The Relationship Connection

From Paul Bell

A vital component that is often overlooked when considering a healthy lifestyle is the type of relationships that we have. There are many types of relationships, such as families, friendships, and romantic couples, but strangely enough, whichever ones you are engaged in, the quality and sometimes number of those relationships will have a direct effect on your longevity.

According to recent research, good relationships can reduce levels of anxiety and depression, raise your levels of self-esteem and even improve your immune system. Creating good relationships in your life can be as effective as a healthy diet and exercise in improving the quality and length of your life.

But what is a good relationship? A good way to start to answer this question is to consider if you are being intentional about creating and improving your relationships. Are you paying attention to the others in the relationship and to how you are behaving in that relationship? For example, when you are working on a task together, are you entirely focused on the task completion or are you also aware of how the others are feeling? Can you talk openly between each other about issues rather than trying to find answers by talking with friends? Are you able to be yourselves within the relationship? Can you deeply respect each other? Does the relationship contribute energy or drain it? Are you aware that a good relationship is based upon who you are and not just who you meet or are related to? In short, relationships are wonderful but they can also be difficult or painful if you fail to pay attention to them.

Fourteen years ago my wife (to be) and I met; we suspected that we could have the potential for a very good relationship but we had a problem. We lived a 13 hour drive apart and neither of us were interested in a relationship that would just drag along with occasional meetings. We had to get to know each other so that we could decide if our relationship would be good enough to change our locations and perhaps even jobs.

My profession was in helping teams, particularly large project teams, become more effective by getting to know each other well, rather than just knowing each other by their job titles. I suspected that the same techniques could also work for us as a couple and the idea of a conference for two was created.

The conference would have to be enjoyable, meaningful and a good means of discovery. My partner was skeptical and puzzled but over the next two weeks we created an agenda, exercises, questions, possible indoor and outdoor activities and clear guidelines on how to behave during the conference. There had to be complete honesty and no judgement, as judgement would just be a prop to one of our egos. We were trying to really get to know each other and, if necessary, only trying to change ourselves not each other. We had to clearly, attentively listen. Even if our ideas conflicted it did not mean that the two of us had to. We could criticize a certain behavior of each other but never the complete person. People are marvelous; some of their behaviors may not appear to be.

It took two weekends and the evenings in between to complete, but for that amount of time the rewards were great. We realized that we were a loving match as a couple and after all these years we have still not discovered anything that would challenge that realization. We had truly come to know each other well and that knowledge led to a loving, respectful, kind, and exciting relationship.

We enjoyed our conference so much, and were so impressed by the outcome, that we have held a conference for two every year. We decide upon a relevant topic, create an agenda and then separately do our own research and soul-searching before we come together to discuss the topics and create actions for the coming year. Yes, we are very intentional but our relationship never feels as though it is stuck on a plateau. With topics such as creating our future, challenging our assumptions, and life-long learning we are continually challenged to improve ourselves and our relationship. Relationships, and self-knowledge, are not fixed entities but a lifelong process.

Many people have heard about our conferences and encouraged us to write a book. This led to the creation of two conference workbooks and guides. The first conference is for couples of any age just getting to know each other or making challenging decisions about their relationship, and the second is for couples who have been together for a while and want to improve, deepen and enliven their relationship.

If the idea of a conference for two sparks your interest, you can visit us at

Just imagine, by adding (or strengthening) a good relationship to a healthy diet and exercise you could live life more to the full, with more happiness and for longer!

Paul Bell lives a life of both physical and mental adventures. He is passionate about education and has enjoyed teaching and challenging children in the outdoors, and helping large project and company teams raise their performance levels. He currently lives and adventures in the Canadian Rockies, sails the Pacific coast and finds life very exciting.