Healthy vs. Unhealty Relationships

Relationships come in different packages such as those within a family unit and many outside the family unit through social interactions. These relationships all come with their own set of dynamics that are perceived differently from one individual to the next which can often pose as a challenge when one is trying to decipher if it is a healthy, or not so healthy one. Often a deciding factor about a relationship’s suitability is looking at any unexpected consequences and how it is impacting the persons state of health and wellness.

           When examining the characteristics of our most intimate relationships, those with our spouse, romantic partner, children, immediate family members, and close friends, we are looking at how they fulfill our needs and how well we play a role in fulfilling their needs. Further, it is important to observe whether the emotional attachment is appropriate, if the emotional availability is present, and if the behavioral interdependence, or mutual impact/influence on one another’s life is growing at a healthy rate. When there is mutual reward within these relationships there is a knowing that feelings can be shared freely, just as worries or concerns can be. There is an appropriate level of affirmation around individual worth. And there is the security of knowing that there is someone there that will care and take care in times of need.

           Emotional availability, accountability, and self-nurturance within these intimate relationships are critical factors that can have great impact in either a positive or negative fashion. For instance, if the ability to give and receive on an emotional level comes without fear of rejection or being hurt, responsibility for choices and actions are able to be placed where the accountability truly lies, and there is a realistic conception of possessing the ability to make good choices, balance physical and emotional needs, and a healthy appreciation regarding self-worth, there is a good chance that these relationships will remain balanced and satisfying.

           On the other hand, and all too often, what evolves within relationships is an overdependence upon each other. In romantic relationships people lose their sense of self, abandon social ties for those of their new love interest becoming reliant upon the other to define them as a being. A trait typically developed out of low self-esteem and insecurities formed earlier in life that contributes to feelings of uneasiness and jealousy when their partner maintains their individuality and has relationships with people that are perceived as a threat. The parent child relationship also can suffer from this overdependence. Most commonly observed is the parents fear of losing control as the child progresses through the stages of life and development and begins to exercise their autonomy to make personal decisions, good or poor in nature, and ventures away from the home. On the flip side, a familial unit that is overly enmeshed, the maturing child will find it difficult to function appropriately outside of the home and be overly reliant upon the parents and other family members to make healthy decisions and create an independent life on their own.

           How we manage and maintain our interpersonal relationships can directly impact our health and wellness. People that experience unconditional love and relationships built on trust, empathy, and genuine caring are less likely to become overwhelmed or distressed and take better care of their physical and emotional health thereby reducing the susceptibility for disease. Where individuals lacking in self-nurturance, feelings of affirmation, and with poor social support tend to have lengthy stretches of depression and high levels of acute stress which directly contribute to a weakened immune system, high blood pressure, substance misuse or abuse, and an increased mortality rate.

           The fact is that any relationship created out of good intentions possesses dependability, predictability, genuineness, empathy, unconditional positive regard, relational connectedness, affirmation, nurturance, and emotional intimacy. The relationships that withstand turmoil and trials do so from placing importance on the maintaining of each element.

Published by Tricia Parido

Defining Health and Wellness

The terms health and wellness possess a number of definitions among different regions of the world, the cultures within them, and the individuals who make them up. In fact, health and wellness can be found to mean something strikingly different from one person to the next, especially when you ungroup the two and define them separately. For me, defining health and wellness is not so brief, although the World Health Organization (WHO) summarized quite nicely what I believe it to contain. WHO describes this attribute as “…a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being, and not merely the absence of disease” (WHO, 2012). I personally take the biopsychosocialspiritual (BPSS) approach to explaining what health and wellness are to me. This is to say that a person achieves health and wellness when they properly attend to their biological (physical) needs, have a positive outlook on life, manage and maintain their mental health by any means necessary, find the importance of balancing the social aspects within their life (family, work, friends, hobbies and so forth) and remain dedicated to their morals, ethics, and spiritual beliefs.

Recently, I had the opportunity to listen to audio submissions from seven people explaining what health and wellness meant to them. I also, out of curiosity, asked two of my family members to share with me their definition, to which I was pleasantly surprised to hear that they both believed health and wellness to signify physical and mental well-being, taking care of the self through proper diet, exercise, activity, rest, and an openness to emotional needs. Out of the seven audio submissions there were only two that reflected similar meaning. Joey stated that this to him represented physical fitness, a proper diet, and a mind clear of negativity. And Joshua explained his definition as taking complete care of the self, a balance between work, family, and daily living interactions. The remainder of the participants all possessed heavy focus on the physical body, negative body image, and maladaptive relationships with food.

I found it interesting that there was such a heavy focus on what can be considered the public health model (Donatelle, 2017), or, the negative health aspects were explained as being a result of, or caused by interaction with a person’s social and physical environment by way of the media and its exploitation of what a physically healthy and beautiful body looks like. Equally intriguing was the lack of any mention of disease as described by the medical model (Donatelle, 2017). Further, I found it odd that there wasn’t any mention of interpersonal relationships, protecting oneself from harm or hazard, having a sense of purpose, feelings of content, belief in a supreme being, or religious affiliations (Donatelle, 2017).

The fact is that health, wellness, and well-being refers to the person as a whole not just the distinction that they are lacking disease, either physical or mental (Kirsten, et al. 2009). Healthy People 2020 identifies four crucial goals for developing levels of health that are noted as: “attaining high-quality, longer lives free of preventable diseases; achieve health equity, eliminate disparities, and improve health of all groups; create social and physical environments that promote good health for all; and promote quality of life, healthy development, and healthy behaviors across all life stages (Donatelle, 2017., 2012).

This lack of balance and attention to the entire being that I heard in most of the participants definitions can become detrimental on many levels. When there is too little attention to our physical needs and we lead a sedentary life because we don’t have a well-balanced life-style we can be faced with food addiction, obesity, poor blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, and so on. With too much attention on the physical body we can develop body dysmorphia, eating disorders, improper organ functioning, joint problems, or injury. Poor nutrition is a direct contributor to physical and mental health disease and disorders. Improper mental health care, or emotional self-care leads to anxiety, depression, excessive and/or addictive use of controlled substances, and even death by suicide. A lacking social life and the absence of hobbies create isolation, and feelings of loneliness and abandonment. And finally, the inability to see purpose and meaning in life produce a sense of having a lack of direction, motivation, and personal value.

So, when contemplating change in the direction of health and wellness it makes complete sense to me that as the human being is a complete compilation of mind, body, spirit, so too should the approach include a holistic approach that is multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary (Kirsten, et al. 2009) in order to meet all biological, psychological, social, and spiritual needs.

Published by Tricia Parido


Donatelle, R. J. (2017). Health: The basics: Mastering health edition (12th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Pearson. Chapter 1, “Accessing Your Health