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Why You Need a Relationship or Two on the Side

Continuing our series on PERMA, Martin Seligman's model for flourishing, we look at Relationships, the third of the five sources of well-being: Positive emotion, Engagement, Relationships, Meaning and purpose, and Accomplishment.

We need relationships. We crave them. When they go wrong, we swear we do not need them and will be better off without them. Yet most people who divorce will marry again. And most of us will spend a lifetime seeking or nurturing relationships with friends, children, parents, siblings, and that one special other person we want to share our lives with.

One of the ways to nurture this primary relationship is to take some of the strain off it by building other relationships. Here I do not mean competing relationships, the stuff of sexual affairs and emotional infidelity. Those are unhealthy relationships. We play act in them, using our violated marriage pledge as an excuse to withhold or exit at our convenience.

I mean friendships with people who have no claim on or interest in the parts of our lives pledged to our spouses. I mean cultivating friendships with those who love the literary discussions or tennis games you adore but your wife or husband does not. I mean the friends who appreciate being asked to advise you on things your spouse will not, so that he or she can remain your chief cheerleader.

When you get some of your needs met outside the marriage, it frees you to better appreciate all the rest that your spouse does for you. At the same time, it creates a life with more and stronger relationships, which is one of the main hallmarks of a happy person.


Humans are social creatures. It's in our nature. Developing strong connections and bonds can be very beneficial to our well being.

I think a lot of people in relationships and marriages get insecure. They feel and see relationships outside of their own as a threat.

Problem with this is that it allows no opportunity (as you mentioned) for growth as an individual. Very potent topic, Patty!

Thanks, Jason.

Dear Patty, We, too, are in our 2nd marriage...7 kids between us! Not easy! We would be honored if your would ever consider embedding our free E book, "Marriage Anchors" on your site. Please consider. Thanks!

Jim and Barbara, we are a diverse group, so I cannot recommend it to all, but your free ebook at looks like one many of the Christians who read Assume Love will find helpful in their search for a happier, stronger marriage.

Marriage Anchors was a great read for me as a christian journeying with Christ. It really dislodges you from your 'bad self' to focus on your beloved other. Its militant and from a different angle than assuming love but really refreshing. It also took me back to my root joy. Thanks for posting the link.

As always, what a provoking subject for the blog. The distinction you make in nuturing one's self relationally without involving those intimate elements owed to our primary is crucial and do take pressure off the other to be everything we imagine we want. It can free us to be here to 'give justice' instead of demand it.

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Patty Newbold is a widow who got it right the second time...

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