Verified by World Mental Healthcare Association

A relationship refers to a kind of connection and association between two or more people or the way people are involved with each other. It can be between family members, friends, lovers, acquaintances, and peers.

What Is A Relationship?

In the most basic sense, a relationship refers to a connection shared by two or more individuals or among groups of people. This connection determines and, in turn, is influenced by the emotions and behaviors of the people involved. Such a connection can be established by blood, marriage, kinship, sexual or romantic involvement or association. It can be either negative, positive or platonic. One 2019 study 1 explains the concept as “mutually acknowledged ongoing voluntary interactions.” Research 2 shows that the nature and quality of the relationship, whether positive or negative, depends on factors like responsiveness of the people in the relationship. When one individual understands, recognizes, acknowledges, values & supports the various aspects of the other person, then they feel committed, satisfied and close. The researchers add “High quality close relationships contribute to mental and physical well-being; poor quality close relationships create stress and undermine health and well-being.” Typically, a relationship can be of the following types –

  • Connection with self
  • Family members and relatives
  • Friendships
  • Sexual or romantic partners
  • Teachers/coaches and students
  • Location based associations, like roommates, neighbors etc
  • Professional connections
  • Acquaintances
  • Group bondings
  • Negative relationships, like haters, competitors or enemies

However, a relationship is a complex connection that relies solely on the individuals and the unique bond they share. Hence, it can be difficult to explain the concept accurately. Many different types of associations often co-exist, conflict or overlap with each other and each type can have further subtypes and variations. Regardless, studies 3 have found that relationships, especially familial and marital, are “enduring and consequential for well-being across the life course.”

Understanding Relationships

The term ‘relationship’ has different meanings to different people. But a good healthy bonding or association includes two or more people who respect and love each other, who can communicate with each other, who have equal rights and responsibilities. It can be for a short or long-term period depending on the individuals. It is not the same for everyone as people have different requirements such as love, attention, communication, affection, space, sexual expression, commitment, compatibility, respect, values, and so many other factors throughout their lives. Human connection or association is considered to be innate, while building a healthy bond is a learned behavior. A 2016 research paper 4 says that an infant’s ability to form or maintain a healthy connection starts to grow within from the very beginning, especially with the primary caregiver who satisfies the infant’s needs for food, love, warmth, affection, care, stimulation, and protection. Any kind of connection or association requires proper and constant communication and care as such traits are extremely essential for fostering a healthy bonding. These types of connections that don’t align with the more traditional descriptions of it can still be healthy. However, ‘relationship’ is a broad term and includes a variety of important aspects, because the factors that make it thrive largely depend on the needs of the people in it.

Why Relationships Matter

A meaningful life is all about the connections or associations we share with other people and the quality of it is the most important element of our happiness. As people are always surrounded by others, they usually define themselves by their relationships. A 2010 study 5 says that having a satisfying relationship is the key contributor to retaining and increasing future life satisfaction. People gradually become dependent on others for both physical and spiritual survival. In simple terms, the quality of our connection or association with others defines our quality of life. Having emotional support and feeling connected or loved, elevate positivity and increase self-worth and happiness. A relationship has several benefits to offer us, including:

  • Helps to divert our mind from stress, anxiety or negative thoughts
  • Helps us to feel less alone
  • Offers immense emotional support, love, affection, guidance, and care
  • Open communication without any judgment
  • Helps us to engage in healthy and fruitful activities
  • Offers practical help and social support
  • Encourage healthy behavior and influence a long happy life
  • Helps to create stability
  • Increases our emotional well-being

Types Of Relationships

Types Of Relationships

Having a strong & positive relation with someone helps us to live a healthy and joyous life. Similarly, we need to be aware of how our behaviors, thoughts, words, and actions positively or negatively impact our associations. The more we care about and nurture them the healthier they become. There are a wide variety of associations we share with other people and almost all connections or bondings are very important for our psychological health, happiness, and spirit. Here are the four basic types of relationships:

1. Family

The first connection people form is with their parents. The mother understands her child’s requirements and fulfills them even when the child is unable to express them in words. Meanwhile, people are connected with their family or relatives either through blood or marriage, kinship, any romantic relationship, or adoption. Family comes in different forms including single-parent family, step-family, same-sex parent family, etc. The close ties with the family members mostly last a lifetime. Research suggests that family relationships play a central role in shaping an individual’s well-being across the life course.

