Affective relationships, and their link to happiness and health
How are affective and loving relationships related to happiness and health?
In the past, studies in the world of psychology focused on illness, pain, dysfunction, trauma... They tried to elucidate how we got into these difficult situations and how to get out of them, or at least alleviate them.
For some time now, although evidently this branch of study continues and continues to be important, there are also many studies and theories linked to what some call positive psychology. These, as their name indicates, are more focused on happiness, wellbeing, how to promote health, and how to improve our health.…
I want to focus, because of the relevance and magnitude of it, on the Harvard adult development study. It is the longest study that has been done with adults. They have been monitoring 724 men from adolescence to old age since 1938..... And over time they have included their wives and the more than 2000 children they have had.
The Harvard Adult Development Study
At the beginning of this study, a group of researchers selected two groups of young people from very different backgrounds: Harvard students and inner-city Boston kids from troubled families.
Every two years they went through a new battery of questions, medical histories, scans, interviews with the children, and interviews with their children..... And although in adolescence they all said that they believed that happiness would come from fame, wealth or achieving great success (these same answers are currently given by teenagers and young adults), at 80 their perspective has changed a lot and they only talk about their relationships.
Good personal relationships are the ones that will mark our happiness and also our health.. The better our relationships with friends, family, colleagues and, of course, with our partner, the happier and healthier we will be.
This shows that the best way to predict health at the age of 80 is not cholesterol, but how satisfactory personal relationships are at the age of 50 and beyond.
The main conclusions of this study are:
- People with more social ties are happierThey are healthier and live longer. Social relationships do us good and loneliness kills.
- It is not so much about the quantity of relationships, but the quality of them. of those relationships. We have all felt lonely at one time or another, surrounded by many people, and yet very much in the company of just a glance. So it is about having relationships in which we feel welcomed, understood, valued, accepted,...
- Good relationships not only protect our bodies, even from painEven from pain, they also protect our minds from the ravages of aging.
In conclusion, we can all decide whether to live our lives alone (accompanied) or as a couple, but in either case it is important that our bonds with others are strong so that we can live, and grow old, healthy and happy.
Does living as a couple improve our health?
For those of us who choose to live our lives as a couple, many of these bonds we place there, in the person we have chosen to share our story with. I always tell the couples who consult me that one is free to live without a partner and to have these links spread out among friends, family, work colleagues... but when we decide to have a relationship, we are not free to live with a partner. when we decide to have a couple relationship, we combine many of these needs of connection in a single person. That's why relationships are so fulfilling when they are good and why we tend to feel so needy when they are bad.
And this brings us to the key question, "What can I do to have one of these couple relationships that will bring me health and happiness?" No one better than Sue Johnson, the creator of the Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy model to answer it: "Love is simple, but it's not easy."
A good relationship requires trustThat we are able to take risks with the other, to show ourselves as we are, to open up to him or her, and that the other responds to us by being emotionally present. That he or she pays attention to us, tunes in to our feelings and stays there with us, accompanying us. That once we show that most vulnerable part of us, he or she stays by our side, not to solve our problems, but that we can feel close to him or her.
It's simple, to be there for each other when they need us, but not easy, because because showing oneself vulnerable is an act of courage in this day and age. I sincerely believe, and this is what I tell the couples who consult me, that although the society in which we live leads us to an increasing individualism, in which needing the other is lived as a weakness, trying to live a couple relationship from that "not needing" or rather from that pretending that we do not need, leaves us alone when we are accompanied, leaves us sad and unsatisfied.
For all these reasons it is important to take care of our relationship as a couple, to share, to be, sincerely and without hiding.because that is the key to our happiness and also to our health.
It is not about not arguing, it is not about always agreeing, it is not about pretending, it is about knowing that the other is our safe haven, beyond any discussion.
Fortunately, we are fortunate that Sue Johnson has created a therapy model that teaches us the way to be present and connected with our partner, that teaches us how to do this, which is often not easy for us, even though it is very simple.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)