Are Your Relationships Making You Physically Ill?


Humans by nature are social, and with that culture comes the instinct to connect with other people. Scientists have discovered a link between relationships and physical illness, and have found that some relationships can literally make humans sick. This brings up the question, how can people distinguish between healthy ‘healing’ relationships and unhealthy relationships?

There are three key elements to a healthy relationship that if absent can cause someone to become ill or for their current illness to retrograde. These elements are truth, honesty and compassion. To determine if a relationship has the necessary elements, use the following check list.

  • I feel emotionally and physically safe.
  • I don’t have to be on guard against being hurt by the other person.
  • Both the other person and I can reveal true feelings without harm to either of us.
  • Both the other person and I have the ability and willingness to understand one another and express kindness.

In the event that some of the checklist items are not true for your relationship, do not assume that the person must be removed from your life. There are many ways to heal toxic relationships, and the most important component of a healthy relationship is communication.

Heal By Communicating

Communication that is open and truthful makes for the ideal relationship. When dealing with family members, friends and coworkers, etc., there are simple communication techniques that will help you and the other person to find common ground and begin a healthy “healing” relationship.

First, verify that you and the other person understand one another. Ask “Let me see if I understand what you are saying.” Next, use “I” statements to openly express how you feel about the discussion. For example, “This is how I feel.” Finally, you must firmly express any disagreements you have with the other person. Tell them, “I disagree and this is why.” Following these techniques will put you on a path to healing through healthy relationships.

Create Healing Groups

Camaraderie comes in many forms, but when placed in groups of like-minded individuals, a person can improve their overall well-being. Such groups can be school groups, work groups and even religious or community organizations. But just like relationships between two individuals, group relationships must foster a culture of healing. To be sure that your group has a healing relationship, the following characteristics must be present:

  • Respect for individuals, including their inner lives
  • A system of values that is present at all levels
  • Honest and open communications at all times
  • A climate of trust
  • A focus on learning rather than blame
  • Opportunities for self-care, like exercise and yoga

At Samueli Institute, self-care is considered essential for every individual’s well-being. We encourage you to improve your relationships by acting as a leader and getting involved in your community.

You can share your story with us and participate in a global healing community. Learn more.