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.