Foundations of Relationships
By Zarina Seksembaeva, Psychologist
Have you ever found yourself asking the question: what are the factors that attract me to a potential lover or friend? An interesting question, given on any day we are likely to meet many people… However, we will form lasting relationships with only a select few. Hence, this piece will explore the foundations on which we form friendships or romantic relationship.
Proximity is a key factor that comes into play when developing a new relationship, whether it is a friendship or a romantic union. Specifically, the distance between people is a strong predictor of whether two people will form a connection. Hence, where a person lives, studies or works determines who they have contact with and are likely to form a bond with. Therefore, proximity is essential to forming an attachment with a potential partner.
The foundation of developing a stronger attraction to people we see more frequently is familiarly. Evidence suggests that, short, yet regular contact with someone is adequate to make us like them. For example, when we become more familiar with another person, they become more predictable, which in turn, feels reassuring. Familiarity is reassuring because we like to have a sound knowledge of our environment. Thus, when we feel a form of predictability in people we interact with, we begin to feel more comfortable and relaxed. Additionally, with familiarly we begin to observe our partner as more similar to ourselves, which is a vital ingredient for attraction.
‘Like attracts like’ is a familiar saying that relates to recent research, which indicates that lasting relationships are based on a foundation of consistent attitudes, values and personality traits. It is not surprising that the importance of ‘similarity’ in interpersonal relationships is supported by evidence, as this principle plays a role in the sustainability of relationships. For example, take the Matching Hypothesis. The Matching Hypothesis states that individuals tend to establish both romantic relationships and friendships with others of similar levels of physical attractiveness to themselves.
You may find yourself asking, what about the common phrase ‘Opposites attract’. On the whole, research indicates that there is little support for this argument, as a pairing between opposites may not lead to a long-term bond, especially among romantic couples. Therefore, it is seen as ‘safer’ to connect with people who are similar to us. Joining with someone who is similar to ourselves, gives us the experience of harmony, as we can relax and enjoy the company of our partner, while making the prediction that future contact will also be enjoyable and free from conflict.
Now that you have deliberated how factors, such as proximity, familiarity and similarity are significant in the development of relationships, it is time to consider some tips that may be important to the foundation and continuation of interpersonal relationships.
Tip 1: Create a safe environment with an emphasis on trust
In any relationships trust is the key ingredient and if we are talking about the foundation of a relationship, trust is something that allows the relationship to form and continue. In any relationship one needs to know that their partner will be faithful, and will always try to consider their needs, as well as their own.
Tip 2: Focus on respecting your partner
Respect is another key ingredient that is vital in the foundation and continuation of a relationship. Respect can mean a variety of things to different people but within a relationship respect might look a little like this:
- Respecting each other’s right to be an individual
- Following the “golden rule”- treat others the way you would like to be treated
- There is no room in a healthy relationship for control, ownership, bullying or violence.
Tip 3: Laugh together
Have you heard of the saying laughter is the best medicine? Well did you know that laughter can even be used as a form of therapy? Not surprisingly, laughter has such a helpful effect on us.
Within a relationship, laughter is one way of expressing to your significant other that you enjoy spending time together. When two people laugh together, they feel positive about the time they spend together and can grow closer.
So try out an experiment and see what would happen if you make your partner laugh at least once a day…………
Tip 4: Affection
Understanding differences in the love language within your relationship is important in order to improve and sustain interactions. Love language, what is that you ask?
Love language is the way partners communicate and recognise love, so it can be critical within a relationship to figure out exactly what your partners love language is.
The 5 different love languages are as follows:
- Words of affirmation
- Quality time
- Receiving gifts
- Acts of service
- Physical touch
Majority of individuals would have one or two major love languages. So it’s important to figure what your partners’ language is telling you.
Tip 5 Communication
In any relationship communication is something that occurs on a daily basis. However, talking about good communication within a relationship, a good partner is an active listener as well as a participant in any interaction. In a relationship, if you don’t express your feelings or concerns they will often build up and could cause resentment. Research has shown relationships that work well include couples that talk openly about everything. Being able to have open and honest discussions, even if, sometimes, those discussions might be a bit painful, only improves the basic building blocks of a relationship.
In summary, any relationship needs friendship and kindness. A healthy relationship might look different for everyone but in essence your partner should be the one person that you always know you can go to with any problem that you have, however insignificant you might think it might seem.