The Importance of Healthy Relationships and How to Develop Them

Research states that in addition to exercise and healthy eating, socialization is an integral part of supporting optimal mental health.  Humans are social creatures and forming healthy connections with others is shown to improve “happiness” and develop resilience from past negative experiences to promote healing.  Often, we develop relationship patterns based on previous experiences and seeing the way those who raised us interact with others.

Relationships can be complex and individuals interacting may have different perceptions, values, and needs.  Recognizing our own needs can help us develop meaningful connections to others to provide us with companionship, support, and love.

Characteristics of Healthy Relationships

  • Mutual Respect
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Compromise
  • Positive communication
  • Anger control
  • Individuality
  • Empathy
  • Recognizing appropriate expectations

One important aspect of all relationships is recognizing our needs and learning how to communicate those needs to our partners, friends, and family in ways that build connection and understanding.  By respecting one another and building trust, it can become easier to express our needs/emotions to foster empathy.

Trust can also help us control our anger by recognizing that it is healthy to take space from one another to calm down and assess emotions without fear of being abandoned or judged.  Taking breaks to calm down helps us to “fight fair” and not escalate arguments by saying things we may regret. 

By focusing on conveying your needs/emotions, we allow others to recognize our perspective without that person feeling attacked or judged. 

Setting limits with others allows us to maintain individuality, promote self-care, and limit feelings of exploitation and resentment.  If someone does not respect your boundaries, it is okay to explore ways to support each other or to end the relationship if it continues to make you feel poorly.  Setting boundaries can build healthy self-esteem.

Positive Communication Skills

  • Give your full attention
  • Don’t interrupt
  • Be honest
  • Speak face-to-face, good intentions can be lost through text/email/phone calls
  • Speak in a neutral space (ex: not bed or in mixed company)
  • Use “I” statements:  Example: “I feel sad when you cancel plans last minute because I am excited to see you.  I would like for us to make our plans a priority.  Would you consider scheduling obligations for other times?  Remember that they have a right to say no to requests and it is your choice to set boundaries and determine if this need is important to you.