February! Ah the month of lurve and relationships! Valentine’s day encourages us to send anonymous cards to people we find attractive and have a crush on and a Leap Year every four years sees marriage proposals coming from women rather than the men on the 29th.

But how can our relationships help us to be successful in life?

Positive relationships lead us to be happier, have a more positive outlook in life and feel more supported. When we are connected to others we feel fulfilled, optimistic and are more likely to be successful in our endeavours. No matter what we choose to do in life, we benefit from those around us, growing and learning from them and with them. Developing and cultivating relationships allows us to stretch and push ourselves to our full potential. Those we look up to can become our mentors, which enables us to learn more and move forward with confidence.

Conversely, a new study found that changes in marital status eg: divorce or separation from a partner, or a new relationship, can have a negative effect on us – with this particular study showing a decline in physical activity. Recently divorced men registered fewer steps per day than other men and, interestingly, women who had re-married showed a significant reduction in physical activity than women who were in stable relationships.

When you have a good relationship with someone you trust it encourages truth and honesty, resulting in constructive feedback – even if the truth hurts sometimes! This kind of relationship keeps us accountable.

Healthy relationships are built on:

  • Trust
  • Feeling safe
  • Having a laugh together
  • Being honest
  • Transparency
  • Space
  • Communication
  • Embracing differences
  • Understanding
  • Ability to be independent, whilst still depending on each other
  • Compromise
  • Being appreciative of each other
  • Complimenting each other
  • Awareness
  • Acceptance
  • Learning to give – and accept – criticism
  • Empathy
  • Effective listening

How many of your relationships (partner, friends, family) stand up to the list? Whilst some may fall slightly short, someone who really doesn’t match up may be a relationship that needs examining. One thing is for sure – none of us need toxic relationships in our lives. People who are draining you, who take and never give, are not worthy of your time, love and commitment.

When friends and partners think positively of you, this can eventually begin to help you see yourself in a more positive light, enabling more confidence in who you are and what you can achieve. Our friends and partners can also introduce us to activities that we never even thought of doing. It is very common, especially at the start of new relationships for one partner to want to please the other and this can bring new opportunities and experiences that you might not have otherwise tried. This opens up new doors for us, expanding our sense of self and offering new pleasurable experiences. I had never been skiing or snowboarding before I met my husband!

Our friends and partners habits can also rub off on us (although sometimes that may not always be a good thing if the habit is to leave your dirty washing all over the floor!!). A new partner who is into health and fitness is likely to have you donning your gym clothes and shunning the junk food in preference for healthier options.

Positive relationships should encourage you to be yourself – they should rejoice in the uniqueness that is you – and help you to embrace it too. Whilst it is important for couples to do things together, it is also healthy to be able to be independent – to strike out in your individual interests, coming together again to talk about what you have been doing. This can strengthen relationships, although it is important to watch out for excessive time apart, which can lead to the relationship drifting in separate directions. Creating individual space in all our relationships, whether with our partner, or with our friends, is important for developing personal growth. Giving everyone room to breathe and have some alone time is healthy, and results in better functioning for all involved.

Knowing that you are in a “safe” relationship is important for personal growth. A partner who is resentful of the other for taking time away from the relationship to explore new opportunities or to develop new skills or attend regular fitness classes will eventually erode this feeling of security. Conversely, a partner who supports their other half, encouraging them in their endeavours, brings a depth of understanding to the relationship. We should be lifting each other up, rather than knocking each other down. Being able to celebrate your successes together is a fantastic reward when you have reached a particular goal. And when you are struggling, having someone there to give you a hug and offer words of encouragement can really help to pick you back up again and get you motivated.

Being appreciative of those around you should be demonstrated on a daily basis. It is so hard to get wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life and forget those little niceties that go a long way to making us feel good. When we compliment or thank our friends or partners on a regular basis, it pays dividends because, not only do they feel good, but their positivity also brushes off onto us. Everyone feels good. A little smile, a word of thanks, a reminder of how loved they are can make a world of difference. The more we give, the more we receive, as those habits start to rub off onto each other.

Good relationships between parents and children, creates a solid foundation for future successes. Even when times are hard, knowing that you can depend on someone helps you to overcome even the most difficult of times. Parental support is shown to be crucial for children of school age, with those who receive help from home faring better academically than those who don’t.

I am sure we can all relate to difficulties with achieving success if we are not receiving the support that we need from our partner or family and friends. It can be hard to push forward with your dreams and goals when you are getting knocked back all the time, or just not feeling that anyone is on your side.

A study by Brooke Feeney, a professor of social psychology at Carnegie Mellon Hall, Pittsburg looked at the subject of “Thriving Through Relationships” and how our social support enhances our chances of success in life. According to his research there may be a link between strong relationships and success. A “thriving life” in particular can be better attained with a good support system. He states that; “a thriving person is in all respects a happy person, going from one goal to the other with ease”.

Take a look at your relationships – are you “thriving” or “surviving”?