I resolve to…

How many of us start our new year with a commitment to “do better” or to “be better” in some way? For many it’s a healthier eating plan (cutting down on sugar and carbs while increasing selections from the grocery store’s perimeter). For others, it may be the encouragement to “get moving” and increase the level of physical activity or daily steps. Some may engage in an education opportunity or intellectual pursuit. The list goes on. Consider other areas of personal improvement.

I resolve to have healthier relationships

How many of us resolve to improve our general health by surrounding or immersing ourselves with others in relationships that add to our well-being?

More and more research demonstrates positive outcomes surrounding healthy relationships, specifically as related to satisfaction with one’s own personal health, or negative outcomes, such as an increased risk for depression when quality of social relationships is poor.

This brings us to the intersection of relationships and major life choices, specifically abortion and sexual health decisions. Some physiologists boldly state it can be “downright unhealthy” to make major life decisions without thinking of others. Holly Parker, lecturer of phycology at Harvard University states the key as “how much we allow others to impact our decision and why.”

Have you assessed the quality of your relationships in 2019?  It sounds like a simple question, but relationship quality has a huge impact on all of us if we are honest. Relationships influence how we parent, decisions regarding educational pursuits, how we spend free time, job considerations, investment strategies, and so much more, including managing sexual health.  Our relationships even influence pregnancy decisions!  

Healthy relationships and abortion decisions.

The influence of relationships for women making abortion decisions is often overlooked in the divisive discussions surrounding “a woman’s right to choose.”  A long-term study seeking to understand factors associated with abortion decisions reported approximately one-third of women who opted for an abortion had stated their partners played a significant role influencing that decision. For these women, the relationship with their partner had a significant influence on their decision to terminate a pregnancy.

Recognizing relationships as a key factor in women’s sexual health and reproductive decisions, the important balance between autonomy in decision-making and a healthy support system cannot be overly stressed. For a decision to truly be a choice, it stands to reason that the choice being made should be in the best interest of the one making the choice.

Studies and reports demonstrate a variety of post-abortion responses, both positive and negative. But a modest indication of unrest with an abortion decision was published in a JAMA Psychiatry article, which indicated 27% of women in this study (sample size 438) indicated they were both dissatisfied with their abortion decision and clinically depressed. The recent CDC publication reported abortion numbers in the United States for 2015 to be roughly 640,000.  If the JAMA Psychiatry research is indicative of the general population, it is not an exaggeration to connect the dots and realize many women suffer after making an abortion decision. Close to 172,000 women annually may be counted as dissatisfied and clinically depressed following an abortion decision. (Keep in mind, this study only followed women for two years post abortion.)

How are your relationships?

For women in the cusp of a pregnancy decision, healthy relationships and a healthy support system are vital in the decision-making process. People who know us at our core have the ability to stand in the gap and remind us of our true identity and value system when we may be personally struggling to remember and live by those core principles.

So-called friends, attempting to influence decisions based on their belief and value system can potentially rob the power and autonomy in the decision-making process. This often places women at risk for making decisions against their core values. Decisions made against core values are often listed in a series of life regrets.

Let’s make 2019 about healthy relationships and influences that support moving forward toward the best versions of ourselves.