This is the first of what will be many installments of how to sustain healthy relationships. I’ve been a licensed marriage and family therapist for the last 20 plus years. I’ve also been married for 43 years (to the same woman). I had to add that because a friend of mine has been married 60 plus years to three different women. I can attest to the fact that being with the same woman (and likewise a man) for that length of time is certainly a test of perseverance. It certainly satisfies the basic human need for long term healthy attachment, which I’ll write more about in a future blog.
In my private practice I work with issues that are primarily about relationships. But these are not just intimate relationships. They are parent child relationships, boss/employee relationships, friendships and many others. I do so because I know, based on research, that good relationships are the primary source of our happiness. Our drive toward success at our jobs or making money bring us a sense of satisfaction, but they do not bring us happiness. There is only a very small correlation between an increase in the amount of money you amass and happiness, unless you are very poor. Martin Seligman, in his happiness research affirms the importance of a strong social support system. The effect is strongest within married couples but it is very significant for single people as well. The more strong social connections you have the happier you will be. But the relationships have to be healthy, not toxic.
As we pass through the holiday season, for many it is a time of bitter memories, of fighting with relatives, of loved ones dying and other sad times. For me it has been a time of creating the memories and narrative that I want to remember next year and all of the years to come. You have that within your power, to desensitize the bitter memories and create your own hopeful story.
Picture below is of Larry Holman and his wife Barbara.