In the past, studies in the world of psychology focused on illness, pain, dysfunction, trauma… They tried to elucidate how we arrived at these situations that were so difficult to overcome and how to get out of them, or at least to alleviate them.

From some time to this part, although evidently this branch of study continues and remains important, many studies and theories more linked to what some call positive psychology also appear. These, as their name indicates, are more centred on happiness, wellbeing, how to promote health

I want to focus, because of its relevance and magnitude, on the Harvard Adult Development Study. It’s the longest study that’s ever been done on adults. They’ve been monitoring 724 men from adolescence to old age since 1938… And over time they have included their wives and the more than 2,000 children they have had.

The Harvard Adult Development Study

At the beginning of this study, a group of researchers selected two groups of young people from very different backgrounds: Harvard students and boys from poor neighborhoods in Boston who came from troubled families.

Every two years a new battery of questions, medical records, scans, interviews with the children … And although in adolescence everyone said that they believed that happiness would be achieved with fame, wealth or by achieving great success (these same answers are currently given in adolescents and young people) by the 80s their perspective has changed a lot and they only talk about their relationships.

Good personal relationships are what will mark our happiness and also our health . The better our relationships with friends, family, colleagues and, of course, with our partner, the happier and healthier we will be.

This shows that the best way to predict health at 80 is not cholesterol, but how satisfying personal relationships are at 50 and beyond.

The main conclusions of this study are

  • People with more social ties are happier , healthier and live longer. Social relationships are good for us and loneliness kills.
  • It has less to do with the quantity of relationships, but with the quality of them. We have all felt alone at times, surrounded by many people, and yet very accompanied by a simple glance. So it is about having relationships in which we feel welcomed, understood, valued, accepted,…
  • Good relationships not only protect our bodies , even from pain, they also protect our minds from the ravages of the years

In conclusion, we can all decide whether to live our lives alone (accompanied) or as a couple, but in either case it is important that our bonds with others are strong so that we can live, and grow old, healthy and happy.

Does living as a couple improve our health?

For those of us who decide to live our life as a couple, many of these links are put there, in the person we have chosen to share our story. I always tell the couples who consult me that one is free to live without a partner and to have these bonds very much shared among friends, family, work colleagues… but when we decide to have a relationship as a couple, we bring together many of these needs for connection in one person . This is why relationships are so fulfilling when they are good and why we tend to feel so needy when they are bad.

And this leads us to the key question: “What can I do to have one of these relationships that will bring me health and happiness?” No one better than Sue Johnson, the creator of the Emotion Focused Couple Therapy model to answer it: “Love is simple, but it’s not easy.

A good relationship needs trust , that we are able to take risks with the other, to show ourselves as we are, to open up to him or her, and that the other responds to us by being emotionally present. That they pay attention to us, tune in to our feelings and stay there with us, accompanying us. That once we show that most vulnerable part of us, he stays by our side, not that he solves our problems, but that we can feel him close.

It’s simple, being there for each other when we are needed, but not easy, because showing vulnerability is an act of courage in this day and age. I sincerely believe, and this is what I tell the couples who consult me, that although the society in which we live leads us to an ever greater individualism, in which needing the other is experienced as a weakness, trying to live a relationship as a couple from that “not needing” or rather from that appearance that we do not need, leaves us alone being accompanied, leaves us sad and unsatisfied.

For all this, it is important to take care of our relationship as a couple, to share, to be, sincerely and without hiding ; because that is the key to our happiness and also to our health.

It is not about not discussing, it is not about always agreeing, it is not about pretending, but about knowing that the other is our safe haven, beyond any discussion.

Fortunately, we are fortunate that Sue Johnson has created a therapy model that shows us the way to be present and connected with our partner, that teaches us how to do this that many times is not easy for us, even though it is very simple.