and friends. Then as we get into contact with the world outside home, we start spending time with friends and forming bonds with them and with our teachers. Teachers sometimes form lasting impressions on our lives and in fact share and guide our lives like a beacon. Often, we find that the subject taught by our favourite teacher becomes our favourite subject and we pursue our careers in occupations that require specialization in that subject. The home also becomes a school and useful life skills are developed here.
Warmth in a parent relationship helps us manage our social and emotional development. However parenting styles can also be different and parents are also human beings who have different temperaments, and intellectual capacities and can come from different environments. When the child becomes an adolescent and questions the rules laid down by the parents or by society, conflicts start. As hormonal changes continue, the child makes his own decisions which are not approved by the parents which may involve taking risks and trying out new things such as smoking, spending long hours on screen or with friends, indulging in fast food or binge eating and in the extreme cases also rash and fast driving, smoking, taking drugs or getting into unwanted sexual behavior. Adolescents now turn into youth when the child has been given the right values, he starts becoming more balanced and tries to take charge of his life. The circle becomes complete when the child grows up, gets married, and has his children.
While clarity dawns on the children of this generation after they have their children, the harsh reality of day-to-day life often makes them neglect their parents. The harsh reality of old age homes is sometimes a solution. Children are usually so busy growing up and seeing their children grow up that they forget their parents are also growing up and need support. Positive family relationships and generations living together are critical to stability and contribute to happiness.
The next critical relationship is the teacher–student relationship. This is one of the most powerful tools within the learning environment. Over generations, teaching has been considered a profession of honour but of late its dignity has been severely affected. The education system is quite commercialized, and the modern student-teacher relationship is not defined by obedience and acceptance but by questioning and analysis. The classes are large, and it is difficult for teachers to give individual attention or create interest in studies with so many diversions outside. Sometimes one finds a generation gap between the student and teachers however the relationship between teacher and student remains critical in the learning environment. Where students have a positive relationship, they are found to be highly motivated and focused.
Friendships are the cornerstone of our emotional well-being. These relationships often start as serendipitous encounters or shared interests and blossom into deep bonds built on trust, understanding, and support. Friends are the ones who offer a shoulder to cry on, celebrate our successes, and provide a haven in the stormy seas of life.
The impact of friendships on our lives is profound. They boost our mental and emotional well-being, reduce stress, and provide a network of people with whom we can share our joys and sorrows. Healthy friendships offer a sense of belonging, which can improve self-esteem and self-worth. In essence, friends are the anchors that stabilize our emotional ship, making life’s journey more fulfilling.
Friendship is strange, unique, and beautiful. We find ourselves telling our secrets, feelings, and the details of our life to the person whom we met accidentally and we feel we have an affinity. Mutual caring and shared activities usually form a bond. Friends also have a very strong influence on our lives as they become mentors and supporters.
Khalil Gibrahim said :
Your friend is your needs answered.
He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving. And he is your board and your fireside.
Seek him always with hours to live.
For it is his to fill your need, but not your emptiness. And in the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter and sharing of pleasures.
For in the dew of little things, the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”―
Khalil Gibran, The Prophet
Everyone needs friends, in fact without friendship the world would be dreary However, friendship can also be found with parents and siblings. The uniqueness of friendship also lies in the fact that this is one of the few relationships we choose. Our parents, our teachers, and co-workers don’t have a choice, but we have a choice in who will be our friends.
From friendships, sometimes we grow romantic relationships. It is usually between boys and girls, men and women (though same sex is also possible). It is related to the feeling of attachment, wantedness, and also sexual attraction. However, attraction and infatuation can be misunderstood as love. Whereas love is hopefully eternal and includes romance and reverence, infatuation consists of people thinking they are in love but there may be just attraction for each other. Falling out of love can be draining emotionally and financially and can be painful and highly emotional. Elements of anger, jealousy, sexual infidelity, and violence darken the scene. Whereas the bliss in true love remains.
Having friends from different ethnic cultures promotes multicultural integration. Having friends from the opposite sex also helps us to understand gender. All opposite-sex relationships need not be romantic but are often construed as such. Friends are precious and fulfill our needs. Meanwhile, sex is the State of the Union. If the relationship is good, the sex will be good. Both will be wanting it and enjoying it. When the relationship is bad—when there are unresolved problems and unaddressed negative emotions—then sex will often be the first thing to go out the window.
Colleagues are another important facet of our lives. We spend a significant portion of our day in the workplace, forging relationships that impact not only our professional success but also our personal growth. These connections often start as professional associations but can evolve into valuable friendships.
