Positive relationships are good for our health. That’s no surprise. We’ve been hearing that for a long time. Happily married people live longer, are healthier and wealthier. In fact, a person’s relationship is the single most important factor in determining mortality. Two researchers, Brooke C. Feeney of Carnegie Mellon University and Nancy L. Collins of the University of California, have discovered some ways that good relationships can also lead to personal growth. The two most important factors are helping use to cope with adversity and helping us to pursue our goals, and other opportunities that cause growth. Good, healthy, strong relationships help those that inhabit them reach their objectives and pursue their dreams. The first person we usually turn to for comfort, and perhaps seek advice from would be our spouse, or significant other. Feeney and Collins liken this process to a home knocked over by a violent storm. The next house erected in its place should be far sturdier. If one person is having a problem establishing themselves for instance their partner may help them to feel more confident. This confidence will help them interact with others, their social networks will become more vibrant and more opportunities will arrive.
Our partner can help us to see what our strengths are. They can help us relieve stress and put things in perspective. Our partner can also help us learn new skills that can help you survive and even thrive at work, school or one’s life passion. Those who are supportive can become a “launching function.” They help their partner pursue their goals. They show them the positive aspects, help them to see opportunities, prepare them to face new challenges, and help them to celebrate victory or to cope with defeat. Feeney and Collins found eight specific ways in which a supportive relationship helps. Our emotional state improves. Acceptance of one’s self increases and resilience expands. We are better able to perceive and interpret events. Our supportive partners help motivate us toward goals, help us to cope, adapt to new situations and improve our psychological and immune functioning. Positive relationships steer us away from unhealthy lifestyles that may sap our strength, hurt our bodies or minds, not to mention our reputation and mood. Lastly, supportive relationships help people to learn how to trust, feel close to someone and feel loved, positive vibes that carry over in other types of relationships.
So how can you make your relationship more supportive? The best way to do that is to become more supportive yourself. Learn how to listen carefully, be able to accept and understand your partner’s perspective, control your emotions and provide the type of support that will help your partner, and make them feel good. Use your resources. These can be tangible resources like money to say buy your lover a new outfit for an interview. Or they can be intangible ones like compassion, patience and understanding, providing emotional support. Being able to understand your lover’s needs and meet them will motivate them to do the same for you. At the same time, you will want to make sure that you will be able to make your own needs known. Clear communication is pivotal. Reciprocate to show you support them and appreciate the support they give. Then a virtuous cycle can commence, where you both constantly initiate and receive support. Don’t overtax your lover however. If they have many demands at this time, you could be a catalyst in them spreading themselves too thin. You need someone you can rely on. But a strong social network to draw from is important too. To build a supportive relationship, you must first know how to effectively communicate. This is in many cases the hardest skill for couples to develop. If you and your partner need to work on this, pick up a copy of the book, Communication in a Relationship: Top tips on how to improve your communication skills to build a long lasting, loving relationship by Lyn Hunt.