We depend on our relationships with others from birth on. Some relationships are chosen for us, like our parents and siblings; some relationships are of our own choosing. Close relationships are part of what make us who we are. Healthy relationships are integral to our happiness and well-being—they support us and can help us to be our best selves. In times of stress and crisis, however, we can be hardest on those closest to us.

Interacting with a significant other can present its challenges even in the best of times. People are different in terms of what they think, how they feel, and how they act. Each person’s background is uniquely their own. Differences make us appreciate one another, but they can also be a cause of frustration as well. We may not understand why someone close to us acts or thinks the way they do because it is so different from how we act or think. It is important to always remember people have their own reasons for doing the things they do even if it doesn’t make sense to us. Giving another person the benefit of the doubt can go a long way in helping maintain the close relationships that are important to us.

Most people say they are at their happiest and greatest level of well-being when relationships with people close to them are warm, intimate and rewarding. Conversely, most people list relationship problems as one of the biggest causes of distress in their lives. The stress and disruption caused by a pandemic can lead us to take out negative feelings on people closest to us. This can create a vicious cycle as people close to us respond negatively because of how we are treating them.

What can I do to create and maintain a healthy relationship?

People in close relationships are most likely the best experts about their relationship. Relationships are as different and varied as the people who are in them. Relationship dynamics, or how a relationship works, can be healthy and unhealthy. Relationships built on trust, compassion, understanding, and devotion are healthy and lead to deep feelings of satisfaction for both people in the relationship. On the other hand, relationships that are full of conflict, disagreement, arguing, and even violence are unhealthy and have a negative effect on the people in the relationship and often even on other people around them.

Improving a relationship takes tremendous time and effort. For most people, maintaining a positive relationship is some of the hardest work they ever do in their lives. Even people in relationships who seem to have it all together and who make it look easy will say they were only able to get there after a lot of work and effort.

Time spent together is the most important ingredient in a successful relationship. Limiting distractions, focusing on each other, and really listening to each other are necessary building blocks for a healthy and happy relationship.

Many books and online resources have been developed to help partners strengthen and maintain strong relationships. Some couples are able to take advantage of these resources to help them through turbulent times. Other couples, however, find that they need an outside party, someone not involved in the relationship itself, to help them recognize and overcome negative or harmful ways of interacting with each other.

Professional Strategies

Professional relationship counselors are trained specifically to be able to intervene and identify changes that can be made to improve relationships. In addition, they have many hours of experience working with a variety of couples, helping to bring about change in their relationship dynamics so there is a greater sense of purpose and fulfillment in the relationship. Often, these counselors focus on patterns of communication; they help couples improve how they express themselves to each other and how to better understand where the other person is coming from.

The Center for Mental Health is a resource for community members to get help when they need it. Please contact The Center for Mental Health at 970-252-3200 if you would like to work with a professional counselor regarding relationship issues.

May 2020