Positive relationships with colleagues foster a productive and harmonious work environment. They facilitate collaboration, problem-solving, and the exchange of knowledge. On a personal level, they offer companionship during the daily grind, making work more enjoyable. These relationships can also be stepping stones to career advancement, as connections in the professional world often open doors and provide value.
The relationship with your boss is unique. It’s a delicate balance between authority and companionship. A supportive boss can be a mentor and guide, helping you grow in your career. On the other hand, a strained relationship with a boss can be a source of stress and hinder your professional development. A positive relationship with your boss can be a source of motivation and inspiration, allowing you to learn from their experience and expertise. It can also open doors for career advancement, as they may be more likely to recommend you for promotions and challenging opportunities. However, it is essential to maintain a healthy boundary to prevent potential conflicts and maintain professionalism.
When we talk of relationships, we are probably referring to romantic ones.
Romantic relationships are a fundamental and intricate aspect of human existence. They provide companionship, emotional support, and an opportunity for personal growth. Yet, they can also be a source of profound joy and intense challenges. At the heart of every romantic relationship lies a deep emotional connection. This connection is characterized by mutual affection, love, and the ability to empathize with one another’s feelings and experiences. Emotional intimacy is what distinguishes romantic relationships from other forms of human connection. Effective communication is the cornerstone of a healthy romantic relationship. Partners must express their thoughts, feelings, and needs openly and honestly. Misunderstandings and conflicts often arise when communication breaks down, underscoring its vital role in maintaining a successful romantic partner.
Physical intimacy plays a significant role in romantic relationships. It encompasses a wide range of activities, from holding hands and hugging to sexual intimacy. Physical connection is not only a source of pleasure but also a means of reinforcing emotional bonds. Trust is the foundation upon which romantic relationships are built. Without trust, the emotional connection between partners can wither. Trust is developed through consistency, transparent partners must invest in nurturing their connection, resolving conflicts, and adapting to changes that life brings.
Maintaining a relationship often requires compromise, patience, and the belief that one’s partner will act in their best interest. External pressures, such as work, family, and social expectations, can strain romantic relationships. Research has consistently shown that individuals in healthy romantic relationships tend to experience higher levels of happiness and overall emotional well-being. The emotional support and companionship provided by a loving partner can be a powerful source of comfort and support
Romantic relationships often catalyze personal growth. Partners can encourage one another to step outside their comfort zones, learn from their mistakes, and develop new perspectives. The challenges encountered in a relationship can lead to personal transformation. Romantic relationships are intricate and multifaceted, weaving together emotional connection, communication, and physical intimacy. They are shaped by factors like compatibility, trust, and the investment of time and effort. Challenges and conflicts are inherent, but they can be navigated with open communication and mutual growth in mind. The significance of romantic relationships in our lives is profound, impacting our emotional well-being, personal growth, and social support networks. Ultimately, the complex tapestry of romantic relationships enriches our lives, making them an essential and cherished part of the human experience.
True love—that is, deep, abiding love that is impervious to emotional whims or fancy—is a choice. It’s a constant commitment to a person regardless of the present circumstances. It’s a commitment to a person who you understand isn’t going to always make you happy—nor should they!—and a person who will need to rely on you at times, just as you will rely on them. That form of love is much harder. Primarily because it often doesn’t feel very good. It’s unglamorous. It’s lots of early morning doctor’s visits. It’s cleaning up bodily fluids you’d rather not be cleaning up. It’s dealing with another person’s insecurities, fears and ideas, even when you don’t want to. But this form of love is also far more satisfying and meaningful. And, at the end of the day, it brings true happiness, not just another series of highs.
Respect is critical in a relationship. Conflicts are ultimately unavoidable, and feelings will always be hurt the only thing that can save you and your partner, that can cushion you both from the hard landing of human fallibility, is an unerring respect for one another, the fact that you hold each other in high esteem, believe in one another—often more than you each believe in yourselves—and trust that your partner is doing his/her best with what they’ve got.
“The relationship is a living, breathing thing. Much like the body and muscles, it cannot get stronger without stress and challenge. You have to fight. You have to hash things out. Obstacles make the marriage.” – Ryan
“And those good relationships, they don’t have to be smooth all the time. Some of our octogenarian couples could bicker with each other day in and day out, but as long as they felt that they could count on the other when the going got tough, those arguments didn’t take a toll on their memories.”
Simple small things matter, they add up. Things are as simple as saying, “I love you,” before going to bed, holding hands during a movie, doing small favours here and there, and helping with some household chores. One person even said that she and her husband have “annual reviews” every year. She immediately told me not to laugh, but that she was serious. They have annual reviews where they discuss everything that’s going on in the household that they like and don’t like and what they can do in the coming year to change it. This sort of stuff sounds lame but it’s what keeps couples strong.