A 2018 study 6 says that close and positive family connections in childhood can reduce the negative impact of childhood stressors on biological processes as well as influence the health behaviors that can shape physical health. Holding different values or understandings within a family is extremely natural and important to maintain or develop open and respectful communication. Though arguments and conflicts are also very natural and mostly short-lived within a family, these may make the family bondings strained or non-existent if can’t be overcome.

2. Friends

A friend is the one who:

  • Promotes companionship
  • Recognizes our strengths and weaknesses without taking advantage
  • Helps us to improve ourselves
  • Listens to our perspectives, opinions, feelings. thoughts without judging us
  • Guides and helps us in difficult times
  • Makes time for us and efforts to maintain our friendship
  • Strengthens our self-esteem and self-confidence

Genuine friendship has no connection with personal gain or marital success. It doesn’t depend on the changes in a person’s position, success, or failure. Friendship is one of those bondings that we can choose for ourselves. Friendship can be formed between same-sex or different-sex people, but the common factors that it should consist of are trust, honesty, respect, understanding, common values, unconditional support, and equal interests. Research 7 says that friendship in terms of intensity and quality is positively associated with life satisfaction. Friendship often highlights various aspects of our personality, that’s why we don’t feel a similar connection with all our friends and vice-versa. It can be toxic too in certain circumstances and one should separate themselves from such associations. According to a 2019 research paper 8 , genuine and honest friendship can prevent or alleviate loneliness, depression, social isolation, and support psychological well-being during later life.

Read More About Friends Here

3. Romantic

A romantic relationship refers to when we feel strongly attracted to someone physically and emotionally. Mutual attraction mostly starts from a friendship and evolves from liking each other. A 2017 study 9 explains that the interplay between age and relationship length is the key factor that contributes to the development of romantic connections. A healthy romantic relationship depends on certain factors including trust, friendship, compatibility, understanding, loyalty, passion, respect, deep bonding, love, care, and admiration. Such associations can exist between heterosexual partners, homosexual partners, marriage partners, even civil partners. The way we feel for friends and our romantic partners are not similar as the difference is how we act out our feelings. Romantic partners often share physical contact which would not be appropriate in any other kind of connection. Sometimes, arguments and disagreements can occur in such relationships, but can also be overcome through effective communication, compromise, and mutual understanding.

Read More About Love And Relationships Here

4. Professional

Strong associations with colleagues and acquaintances are extremely beneficial for developing team spirit and motivation of employees as a whole. Good work habits form when workmates share a sense of connectivity or association with each other. Such connections positively impact workplace dynamics. Acquaintances refer to the people who are not our family or relationships and who we meet or encounter regularly. Though the contact is minimal, it is unlikely to have any physical contact except handshakes. A 2014 research paper 10 claims that social workplace relationships contributed to employees’ health.

Factors That Affect Relationships

Factors That Affect Relationships

Various factors can positively or negatively affect any relationship’s loyalty, commitment, respect, and longevity, including:

1. Communication

Communication plays an important role in almost all kinds of connections either personal or professional. One needs to communicate effectively for a better understanding. Communication is the only key through which one can portray their emotions or reciprocate to other’s feelings.

2. Compatibility

Compatibility is a must in any kind of connection. If conflicts and disagreements occur, compatibility helps the people to overcome them. People with common values and interests often do extremely well in relationships.

3. Time

Time is another important factor that can either destroy a relationship or make it stronger than ever. People should spend adequate time getting to know each other better. Even in the workplace, people need quality time with their workmates to strengthen their bonds. Time makes a person feel important that makes the connection healthiest.

4. Calmness

Every relationship experiences conflicts, arguments, disagreements, and differences of opinion. Calmness is very important in such circumstances. An individual needs to understand when they should stay calm and not overreact. A little adjustment and compromise can solve half of the problems.

5. Honesty

Being honest is the primary effort that one can make to develop or maintain a healthy relationship. Hiding things or telling unnecessary lies can affect bonding while transparency makes it easier for people to stay loyal and honest.

6. Forgiveness

One needs to be more forgiving to maintain a healthy connection with others. Exaggerating small things and fighting over them can only create conflicts.

