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Relationships come in many shapes and forms. Often when we hear the term ‘relationship’ we think about the romantic kind. For sure, most people tend to place importance on finding a partner (or multiple) in their lifetime with whom they can share life’s ups-and-downs. Regardless of what kinds of relationships we form, in order to form them successfully we need to establish connections. Feeling connected to others can be tremendously important for our quality of life and mental wellbeing. The changing or ceasing of a relationship can significantly impact how we view ourselves and the world we inhabit.

In order to form relationships we need to become attached in some way or another. The psychoanalyst John Bowlby (1969) formulated the theory of attachment. This theory postulates that humans come into the world pre-programmed to form attachments or relationships with other people. He conducted research which suggested that how we are cared for in early life can have a significant effect on how we form relationships in later life. For instance, he found links between the ability to form healthy and conducive relationships as an adult, and having been loved and looked after as an infant and young child. He called this forming secure attachments. On the other hand, people whose early childhood experiences were more adverse, can come to form anxious attachments, which can cause them to worry about their relationships and fear others will abandon or reject them. This can impact how they form relationships and how they behave in them.

In summary, relationships are essential for humans. Relationships and positive connections allows for cooperation, community, and the continued existence of our species. They can be complicated and difficult, as well as wonderful and rewarding.

Actions that can help

  1. In order to cultivate healthy and long lasting relationships, try to offer as much time as you’d like to receive back. Make sure that person realises their company is important to you by indicating you have time to set aside for them.
  2. Pay attention and be present. By actively engaging with whoever you are with, rather than being distracted by other things (e.g. checking your phone), you are sending signals that you are interested in connecting with them.
  3. Communicate. Try and be open and honest about your needs in the relationship. This might involve asking for help or support, or requesting space when needed.
  4. Engage in active listening. Listen to what the other party is saying and what their needs are.
  5. Recognise unhelpful relationships. Not all relationships in our life will be healthy or helpful. Sticking with an unhealthy relationship because we, for instance, feel like we should or fear that we will be alone if we don’t, can have consequences for our wellbeing.

How to get help

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Relationships - Five facts

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I’m enquiring about a loved one but they’re reluctant to meet with a psychologist. What can I do?

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Family, friends and carers may have become concerned about a loved one’s well being or functioning and would very much like to see them have therapy. Ideally, the individual would make contact with us themselves. If they do not wish to do so, you can enquire on their behalf. Psychological understanding and support can be effective for a carer of someone with a difficulty and often a change in approach can indirectly bring about change in the individual concerned.