How Awareness is the First Step to Improving Your Relationships

It's half the battle.

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Social relationships play a huge role in our well-being, and recent studies suggests that meaningful human connections are also strongly linked to happiness. In light of this research and as part of an ongoing series to promote happiness and fulfillment in employees, this piece on the Globe and Mail offers advice for finding a loving companion.

Within the realm of social relationships, romantic relationships can play a particularly important role. Bill Howatt, the author of the Globe and Mail piece and the chief research and development officer of workforce productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto, cites a 200,000 person international study conducted by researchers at the London School of Economics which found that having a romantic partner raised a person’s happiness three times more than a pay raise did.

Howatt suggests that the first step to finding and building a romantic relationship is becoming aware of your relationship status and your level of loneliness. Sometimes we think we’re the only lonely ones in the world, but Howatt cites research from Duke University showing that the average person has just two trusted friends with whom they can discuss important matters.

The second step, according to Howatt, is deciding what you want to do with your current situation. If you’re in a happy relationship, this could just be investing more time or effort into your loved one. If you’re in a relationship that could use work, this could mean seeking professional support. And if you’re looking for a partner, your next step could take the form of branching out or getting help from friends.

Howatt recommends three action-focused exercises to improve relationship satisfaction. First, he suggests making time for a “love zone,” where the focus is on talking, playing, and loving without distraction. He also encourages couples to settle arguments or frustrations quickly and avoid going to bed angry. While it’s easier said than done, Howatt notes, it really just takes practice. Finally, he says that honoring both big and small commitments is a great expression of love and commitment.

The benefits of social bonding go beyond romantic relationships. Close friendships and even pets can play a major role in our psychological well-being, and should be treated just as seriously. The microskills and tips Howatt shares are valuable whether we’re dealing with a friend, a family member, or anyone else we interact with frequently.

Read more about the importance of relationships here. 

Read more by Gigi Falk here.

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