As a teenager, my friends and I used to listen to the song: “Love hurts”, by Nazareth, over and over. Here are some of the lyrics:
Love hurts, love scars
Love wounds, and marks
any heart, not tough
nor strong enough
To take a lot of pain
Take a lot of pain
Love is like a cloud
holds a lot of rain
The words seemed so true to teenagers still looking for love. Our heartstrings melted at the poignant tone and sad melody. We believed Nazareth that the pain of loneliness would endure and that falling in love was risky and perhaps not worth the odds.
Now that I am older and wiser, I know that these lyrics are not true. Love does not hurt. Love builds, love supports, love nurtures. We even have research to prove it.
As much as married men complain about marriage, and compare it to a ball and chain, their jokes are not supported by science. Research shows that married men and women actually live longer, and are healthier, than single individuals.
It is not only intimate relationships that increase longevity. On a day to day basis, individuals who have close friendships report higher subjective well-being than individuals who feel alone and isolated.
Based on this evidence, it is wise to pursue relationships, and to nurture them, so that they endure.
Tips for long lasting relationships:
These tips will assist you to form good friendships with friends, family and even your partner. However, nurturing intimacy is not covered here and is the topic of another post.
- Accept that having a good friend is essential to your mental health. Even if you have only one good friend, you will benefit. Part of CBT treatment of depression is to socialise with a friend every day.
- Prioritise your friendships. If you do make time for your friends, or make time to support them, the friendship will dissolve.
- One way of prioritising a friendship is to book in regular meetings. Try and meet with at least one friend every week. You need to speak to a friend at least once a month to keep the friendship alive and to feel its benefits.
- Prioritising means not cancelling your meeting with a friend when something else comes up (such as a work commitment). Only if there is a true emergency should you cancel. Otherwise, give your meeting with your friend as much importance as your work meeting.
- When you talk to a friend, your anxiety level will drop because you are distracting yourself from your own negative thoughts.
- When you chat to a friend you will feel less stressed overall which will benefit your productivity at work.
- Friends are a reminder of who you are and what makes you a valuable human being. Therefore, keeping up with friends, builds your self-esteem. It is helpful for your self-esteem to talk about different topics – not just work or problem areas.
- A problem shared is a problem halved: sharing a problem with a friend means that there are two heads trying to solve the problem. You will feel supported but can also be directed to a solution by your friend. Remember to return the favour and make sure the time you spend together is not only about you.
- A trusted friend provides you with a safe space to discuss your issues. Make sure that you are a trustworthy friend and this will be reciprocated.
- To have a good friend you must be a good friend. This means putting in effort. Make time, initiate contact, and be interested, supportive, empathic, trustworthy and loyal.
Good friendships take time and effort but the rewards you will reap, for your mental and physical health, are immeasurable.