Relationships Matter: There has recently been a rather lovely story on the BBC news about a lonely swan. It's mate had died and it had lived for several years all alone on its pond. However with a little support from some observant local people the lonely swan had been introduced to a community of rescued swans and after a little time a spark had happened with one of them and a new and stable committed relationship had emerged... you can click here for the story .
So, you have heard all about physical health and the steps we need to take to support it. You have heard all about mental health and what we need to do to support that. However it seems that something very important has still been missed. This is Relationship Health and the steps we need to take to support it, across the lifespan, and in all of our relationships with children and with adults.
Relationship Health is an idea that has been surprisingly overlooked given just how important it is for so many outcomes that matter for children and adults in mental health, physical health, education, and crime...
Even our healthy relationships involve experiences of navigating the joys of feeling connected and the heart break of feeling disconnected. So when relationships have moved into ill health the intensity of experiences involved can be really significant and overwhelming
Relationship Health like physical health is something that we can ignore and take for granted or it is something that we can be intentional about. The support of others can make a real and meaningful difference, particularly when we start to understand the fact that the skills involved are impacted both by genetic differences at birth and by learning and experience.
What this means is that we are all born with a need for relationships - sometimes to different degrees. However the skills involved are complex and sensitive and so difficult experiences can leave children and adults feeling bruised and cautious.
So the development of our skills in relationships starts in the earliest years of life and with support we can develop a sophisticated understanding of how to navigate relationships with others. Without the right support however we may fail to develop quite basic steps and these gaps can act like a hidden often overlooked disability.
What the new research is also showing us most clearly is that even when there have been delays or challenges, it is not too late for anyone to be helped to recover a pathway in which relationship health confidence can grow again.
When someone has lost confidence, what it takes is the confidence and kindness of others who are patient and understanding. What this means is that when you decide to invest in your own understanding and in your own relationship health, this can ripple out and impact on others'. This is the good news: each time we take steps in our own journey, the more we are able to observe more accurately and then help others.
Herein lies the truth of Margaret Mead's statement
' Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has'
Just imagine if our communities decided to rethink our everyday practices with relationship health in a central place. How would this change everything?
An exciting detail is that when we change ourselves what is around us can change! So there is no need to wait for others to take action - you can make the small steps in that direction today.
So take a think about your current relationships... which ones come to mind that need some urgent attention....?
What specific actions could you take... ?
Today or this week?
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Dr Cathy Betoin
Clinical Psychologist, Teacher, Parent
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