Happiness. It’s a feeling, an art and even a science. And relationships are often mentioned when happiness is discussed. Since relationships are complex, how relationships affect happiness is a study in itself.

There’s no question that love can make you feel good, great, over-the-moon. But you can’t assume that happiness is dependent on love, or that relationships can “make” you happy.

It should come as no surprise that satisfying relationships influence the lives of those in them in positive ways. Long-term health is better, happiness is greater, and even life span is longer. And that’s not just for romantic relationships. Even touching a pet can decrease the stress response, boost happiness and decrease depression.

Strained relationships, on the other hand, throw a dark cloud over the health and happiness of those involved. Stress increases, causing the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Immune and cardiovascular function are disrupted. Mental health is negatively affected. Poor self-care habits increase. And healing takes longer.

The Science Of How Relationships Affect Happiness

Ed Diener and Martin Seligman, two pioneers of Positive Psychology, have made great revelations in the science of happiness. Their studies with happy people and just what makes them happy has provided ground-breaking insight for relationships, counseling, psychiatry, psychology and life-coaching.

Some of their most important findings about how relationships affect happiness have to do with quality, not quantity.

People who have at least one close friendship are happier than those who don’t. Having a large network is less predictive of happiness than is the quality of those friendships.

Happiness is greater and stress and depression lower when people cooperate in activities and share their personal feelings. Expressing genuine interest in what others say and responding encouragingly is a powerful way to enrich relationships. And people who communicate this way are happier, even if their close network is small.

People who care for others, whether in their professions, by volunteering, or through simple acts of kindness, seem happier.

Happiness And Attention In Intimate Relationships

There may be no greater revelation of how relationships affect happiness than in romantic, intimate partnerships.

Although love can make you feel wonderful, it can also bring misery. Happiness isn’t just about good feelings, but also the absence of bad feelings. Joy and happiness are just the flip side of the coin that also bears depression and anxiety. And that coin is carried in the pocket of every relationship.

Sometimes you can wind up paying too much attention to how insecure you feel in the relationship. There can be positive feelings toward the other person but the need to immediately feel safe and wanted can backfire. There are many negative feelings that go along with feeling insecure and then you might impose that neediness on your partner. Expecting too much, too soon can put an unhealthy burden on your partner.

In this way the relationship seeks and needs attention. And its quest for positive attention can carry negative attention in its wake.

Love And Promises

A study by Peetz and Kammrath showed an interesting correlation between love and promises. Those subjects who had the most positive relationship feelings and were most motivated to be responsive to their partners’ needs were more inclined to make big promises. They were also more inclined to break them.

In other words, love may have good intentions, but may not follow through on them. And we all know the disappointment, stress and heartache that can come from broken promises.

Being A Happy Single

With regard to being in a relationship versus remaining single, singles account for over 45% of the adult population in the US. The majority of those are women.

And they’re NOT sitting around tapping their feet to the ticking of their biological clocks. They’re healthier, happier, more self-reliant and motivated, closer to their family and friends, and more inclined toward long-term self-growth than ever before. They even have lower BMI’s, waist sizes and risk associated with smoking and alcohol than their married counterparts.

Unfortunately, most assume that being single is bad. And the fear of being single often leads people into unfulfilling relationships, which carry all the negative effects cited earlier.

What’s the bottom line when it comes to how relationships affect happiness?

Get Happy First!

Interestingly, the most important factor may be happiness itself. While being in a relationship is no guarantee of happiness, happiness is definitely a predictor of success in love. Happier people are also more inclined to get married.

However, when a relationship is negative or toxic, the lingering effects on one’s mental health are profound. And returning to a state of happiness isn’t as simple as leaving the relationship and/or getting into another.

But returning to a state of personal happiness is important for success in life and in personal relationships. Therapy modalities like EMDR and neurofeedback can help release negative thoughts and self-beliefs resulting from a bad relationship that interfere with motivation and engaging in fulfilling life experiences.

Neurofeedback helps you feel more socially engaged. It helps you socialize with much more ease. You feel more comfortable with yourself on the inside, which translates to easily socializing in the outside world!

Focus On Personal Healing

When past relationships leave a trail of painful memories and negative emotions, the hurt gets carried into future relationships. However, by focusing on personal healing and happiness, relationships going forward can be a fertile place for happiness to grow.

Understanding how relationships affect happiness calls for you to look at how you felt before you even started the relationship. Focusing on your own healing first, before getting involved in a relationship can lead to a happier relationship in the future. Already being happy when you enter into a relationship is one of the keys to success.

When you have worked hard to have a fulfilling and happy life, it can make you really appreciate it when you meet someone who is content and happy within themselves.  Then, a relationship is the cherry on top of the sundae of your life!  Not the be all end of all of everything.

In this way the correlation between relationships and happiness comes full circle.

The words of wisdom here may be as simple as encouraging the practice of skills that increase happiness, regardless of love. Happiness correlates to connecting with others, which means more friends. And even one good friendship means a greater chance of happiness.

If you are ready to start your own healing journey, and are near Santa Monica or Torrance, CA., feel free to contact me on my confidential voice mail 310-314-6933 or email me at mfoxmft@yahoo.com.