Relationships are a wide-ranging category of connections that can include intimate emotional attachment, friendship, openness, trustfulness, and commitment. People can have relationships with a wide range of individuals and groups, including family members, friends, and acquaintances, as well as romantic partners and co-workers. The term relationship can also be used to refer to different kinds of interactions that don’t involve an emotional attachment, such as business dealings or political alliances.

Relationship experts agree that a healthy relationship is one in which two people support each other’s needs, and in which there is a mutually beneficial exchange of resources and benefits. Whether that involves providing physical or emotional support, or giving and receiving advice, healthy relationships create a sense of belonging and contribute to overall well-being.

Social Support

Healthy social relationships help us feel connected to others, and increase our resilience in the face of hardship. This is particularly true when the relationships provide a sense of mutual support, such as when members of a family share cultural traditions or a group of friends share similar hobbies and interests.

A supportive community can also give us a strong sense of identity, such as when people who are related to each other have a shared ethnic background or religious beliefs. The sense of connection can be especially powerful during times of celebration or adversity.

Love and Attachment

Loving someone is a primary motivation for being in a relationship, and can be a source of deep pain if the love is not reciprocated or if a relationship ends badly. Researchers believe that our capacity to develop a healthy, loving relationship begins in infancy, with an infant’s early experiences of bonding with caregivers who can meet their basic needs of food, care, warmth, protection, and stimulation.

Ideally, a romantic relationship should be based on mutual attraction and feelings of affection, and it should be characterized by intimacy, communication, and respect. Whether or not there are romantic feelings, a healthy relationship should make you happy. You should feel a warm, positive feeling when you are around your partner and they should be able to read your emotional cues. A good way to test this is by seeing if they can make you smile.

Some relationships fall short of this ideal, for example, when a person dates someone who seems perfect on paper but isn’t actually the right fit. In this case, a lack of genuine emotions can lead to resentment and a disconnect from the relationship. A healthy relationship should enable you to be yourself and to enjoy the company of your partner, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for a fulfilling life outside the relationship. This is why it’s important to have a variety of social and familial relationships in addition to your romantic one.

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