7. Respect and trust

It is important to value each other’s values and morals as well as boundaries. No relationship lasts longer without mutual respect and trust. Creating or developing a long-term healthy relationship consists of certain major principles. This includes respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity.

What Makes Relationships Successful

What Makes Relationships Successful

Every relationship is unique from each other and mostly depends on people’s different requirements. All relationships go through certain problems and they all need effort, love, care, communication, respect, and commitment. Here are a few steps you can take to build a better and healthier relationship:

  • Learn to love yourself first. Value your opinions and requirements.
  • Every person has their perspective. Don’t try to force other people to be like you and accept the difference.
  • Be aware of the certain point where you need to stop. Understand that it is quite unrealistic for other people to solve all our problems.
  • Don’t be afraid of respectful disagreements. Conflicts are extremely natural in any kind of connection.
  • Keep your outside relationships and interests alive. Try to carve your space.
  • Don’t have unnecessary expectations from people as it puts a lot of unhealthy pressure on a relationship. Keep your expectations realistic.
  • Never repeatedly pick over past events or happenings. Try to focus on the present and hope that things will be much better in the future.
  • Communicate effectively to solve conflict and develop trust. Communication and trust are the foundations of all productive and healthy bondings.
  • Be flexible and open-minded. Listen to other’s thoughts, feelings, opinions, problems if any.
  • Make time for others and make them feel important and special. Show and express affection and appreciation.
  • Try not to doubt others’ trustworthiness. Excessive doubt can destroy mutual trust.

Develop Healthy Relationships

Healthy connections can bring out the best in us and make us feel good about ourselves. A healthy connection doesn’t need to be perfect, but the people who share a specific bonding, either personal or professional, should strive for certain behaviors and actions to develop a healthy relationship or bond. Though relationships can be defined in different ways depending on the people involved in them and their requirements, every kind of association or connection needs almost similar key elements to be healthy and genuine.

Relationships At A Glance

  1. A relationship refers to a connection shared by two or more individuals or among groups of people.
  2. Life becomes meaningful through the connections or associations we share with other people. The quality of relationships is the most important element of our happiness.
  3. Having a strong and positive relation with someone helps us to live a healthy and joyous life.
  4. Every relationship is unique from each other and mostly depends on people’s different requirements
  5. Healthy connections can bring out the best in us and make us feel good about ourselves.
👇 References:
  1. Gómez-López, M., Viejo, C., & Ortega-Ruiz, R. (2019). Well-Being and Romantic Relationships: A Systematic Review in Adolescence and Emerging Adulthood. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(13), 2415. []
  2. Canevello, A., & Crocker, J. (2010). Creating good relationships: responsiveness, relationship quality, and interpersonal goals. Journal of personality and social psychology, 99(1), 78–106. []
  3. Thomas, P. A., Lui, H., & Umberson, D. (2017). Family relationships and well-being. PubMed Central (PMC). []
  4. Winston, R., & Chicot, R. (2016). The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children. London journal of primary care, 8(1), 12–14. []
  5. Dyrdal, G. M., Røysamb, E., Nes, R. B., & Vittersø, J. (2011). Can a Happy Relationship Predict a Happy Life? A Population-Based Study of Maternal Well-Being During the Life Transition of Pregnancy, Infancy, and Toddlerhood. Journal of happiness studies, 12(6), 947–962. []
  6. Chen, E., Brody, G. H., & Miller, G. E. (2017). Childhood close family relationships and health. The American psychologist, 72(6), 555–566. []
  7. Amati, V., Meggiolaro, S., Rivellini, G., & Zaccarin, S. (2018). Social relations and life satisfaction: the role of friends. Genus, 74(1), 7. []
  8. Blieszner, R., Ogletree, A. M., & Adams, R. G. (2019). Friendship in Later Life: A Research Agenda. Innovation in aging, 3(1), igz005. []
  9. Lantagne, A., & Furman, W. (2017). Romantic relationship development: The interplay between age and relationship length. Developmental psychology, 53(9), 1738–1749. []
  10. Mastroianni, K., & Storberg-Walker, J. (2014). Do work relationships matter? Characteristics of workplace interactions that enhance or detract from employee perceptions of well-being and health behaviors. Health psychology and behavioral medicine, 2(1), 798–819. []
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⚠️ Liza is in training with WMHA and may not always provide the most accurate information.
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