Relational Wellbeing

We were made by God to be in relationship with Him but also in relationship with one another.

The pandemic clearly impacted how we could relate to other people and put restrictions around our ability to do this, particularly in person. It was perhaps this relational impact that affected people the most during the lockdown periods and led to feelings of social isolation with knock-on effects on our emotional wellbeing particularly. So, it would seem that relationships with other people have a profound effect on our wellbeing and if we can build positive relationships on the foundations of love, support, encouragement, caring, honesty, understanding, trust, respect and forgiveness; they will be significant deposits in our lives. 

When we look back, most of us would agree it is our relationship with others that will carry far more weight and importance than our achievements and possessions. I would suggest our first priority, and key relationship to invest in and get right, is that with God and I hope I have given some helpful guidance around this in the spiritual wellbeing section of the blog. Our ability to have more fruitful human relationships will come from an overflow of our relationship with Him.

What Can Go Wrong?

Relationships are often complex and multi-layered and there are various issues that impact them from what we and others put into them. These can be influenced by past experiences, dating as far back as the relationships we had with our parents as children, and how we have been individually and uniquely made. Meaning how we view the world and other people can be different from somebody else, leading to potential disagreement and conflict. I have touched on this issue in a bit more detail in the section titled ‘Your mind is unique and wonderful.’ Within all these complexities, there are some clearer reasons why we might struggle in relationships, especially if we allow ourselves to be influenced by worldly views and habits.   


Cultural Difference

I think it is fair to say, that there is a cultural narrative that has emerged over recent years that life is about the pursuit of one’s own individual happiness, and that anyone should simply be able to pursue what makes them personally feel satisfied. This has further developed with the pursuit of freedom of speech and opinion, which ironically seems to have led to more conflict between people rather than less, as each person wrestles to get others to agree and follow their views and opinions about how they should live, rather than accept varying stances about this. It would seem society is becoming increasingly confused and lost with no known script to follow, and yet God has actually provided a very clear narrative for how we should live and relate to one another through the writings of the Bible, His living Word. 

“Love your neighbour as yourself.” Mark 12:31

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honour.” Romans 12:10

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

A good starting point in any relationship is that we should seek to put the other person’s desires, wants and needs ahead of our own and this directly opposes the present worldly narrative that we exist to please and satisfy ourselves first and foremost. 

What Goes In Comes Out: How we relate to others will reflect what we ‘consume’ into ourselves. 

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

In Romans 12, Paul warns us to be in the world but not of the world. If we allow the world to have an influence and hold on us rather than pursue closeness with and direction from God, our relationships will be stained by a world view imprint, rather than God’s imprint. In other words, our spiritual wellbeing and habits have a direct effect on our earthly relationships and overall relational wellbeing.

Forgiveness & Reconciliation

it can be really hard to forgive someone when they have done something that has hurt us or harmed us in some way. It would increasingly seem society no longer operates with forgiveness as a valued rhetoric, but rather encourages people to seek justice, compensation and even punishment for when someone has done us wrong.

Jesus demands a very different approach, to forgive as we have been forgiven. (Ephesians 4:32) This may seem a very difficult thing to do and far easier to say than put into practice, but as with most directives from God, the fundamental reason to do this is that it will do us good. Holding on to unforgiveness will erode into our joy and wellbeing and has been shown to exacerbate anxiety and depression. Effectively, it does us harm if we choose to hold on to unforgiveness.

It is important to remember that when we forgive someone it does not mean we accept what they did to us as right, in fact we make the decision to forgive still acknowledging what they did was wrong and had consequences to us. We forgive the person not the action.

Reconciliation goes a step further than forgiveness and the difference is that this process in part relies on the other person and their behaviour as well as our own and we can’t necessarily control or influence this. It may not be possible or even wise to seek reconciliation with someone who is unrepentant or is continuing to cause harm to yourself or others but it should be something we hope for and seek where appropriate.

Social Media

We have to acknowledge the huge impact on how we relate to one another that has occurred over recent years through the evolvement of social media, especially impacting the younger generation. The filters and screening that are more easily in place in face to face encounters with each other seem radically altered when people interact through social media platforms and things are often stated and said about others that might have otherwise been checked or censored if the other person was in front of them in their physical presence.

The opinion of others on social media have come to be upheld with utmost importance by some to the point that their career and livelihood might even depend on this. We are also driven to fulfill the perceived need to be ‘connected’ with others almost constantly with little downtime in between with a profound impact on our ability to restore and gain benefit from intermittent time ‘alone.’ There are obviously even more significant potential harmful outcomes such as cyberbullying, identity theft and ‘grooming’ with the intent of sexual abuse. Many people are recognising the need and benefits of putting boundaries around their use of social media, whether that is time restriction or actually just withdrawal of participation.

Too much & too many? Perhaps driven by social media and the ease of being able to stay in contact with each other, many of us try to ‘overachieve’ in the number of relationships and ‘friendships’ we seek to have. In the Wellbeing Journey book, Dave Smith points out different types of relationship categories (Dr John Townsend) and sensible parameters around how many relationships we can meaningfully have within these: coaches, comrades, casuals, colleagues, care, chronics and contaminants. It is important to have the right balance of relationships across these categories for our relational wellbeing.

Jesus Himself modelled a healthy balance of relationship and level of connection with others with stronger intentional connection with: The three (Peter, James & John), the twelve (His group of disciples), friends (Mary Magdalene; Mary of Bethany, Martha & Lazarus), family (Mary His mother). He then had a different level of connection with the 72 (wider group of leaders He involved in His ministry) and the ‘crowds’ (those He ministered to and encountered from day to day). Additionally, He clearly recognised the value and importance of ‘community’ modelled in the establishment of His Church.


There is no doubt, our family relationships carry much weight with respect to our relational wellbeing, especially if strained or we have become estranged to family members. It is an interesting reflection that we get to choose our friends, which Church we belong to, with whom we work, even to whom we minister and care for, but we have no choice with respect to who is our parent, sibling, or child. It is fair to acknowledge that, for a multitude of reasons, it is sometimes difficult to get along with those to whom we are biologically related. This is often emphasised when it comes to our faith and decision to be a Christian and recognised by Jesus Himself (Matthew 10:35). It is in our family relationships that we will often need most the fruits of the Holy Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). These relationships may also more commonly require us to step into forgiveness and reconciliation, which I have already discussed.


It remains a disturbing statistic that nearly half of all marriages in the UK end in divorce. This clearly tells us that marriage is not easy and this relationship in particular requires attention and intentional investment if we are going to enjoy a thriving and fruitful marriage relationship.

I have already discussed how our ‘differences’ with respect to how our minds work, and how we have been ‘wired’, can cause tensions and difficulties (Your Mind is Unique and Wonderful), which is especially true in marriage.

Sometimes when we are reaching points of significant difficulty, we will need to seek the support and counsel of others such as a marriage counselor or Church pastor/elder but there is also tremendous value in looking at some great tools that are available as ongoing processes for us, such as the HTB marriage course and being in a peer relationship group. For those of you who have done a Freedom in Christ Course, I would also recommend ‘Setting Your Marriage Free’ by Neil Anderson & Charles Mylander, even if you think you have a great marriage!

Assessment Tool Questionnaire

There are two different relational wellbeing assessment tools available to use depending on whether you are married or single to help you assess your level of wellbeing in this area:

Slide Married: Click Here Single: Click Here