We all need people in our lives to help us through the difficult times and encourage us to grow at other times. Research has shown that supportive and positive relationships enable individuals to have better mental health, higher levels of well-being, and lower rates of morbidity and mortality. A recent study done by Brooke Feeney and Nancy Collins which was published in Personality and Social Psychology Review found that relationships help with a person’s ability to both cope and grow. They concluded that there are two types of support that enable people to thrive. Firstly, relationships buffer individuals from the negative effects of stress and even equip them to flourish in spite of adversity. Secondly, relationships help people thrive by encouraging personal achievement, exploration, and fostering a sense of meaning in life.
The caveat here is that the relationships need to be meaningful, supportive, and healthy. Also the way in which the support is offered and received will determine the benefit to or the detriment of the receiver. Sometimes we try too hard to help people we care about and develop a codependent relationship. In our efforts to support, we may find ourselves micro-managing, enabling, and/or controlling others. The recipient may feel inadequate or needy in response to our attempts at being supportive. It’s a very fine line between supportive and over-involved.
The bottom line is that relationships can and do facilitate growth. The key is accepting support when needed and providing support in return which will cultivate mutually supportive relationships and enable people to thrive. We develop healthy relationships when we engage in a healthy balance of independence and dependence, express our needs openly, and allow others to get close enough to know our fears and insecurities. Being vulnerable, sharing emotions, and engaging in intimate conversations deepen our connections and foster attachment. Develop, nurture, and grow your relationship network and reap the personal rewards.