The importance of relationships for health and wellbeing
‘The Best Medicine’ is Relate’s campaign to show that relationships are critical to the nation’s health and wellbeing. Evidence shows that good quality relationships with partners, family and friends can prevent, delay or minimise the effects of physical and mental health conditions.
“Living with physical or mental health conditions can be a long road, and relationships are a really vital part of making the journey better,” says Angela Foll, CEO of Relate Bedfordshire & Luton. “Yet when we need our relationships most, the effects of having a health condition can pile on the pressure. Worryingly, our relationships are often overlooked or ignored in the health system. Excellent support is out there, but too few people get access to it.”
In a YouGov survey, 91% of people with a health condition or who are disabled said they were not aware of any relationship support services available to them. “That needs to change,” says Angela. “Relationships with friends, family and partners are fundamental to our wellbeing and the quality of these relationships has a major impact on our health.”
What you can do about it
Relate’s tips for keeping relationships rich during poor health are:
- Don’t bottle it up: It can be tempting to skirt around the issue with friends and family in case people get upset; open communication is important.
- Expect change: Realise that the dynamics of your relationships may change, particularly if a partner or family member is taking on the role of ‘carer’. Don’t make assumptions about how this will make you both feel.
- See the person not the illness: Remember they are still the person you knew and loved before. Some of their behaviours may be symptoms of their condition so try to separate these and not to take them personally.
- Make time and space for intimacy: In a couple relationship, try to separate yourself from the patient/carer role now and again to allow time for intimacy with your partner.
- Remember everyone is different: Health conditions affect people in different ways and what works for somebody may not be the same for everyone.
- Consider counselling: It’s tempting to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ but talking to somebody impartial about how you feel, and putting mechanisms in place to cope with the changes in your relationship, may work for you.
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