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Relationships play a pivotal role in shaping our mental health.

They can be a source of joy, strength and support, and they also have the potential to bring challenges and stress.

Relationships two guys with drinks social

We form relationships with many different people throughout our lives, from family and romantic partners to friends, workmates and casual acquaintances. Each relationship is unique and evolves over time.

These connections are vital. They bring joy, comfort and support, but they can also lead to feelings of isolation or stress. Understanding and navigating these dynamics is a key part of maintaining our mental wellbeing.

Throughout our lives, we form bonds for various reasons. Some are given, like family, while others are chosen, like friendships and romantic partnerships. Each interaction, whether it's a chat with a fellow commuter or joining a local group, adds value to our lives.

Navigating these relationships can be complex. They may change with life's ebbs and flows – some remain constant, while others may drift or evolve.

Building and maintaining strong, healthy relationships is an essential skill. Engaging with people who uplift us through conversations, shared activities or simply being together is important for our mental and physical wellbeing.

Building and nurturing relationships

Good relationships look different for everyone. What's important is that they contribute positively to your life.

Our relationships naturally evolve as our interests, locations, and life circumstances change. While we can shape our relationships, we can't always control how others come into or leave our lives. Relationships can come with challenges like maintaining long distance connections, navigating arguments, and changes in relationships over time.

Building relationships can be challenging. It's a lifelong journey, with no one-size-fits-all formula. Remember, it's okay to seek help or advice in this area.

Loneliness can be tough, and it's common to pull away from people when we're going through hard times. Loneliness isn't just about being alone, it's about feeling disconnected, even in a crowd. These feelings can have a big impact on our mental wellbeing. Building relationships that connect with our identity and community help to keep us well.

Building strong relationships

Listen to their story here

You know yourself better than anyone else. You know, you know your heart, you know what you are doing, what you are fighting for. There, um, you know, had he not come into my life, I wouldn’t have to worry about this, I wouldn’t have to go to therapy to fix my childhood to make his better. Um, I wouldn’t have to worry about medication. Um, but, I know my relationship with him is sound. It is solid. Um, yes we have had our bumps but, love and, love and conversation will always fix it. You know, not lying to him, misleading him. And you know sometimes, we’ve had to have conversations that were, really really tough.

Whānau | Family

Family, or whānau, often are the first bonds we form in life. Family connects us to who we are and where we come from. These relationships can offer a sense of belonging and safety but can also be complex, especially when conflict or trauma is involved. Remember, whānau extends beyond blood relations – it includes anyone we hold dear.

Family dynamics change over time. It's natural to have mixed feelings about family members, especially when expectations or beliefs clash. Sometimes the people who you hope would understand and support you can let you down. You might feel obligated to forgive the people who have hurt you simply because they are family.

Here are some tips for strengthening family relationships:

  • Respect differing beliefs and opinions, even if they clash with your own.
  • Give it time. They might need time to understand what’s going on for you and how they can help.
  • Acceptance is key. We can't always expect others to change, but we can control our reactions and actions.
  • Acknowledge that relationships evolve. Learning and growing often means navigating changes, misunderstandings, and reconciliations.


“I laugh and joke with my friends; and three years ago, I would have said that that wasn’t possible.” Watch Gillian’s story

Different people look for different things in friendships, some prefer having lots of friends or only one or two. You might share a sense of humour, hobbies, life stages, experiences, religion, workplace, values, or culture with your friends.

Whatever your preference, friends can make life feel brighter. They can offer love, care, support, and joy in the good times and the hard times.

Finding friends, especially as adults, can be challenging. Here are some ways to build new friendships:

  • Join groups or communities that share your interests. Meetups, your local library or community centre is a good place to start.
  • Connecting with people online through social media or online gaming can take the pressure of communicating in person.
  • Start conversations at work or in your community about shared interests.
  • Reach out to someone you haven't spoken to in a while.

Challenges in relationships

Relationships aren't always easy. Here's how to navigate some common challenges.

Family Violence

Everyone deserves to feel safe and respected. It’s not okay to feel threatened or scared for your emotional and physical safety in any relationship.

People experiencing abuse in their relationships may feel like they can't tell others. If there are some things about your relationship that don’t feel right, it’s okay to talk to someone about how you’re feeling. If you're experiencing abuse, it's not your fault, and help is available.

For more information about violence or abuse in relationships, Shine (0508-744-633) and Women’s Refuge offer support and resources.

Conflict Resolution

It’s normal to have disagreements with the people we care about from time to time. Try to communicate openly, listen to the other person's perspective, and take responsibility for your part in conflicts. Conflict can be overwhelming when you’re already feeling down. Sometimes, taking a step back is necessary for your wellbeing.

If you're finding yourself caught in a whirlpool of overthinking or worry, here are some strategies you might want to try:

  • Have a chat: Open up a conversation, but let's keep it blame-free. Share your feelings without pointing fingers. Instead of saying, “You haven’t called me in ages,” how about, “I’ve really missed our korero (talks) and would love to find ways to stay more connected.”
  • Listen with your heart: Hear them out and see the world through their eyes. If things aren't crystal clear, don't be shy to ask questions. Understanding each other is key.
  • Own your part: Sometimes, without meaning to, we might hurt those we care about. If that's the case, taking responsibility is a brave and important step.
  • Plan together: Crafting a way forward is a team effort. It might mean taking a breather to cool off before making any big decisions. That's okay – sometimes, space is what we need to see things more clearly.

Not every relationship sails smoothly, and that's alright. There are times when people in our lives might cause us pain or disappointment. Recognizing when a relationship is no longer serving your wellbeing is crucial. Healthy relationships are anchored in mutual respect, trust, and understanding. If you've given it your best shot and the seas haven't calmed, it's perfectly okay to step back and focus on your own wellbeing.

Navigating relationships isn't always easy, but remember, you're not sailing these waters alone. We're here to support you with information and guidance every step of the way. Stay strong, stay connected, and most importantly, stay true to yourself.

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