Introduction: The need to belong
Human beings, regardless of their location, have a need to belong. The sense and need for belonging may be satisfied within the context of family, friends, work colleagues, or in an interpersonal relationship with a member of the opposite sex. To satisfy this sense of belonging, an individual has to develop a relationship with the above-mentioned entities.
The subsequent relationship so developed has to be maintained and nurtured in a manner that satisfies all the parties involved in the relationship. A relationship that satisfies an individual’s need for belonging boosts the self-esteem and general sense of motivation of the individual.
For instance, an individual who has a strong and positive family relationship with his or her siblings and parents tends to be confident, outgoing, and has a positive outlook on life. Similarly, many studies suggest that people in committed long-term relationships with persons of the opposite sex, for instance within the context of marriage, are generally more motivated, and have a higher self-esteem (Alea & Vick, 2010, p.735).
There are also immense benefits of having the support of friends and colleagues during difficult and trying times in one’s life. Therefore, the different types of positive relationships in a person’s life are important for the overall well-being of the particular person.
The influence of Culture/Society
Besides family relationships, a relationship that eventually leads to marriage is the second most important relationship of an individual’s life. Many societies and cultures around the world encourage such relationships, with some limitations on the extent to which such relationships can flourish before marriage. Therefore, an individual’s ability to develop, maintain, and repair such an intimate relationship once it is established is an important factor in ensuring the overall stability and perpetuation of the larger society and culture.
The development of intimate relationships: Attraction
Initial attraction between two individuals forms the basis of many heterosexual relationships. This attraction can be at the physical or intellectual level. The initial attraction leads to subsequent and frequent interaction where the two individuals attempt to know each other better.
If successful, the individuals begin to court or ‘date’ each other, and an exclusive heterosexual relationship is soon established. The courtship phase of a relationship may very well be the most important phase because, at this stage, the involved parties learn as much as possible about each other, and determine the long-term viability of their relationship.
The future of such a relationship depends on the couple’s ability to overcome the challenges of understanding and maintaining an interest in each other at the courtship phase. Therefore, maintaining and repairing an intimate relationship, such as one between two members of the opposite sex, starts at the courtship level.
Once a relationship is established, the most important aspect is maintaining it, ‘keeping it alive’. While courtship may be one of the best phases of a relationship for the two individuals due to the sheer excitement of falling in love, the phase could make or break the relationship. A courting couple can maintain a healthy intimate relationship in several ways.
One of the most important aspects of maintaining a relationship is openness and honesty. Through honesty, a couple develops trust: one of the most important qualities in a relationship. Honesty applies in many other relationships as well; for instance, in family relations. Honest children earn the trust of their parents and are thus able to form strong bonds with their parents.
Similarly, an open and honest employee quickly earns the trust of his or her organization’s leadership, and such an employee is most likely to be promoted. Therefore, openness and honesty builds trust in relationships.
Patience and forbearance are also other aspects that buttress relationships. The process of getting to know one another during courtship requires patience (Pruitt & McCollum, 2010, p.140). At this stage, it is always advisable to give one’s romantic interest some freeway to act and be him/herself. Any irritating and negative traits and characteristics that may emerge at this point should be handled with patience and forbearance. Many relationships that turn out successful involve a lot of selfless love and sacrifices from the involved partners.
As the relationship progresses, and the partners involved desire it, marriage is usually the next logical step of such a relationship. Although the rudimentary elements that comprise a successful courtship can be transferred into marriage, the context of marriage offers a stronger challenge of maintaining the relationship between a husband and wife.
Maintaining a healthy relationship in marriage includes the satisfaction of the couple’s intimacy and sexual needs. Many people enter into marriage for companionship (Seiffge-Krenke, 2003, p.519), and thus one of the most important factors that the partners in a marriage should consider is the intimacy needs of the other partner.
A healthy marital relationship, thus, simply builds on the foundation set during courtship. The plans of both partners concerning career choices, starting a family, and the financial plans of the couple need to be discussed openly. Through trust and honesty, the couple can maintain a healthy marital relationship that is founded on sacrifice and a sense of trust.
Once established, all relationships progress in a manner that the parties involved deem fit. In a family, the parents determine to raise their children according to their desires provided these wishes are within the laws of the land. For instance, while many parents take their children to public and private schools, others may opt to school their children at home. The parents also determine the religion, sports activities, and sometimes career choices that their children make.
Similarly, two or more close friends usually strive to undertake their activities, hobbies and even school and careers together or in consultation amongst themselves. Friends counsel and guide each other. A married couple also makes major decisions concerning their lives together. The need to make choices within a relationship is always present. Therefore, in all kinds of relationships, the demand to make choices creates an avenue for potential conflict, and possibly a break up of the particular relationship.
For instance, a child may disagree with his or her parent’s choice of career for him or her; friends may disagree over lifestyle choices by one of them, and a married couple may have different ideas on investment and plans for the future. Such disagreements, if unresolved, may eventually lead to a break up of the relationship: parents and their children become estranged, friends end their friendship, and a married couple may separate or divorce. All these instances indicate broken relationships that require restoration or repair.
As stated earlier, making choices and disagreements over plans for the future by persons involved in a relationship provides a fertile ground for break up of relationships. Once a relationship is broken, the involved parties experience a sense of loss and may even undergo a depression, especially if the persons involved in the relationship were close, or intimate in the case of a heterosexual couple or a married couple.
In the case of a broken family relationship involving siblings, or a child and his or her parents, the relationship might be repaired by having the interests of the child considered. Many times, parents may want to control the destiny of their children, but such practice is counter-productive and only produces resentment in the children. The son or daughter should be allowed to chart his or her own course in life, and the role of the parents should be that of offering encouragement and moral support.
There are many instances where parents attempt to have their children fulfill dreams that they were unable to fulfill in their younger years. On the other hand, mutual friends who separate because of lifestyle choices by one party should attempt to re-evaluate their relationship; a compromise is always possible. The restoration of such a friendship usually involves a lot of soul searching and reflection by the friends.
In conclusion, couples involved in a relationship, especially within a marriage, usually undergo a lot of suffering when they separate over disagreements, infidelity, and other such reasons (Sbarra & Emery, 2005, p.230). As stated earlier, the foundation set during courtship should offer a base for compromise.
If genuine affection and love exists between the partners, then a solution can always be found. The couple can consult marriage counselors to try to restore their marriage; one or both of the partners may have to change an attitude of trait. Moreover, if the couple is religious, it may seek their religious leaders for guidance and restoration of their relationship (Langmead, 2008, p.7). All broken relationships are worthy of an attempt at restoration.
Alea, N., & Vick, S. C. (2010). The first sight of love: Relationship-defining memories and marital satisfaction across adulthood. Memory, 18(7), 730-742.
Langmead, R. (2008). Transformed Relationships: Reconciliation as the Central Model for Mission. Mission Studies: Journal of the International Association for Mission Studies, 25(1), 5-20.
Pruitt, I. T., & McCollum, E. E. (2010). Voices of Experienced Meditators: The Impact of Meditation Practice on Intimate Relationships. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 32(2), 135-154.
Sbarra, D. A., & Emery, R. E. (2005). The emotional sequelae of nonmarital relationship dissolution: Analysis of change and intraindividual variability over time. Personal Relationships, 12(2), 213-232.
Seiffge-Krenke, I. (2003). Testing theories of romantic development from adolescence to young adulthood: Evidence of a developmental sequence. International Journal of Behavioral Development, 27(6), 519.