Do Relationships Matter? (Part II)

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Here are some reasons why relationships are important:

  1. We are wired for connection. (in Part I)
  2. Relationships foster healthy development & maturity. (in Part I)
  3. Relationships are Safe Havens.
  4. Relationships are Secure Bases.
 

(3) Relationships are Safe Havens.

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Every day, we experience new and ongoing stressors that wear us down physically, emotionally, financially, spiritually, and relationally. When life throws straights or curve balls, we are not always ready to swing to hit a home run or even raise a bunt hit. Even the best athletes with high RBI need to rest and rejuvenate their muscles, lest they push their bodies past the limit and increase the risk of injury.

But what if all that's waiting at home for us is more chaos? What if we become the target of criticism, contempt, or blame as soon as we step foot into our home?

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Or what if all that's waiting at home is more emptiness? What if we come home from a long day at work, only to spend the rest of the night in further isolation, wondering if any of this is worth it or whether our lives mean anything?

How can we recharge from the day's challenges and carry on if we are flooded with hostility or loneliness? Both would only enhance the pain and pressure we already experience from daily life.

However, what if we were greeted each day with hugs, thank yous, or encouraging or comforting words? What if we came home to friends or partners who asked what our day was like, acknowledged our struggles, and helped us remember who we are and why we're doing all we're doing?

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These acts of connection may not directly eliminate the sources of our stress, but they would help us bear our weights and endure better. Closeness to loved ones help buffer against the painful shocks of life so we can muster the energy and courage to go out again the next day and build a life full of meaning.

Our close relationships are our safe haven, a comforting place for us to return to that shelters us from the brutal elements of life. It provides refuge, giving us a chance to rest and regain our footing for the next day.

As Sue Johnson puts it in her book, Created for Connection:

"We all need someone to depend on, a loved one who can offer reliable emotional connection and comfort. This partnership is the natural antidote to humanity's greatest pain: being alone in the face of the uncertainty of life."

As mentioned in Part I, physical touch from loved ones (like a hug or back rub) activates the release of the "cuddle hormones" (oxytocin and vasopressin), which turn on the "reward center" of our brains. This in turn floods our physical bodies with dopamine (the calm and happy hormone) and dials down cortisol (the stress hormone). Deep connection with loved ones literally protects our bodies from absorbing the harmful stresses of life and helps us heal and recharge.

Human beings are not meant to be alone. We all need close relationships to survive.

(4) Relationships are Secure Bases.

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Not only are relationships absolutely essential for our survival, but they are also necessary for our "thrival." Every single one of us has unique giftings and callings on this earth, and our relationships are what activate, strengthen, support, and guide us to pursue our dreams.

Healthy, supportive relationships help us go much farther than we could ever go on our own. As finite, limited human beings, we can only attend to so many things with the little resources or energy we have. When we rely on each other and share our pool of tools, we can accomplish things much more easily, quickly, and effectively than if we were to reinvent the wheel in various areas of our lives.

Competition is focused on win-lose, or advancing oneself at the expense of other people. It involves short-term gains for the self, but brings about much greater long-term losses for the whole (lose-lose).

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Cooperation is focused on win-win, or mutually supporting each other to pursue our respective goals. It involves short-term costs for the self (more inconvenience and waiting), but brings about much greater long-term gains for the whole.

There's a saying:

If you want to go fast, go alone.
If you want to go far, go together.

Our significant relationships are our secure bases that launch us to pursue dreams much bigger than ourselves. With greater curiosity, courage, strength, and wisdom, we venture into the unknown to become who we are meant to be.

Human beings are not meant to be stagnant or mediocre. We all need close relationships to thrive.

Relationships Matter, and They're Worth It Because...

  1. We are wired for connection. (in Part I)
  2. Relationships foster healthy development & maturity. (in Part I)
  3. Relationships are Safe Havens.
  4. Relationships are Secure Bases.

Yes, relationships are sometimes/often difficult, confusing, and messy. As a Marriage & Family Therapist, I hear about hurting, broken relationships all. the. time. After all, my two primary client populations are:

However, we just can't survive or thrive without deep connections. It's part of life, and it's wired into our biology.

Fortunately, you can create genuine, meaningful connection with loved ones.

For more resources and tools, follow my Facebook page.

Need more support in your relationships? Here's how:

© Copyright 2018 Joanne B. Kim. All rights reserved.

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Joanne B. Kim, AMFT

Joanne is an Associate Marriage & Family Therapist in San Jose, CA, who loves empowering individuals and couples to create emotionally thriving relationships. She fully believes that emotional health and relationship health have everything to do with each other: when one part hurts or heals, so does the other.

She holds a special place in her heart for adult survivors of emotional abuse/neglect and for high-conflict couples - those who desire deep connection, but feel stuck, anxious, and frustrated in their significant relationships.

What began as her own mission towards wholeness became a passion and calling to accompany others on their own journey to love and be loved. She loves creating a safe space for others to cultivate their curiosity and courage to explore the deeper places that hold the secret to meaningful relationships.


Further Reading

Dr. Will Miller & Dr. Glenn Sparks (2008). Refrigerator Rights: Our Crucial Need for Close Connections.

Tim Lane & Paul Tripp (2006). Relationships: A Mess Worth Making.

Dr. Henry Cloud & John Townsend (1995). Safe People.

Dr. Sue Johnson & Kenneth Sanderfer (2016). Created for Connection: The "Hold Me Tight" Guide for Christian Couples.