The good life is built with good relationships—Robert Waldinger
Life is hard. This is something we all know. Some of the things we go through can deeply affect us. An important question becomes, “How can we heal?” Different people heal in different ways, but there are a few factors that are the same for all of us. An important study conducted by Harvard University examined what made people happy over the course of their lives. Over 700 men were followed for almost 80 years, with one factor standing out above all others. Was it money, power, talent, skill? None of these – it was relationships.
People who had healthy, solid friendships and marriages were able to recover more easily from difficulties they’d faced earlier in life to become genuinely happy in their later years. Those who were isolated and had very few friends actually experienced more physical pain as they got older, lost their memories faster, and reported being less happy. Money, status, education, and talent had nothing to do with their happiness.
Christa is a woman who has been through difficult times. Both her parents died when she was young. She lived in an agency with four other people for a period of time, and then transitioned to living with just one other person. She was very lonely. Christa tried to make friends at work, but people were busy with their own lives and let her know as much. She started calling her Direct Support Professionals over and over again on her cell phone. Then, she’d call staff at the agency office repeatedly. People told her to stop calling so much. At her annual meeting, they talked about how she made too many calls, and even suggested addressing her calls with a behavior plan.
Then Christa met Derrick. It was a “get to know you” singles event. When Derrick and Christa sat down together, they both started talking and didn’t stop for the rest of the night. Eight years later, they’re still talking. Christa tells everyone she’s found the love of her life.
When Christa’s aunt died, everyone was worried. She was very close to her aunt, and she’d lost her parents so young. Would she be shattered by one more loss? She turned to Derrick and found the support she needed to gain strength in a way that no one expected.
Christa was able to find love and heal on many levels through having her own relationship. She’d watched day in and day out both the real and pretend relationships of others, but never had her own. Relationships are a human right. In some situations, people have to fight for that right and, in others, they happen naturally. Whatever way the healing happens – through friendships or relationships – no one deserves to live a life without them.
Karyn Harvey, Ph.D. is the Director of Training
and Development at The Park Avenue Group in Baltimore, MD.
Further reading: http://bit.ly/39T5s0d
Welcome to the newly renamed and redesigned Disability RAPP. The themes explored in each issue, like this issues’ focus on the intersection of disability and sexuality, inform us and empower us to break barriers and challenge traditional ideas of what it means to live with a disability. We updated the Disability RAPP design to be more accessible in both its print and digital formats.
Certain content contains sensitive material which may not be appropriate for all readers.