By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD
Emotionally close relationships are as important to psychological health as food and water are to physical health. You can survive on food with low nutrition and with little water, but you will not be as physically strong and healthy as if you were well fed and hydrated. Similarly, you can live without emotionally close relationships, but you will not be as psychologically and emotionally strong, happy, and resilient.
Emotionally intimate, healthy relationships help you feel accepted for who you are and encourage you to pursue what is important to you. They also offer you solace when life feels difficult. They affirming and also healing. They are helpful in two basic ways:
Healthy relationships offer a sense that you can rely on others. When you know you can turn to others for emotional or practical support, even the most difficult circumstances are made lighter.
If you tend to be self-reliant and are hesitant to ask for help, you may feel alone, particularly during difficult times. Some people find it helpful to remind themselves that not only would they be there for friends and family, but also they want to help because they care. Similarly, their friends and family would want to be there for them. It’s true that asking for – and accepting – help can make you feel vulnerable. However, leaning on others can also offer a sense of connection that can give you strength.
Healthy relationships offer a sense of acceptance and belonging. They are your connection to human kind. Feeling like you belong to the human race provides a sense that just as others have value despite being imperfect, you also have value despite your imperfections. You, like other people, are worthy of love. You can feel more accepting of yourself and more compassionate toward your struggles.
It is not unusual for people to question their worth and fear rejection based on being flawed or inadequate. If you feel like you are inferior, this can leave you in despair. Some people find it helpful to remind themselves of others who do care – even if they aren’t “feeling the love” right at that moment. They remind themselves of how friends or family phone or text and of social outings that they’ve enjoyed. These thoughts can challenge their negative self-perceptions.
When relationships can provide you both with a sense that you can rely on others and that you are a worthy human being, you will carry a fundamental feeling of happiness. These supportive, accepting relationships can also help you to heal from emotional pain. You will find that you have the inner resources and outer support to truly follow your heart and inner inspiration on a path of your choosing.