Home Interpersonal & Group Psychology Influence / Communication The Wonder of Interpersonal Relationships VId: Lessons Learned About Sustaining Relationships Midst Differences

The Wonder of Interpersonal Relationships VId: Lessons Learned About Sustaining Relationships Midst Differences

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It seems that neither money nor achievement–or even good health—are the primary factors that enable us to lead a good life. The key ingredient appears to be interpersonal relationships. This is the conclusion reached in a major longitudinal study done at Harvard University over a lengthy period of time. Here is this important finding as reported by Robert Waldinger and Marc Schulz, the most recent leaders of this study (Waldinger and Schulz, 2023, p. 10):

“For eighty-four years {and counting), the Harvard Study has tracked the same individuals, asking thousands of questions and taking hundreds of measurements to find out what really keeps people healthy and happy. Through all the years of studying these lives, one crucial factor stands out for the consistency and power of its ties to physical health, mental health, and longevity. Contrary to what many people might think, it’s not career achievement, or exercise, or a healthy diet. Don’t get us wrong; these things matter (a lot). But one thing continuously demonstrates its broad and enduring importance:
Good relationships.

In fact, good relationships are significant enough that if we had to take all eighty-four years of the Harvard Study and boil it down to a single principle for living, one life investment that is supported by similar findings across a wide variety of other studies, it would be this:

Good relationships keep us healthier and happier. Period.”

These clearly articulated findings hold many implications concerning the way in which we live our life—and for my inquiry in three essays about relationships being sustained despite profound differences among those in the relationship. If relationships are central to our life, then it is understandable why people sustain important relationships midst differences. However, before leaping to the implications of these Harvard studies, we need to pause and find out more about what Waldinger and Schulz are telling us.

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