Your Relationships or Your Life!

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I sat with my daughter (still cannot believe I have a 20-year-old) on Mother”s Day and felt the joy of connecting with her. She has become a productive human being with a good sense of morals, knows how to work hard, and most importantly, she knows the impact of having healthy relationships. I am so grateful for our relationship, and I do not take it for granted.

There is nothing more important or enjoyable from an emotional or physical perspective than having great relationships. I cannot stress this enough.

Yet, how often do we put people off that we love the most? I am constantly talking with my clients about this issue and they usually agree they need to make their relationships more important, but why is this so difficult?

As a society, I believe we do not value it as much as we value our earning potential, or getting the dishes done, or the math homework being complete. But I am going to challenge you to go through your day with your emphasis being on your relationships, including the one with yourself. My relationship workshops are always the first to sell out because no matter how much we might complain about them, we also, from a neurobiological perspective, need each other. Studies show we die earlier; have a weaker immune system, are more likely to suffer from depression and take fewer risks when we do not have fulfilling relationships.

Studies show that when people have healthy relationships around them, they heal faster from surgeries, manage trauma and challenges better emotionally, are more successful financially and are generally happier.

What does this tell us? We need to be dependent or at least interdependent on each other. And yet as a society we are continually being told how important it is to be independent.

Why are we hesitant to be dependent on other people? Well, you can get hurt and yes that hurt can be very painful. In fact, biologically, heartbreak shows up the same way in the brain as if you are being stabbed in the leg while withdrawing from a cocaine addiction. It is the most difficult emotional and physical pain we can humanly bear. And it’s  why we often avoid allowing ourselves to truly be giving of ourselves. We are afraid that vulnerability can lead to pain. But remember the rewards – don’t we all want to be happier?

Barbra Streistand’s movie “The Mirror Has Two Faces” looks at this dilemma, and addresses this age-old question of should you risk loving. Also the recent movie out “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” shows even in age we need to be connected to someone. But it does take work.

Part of having good relationships is making it a priority, doing those small things on a daily basis to show that you care, such as writing them a small note of appreciation or listening to them when needed.

Studies show that we have 14 negatives per 1 positive in most relationships. That”s pretty sad.

Studies on longevity in marriage consistently show that they have an average of eight more positive interactions per day than a marriage that does not make it. Something to think about.

All relationships need:

  • Mutual interests and values
  • Respect
  • Enjoyment
  • Acceptance of who they are
  • Trust
  • Empathy and compassion
  • Commitment and communication

So as Henry David Thoreau once said, “There is no remedy for love but to love more.”

Never stop loving, no matter how painful it is – the rewards outweigh the pain. More songs, more movies, more conversations and therapy sessions are about love and relationships because that is what is most important in life.

As Amir Levine in his book “Attached” says, “Dependency is not a bad word.”

Dr. Shelly Zavala practices in Newport Beach. She can be reached at

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