Reflections at 40 – Relationships – 34/40

To celebrate turning 40, I’ve challenged myself to blog for each of the 40 days leading into my birthday. This is post number 34. You can read all the posts here.

For 75 years The Harvard Study of Adult Development has tracked the lives of 724 men – interviewing them, drawing their blood, scanning their brains, listening to them speak to their wives, and interviewing their children.

The findings of any study at this level are always going to be interesting and varied, but perhaps the most important finding it’s thrown up is the secret to happiness and a great quality of life no matter our age:

Good relationships.

The study found:

  • Loneliness and conflict are toxic to happiness, and adversely affect our physical health.
  • Strong, loving relationships buffer us in tough times and protect our brains from declining as we get older.

What have I learned about relationships in 40 years?

I know the surest relationship (romantic or otherwise) killers are these:

  • Financial pressure
  • Resentment
  • Feeling like someone’s love/regard for us is conditional
  • Contempt
  • Lack of self-worth in one or both parties

The good thing about the above is they are all fixable with an appropriate investment of time, emotional energy and self-awareness.

The hard thing is knowing whether a relationship is worth fixing.

That question is usually best answered after ensuring the relationship we have with ourselves is solid.

And right there is the root of why I think relationships can be so hard.

We are all works in progress.

Life ebbs and flows.

Sometimes we’re our best selves.

Often, we’re not.

The trick, then, is to surround ourselves with people who make us feel good about ourselves.

People who accept that, in the same way they are not a finished product, neither are we.

People who love us, for who we are, not just what we could be.


Photo by Evan Kirby on Unsplash