Positive relationships are the foundation for every stage of life

COLUMBIA — “Creating Positive Relationships” is essential for a productive and happy life, according to Dr. George Holmes, professor of Neuropsychiatry at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine and Chief of Child and Adolescent Psychology. Holmes gave some pointers on how to foster healthy relationships throughout life in a two-part lecture series at his parish, St. Peter Church, Jan. 26 and Feb. 2.

His January lecture included information on early child development, needs and types of behaviors that influence young children’s ability to relate to others.

“One thing that really resonated with me in the first talk was the fact that most of the time, human beings are self-correcting,” said Make Homes, the speaker’s son. “For example, if you missed out on nurturing that you needed as a small child, you can recollect it later in life.”

“Children will seek out competent adults to fulfill a need that they are not getting at home,” Dr. Holmes said. That competent adult may be the parent of a friend, and it explains why some children may want to “hang out” at that particular home to get the nurturing they need.

In the second part of his series, Holmes started with the adolescence stage and ended with the elderly. He took each age group, presented general characteristics and talked about the emotional, psychological and physical needs that generally accompany that stage of life.

Because of his vast experience counseling youth, Holmes has seen a rise in young people who have not connected with their parents or other adults. He said that there appears to be an absence of authority, limits and emotional commitment in their lives.

“Parents are simply giving up on their own child, and I have found myself having to raise these kids emotionally through counseling,” he said.

Adolescence stability is contingent on having at least “one person absolutely in love with you. Who won’t quit on you,” according to Holmes. He emphasized that no strings should be attached to that “unconditional love.”

Broken families can sometimes be the cause of the “adolescence disconnect” along with the constant mobility of the family today with jobs forcing families to uproot on a regular basis.

The physician also sees drug and alcohol abuse starting at younger ages and disrupting normal development.

“Drugs steal tomorrow,” he said. “It steals positive relationship. It steals creativity and takes prisoners.”

In his practice Holmes has seen the destructive path abuse leaves behind.

For the young adult out of high school, the usual goal is to be a wholesome “onesome” who will find another wholesome “onesome” so they can be a wholesome “twosome.”

For Holmes, it is no surprise in this “culture of postponement” that marriage and children are occurring later in life. He sees more couples who are getting married today who seriously want the commitment to last.

The key to having successful relationships, according to Holmes, is to persist and learn to manage conflict. In earlier times, some people stayed together that should not have, but today, he sees couples giving up too easily.

“Have tolerance and give feedback. Realize that there may be some topic, like politics, for example, that ‘we have to take off the table’ at least for a while,” he said. “You cannot have a positive relationship without some conflict.”

 According to Holmes, it takes developing a compatible philosophy on money, food and recreational issues. He believes if the couple can work out intimacy, boundary and power issues, along with respecting the other person’s tastes and culture, it can make for a happier relationship.

Some may think it is physical appearance or advanced degrees that keeps a couple together, but Holmes tells couple that “being an interesting person” who is constantly developing and who can still surprise their spouse, is more important. Also the couple needs to share some core values.

Middle age is a time to reflect on accomplishments and goals. Holmes seems to think it is at this time that the importance of feeling cherished and cherishing others crystallizes.

“Everyone needs to be cherished whether they are 3 months or elderly. Even a thank you or someone saying you are instrumental in their lives can be so important,” Rebecca Cunningham said. She is a member of the parish.

Holmes recommends using this time of reflection and to analyze relationships, sustaining the positive and ridding oneself of the negative.

In late adulthood, a person may deal with the death of a spouse or close friend. Loss of work, retirement and changes in health are other realities for some in this stage. Holmes outlined the positives such as more time to enjoy grandchildren and other positive relationships. He said that he is nearing this stage and has started writing poetry, something he had been meaning to do for some time.

In the last stage of life, a person can be healthy or frail. Issues of finance, living arrangements and the facing of death are in the forefront and Holmes feels that positive relationships are critical at this stage.

“At my age I have seen it all, and I have had a wonderful life. I know what Dr. Holmes says can work. Positive relationships are possible,” Robert Cunningham said.