Here's some wisdom gleaned from one of the longest longitudinal studies ever conducted.
For over 75 years, Harvard's Grant and Glueck study has tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two populations: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard's classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study).
According to Robert Waldinger, director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development, one thing surpasses all the rest in terms of importance:
"The clearest message that we get from this 75-year study is this: Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Period."
It's about quality relationships
Having someone to rely on helps your nervous system relax, helps your brain stay healthier for longer, and reduces both emotional as well as physical pain.
"It's not just the number of friends you have, and it's not whether or not you're in a committed relationship," says Waldinger. "It's the quality of your close relationships that matters."
What that means is this: It doesn't matter whether you have a huge group of friends and go out every weekend or if you're in a "perfect" romantic relationship (as if those exist). It's the quality of the relationships--how much vulnerability and depth exists within them; how safe you feel sharing with one another; the extent to which you can relax and be seen for who you truly are, and truly see another.
The data is clear that, in the end, you could have all the money you've ever wanted, a successful career, and be in good physical health, but without loving relationships, you won't be happy.
The more you put in, the more you get out...
How do you foster great relationships with your partner? Here’s some ways from our Psychology Today friends you can keep your relationship fit, healthy and happy….
- Express your gratitude: Feeling grateful is one thing, but telling your partner is another. Do you express your gratitude? It turns out that sharing your feelings of gratitude is linked to positive partner perceptions and a willingness to voice relationship concerns (Lambert & Fincham, 2011), which helps maintain healthy relationships.
- Spend quality time together: Much anecdotal evidence suggests that spending more time together increases relationship satisfaction, but only recently has research scrutinized whether time really does increase satisfaction, or whether perhaps relationship satisfaction increases time spent together. Research suggests we might pay more attention to the quality of the time spent with our partner, rather than the quantity.
- Be kind to yourself: To be the best partner you can be, start by being kind to yourself. Scientific evidence is accumulating in support of the idea that self-compassion is a wonderful foundation for a healthy partnership. Self-compassion is a habit of gentleness towards oneself during times of failure, inadequacy, and imperfection. Evidence shows that self-compassion predicts the types of behaviors that translate into healthier relationships, such as offering care and concern for a partner (Neff & Beretvas, 2013). In other words, working on ourselves can benefit our relationships.
- Do some of the things you used to do: Think about the types of things and adventures you and your partner got up to in the first year of your relationship, and the kinds of things you did for each other. How did you share the love? Write down your answers and start doing them again!
- Be Curious: Standard questions like "how was your day?" can result in standard, automatic replies, like ‘fine’ or ‘good’. Instead, try asking things like, “What made you smile today?” or “What was the most challenging part of your day?” You’ll be amazed at the answers you’ll get, with the added benefit of gaining greater insight into your significant other.