Relationships are considered to be significant sources of happiness. All kinds of relationships - romantic relationships, friendships, parent-child, siblings, among others - contribute to an individual's meaning in life in their respective ways. Consequently, if such relationships are evaluated positively, they enhance happiness, and if the are evaluated in a negative manner, they are likely to lead to distress. 

The way individuals evaluate their relationships, then becomes highly important. This evaluation of a relationship is referred to as relationship quality. Specifically, relationship quality can be said to be the subjective evaluation of a relationship. Depending on relationship quality being high or low, it can have a wide range of implications on an individual.

If an individual evaluates his or her relationship quality to be low, then it is a clear indication that that person is experiencing a lack of intimacy, from that relationship. In other words, the intimacy needs are not being fulfilled. This automatically makes the individual experience the feeling of loneliness, specifically, emotional loneliness. Emotional loneliness is experienced due to not being able to develop a close emotional bond.

Emotional loneliness, further, gives the indication that the individual is lacking a sense of support with respect to that relationship. This lack of support might make the person feel neglected and unwanted; it completely demoralizes the person. All of this makes the person feel unworthy, it makes him or her develop low self-esteem.

Low self-esteem can lead to negative affect, excessive worrying, anxiety, and feeling of inadequacy. The person feels a lot of discomfort within his or her surroundings. If these negative experiences continue for a long time, then it will make the person to become depressive.

Depression has a negative affect on thought processes. Due to this, the individual might indulge in a lot of irrational, negative thinking, which may include a lot of self-blame. The person might start blaming himself or herself for relationship quality being low. He or she might feel responsible for the relationship to be dissatisfying, and start feeling a lot of guilt. This guilt further hampers the already low self-esteem and exacerbates the depressive feelings.

These depressive feelings make the dissatisfaction towards the relationship worsen. The dissatisfaction associated with the relationship tends to affect the other aspects of life. The person might end up distancing himself or herself from others, which starts affecting the other relationships of the individual as well. Gradually, the person starts feeling a sense of prolonged emptiness, getting out which takes a lot of time.

Low relationship quality could also lead to a feeling of distrust. One of the reasons for relationship quality being low could be a lack of meaningful interactions. If regular, meaningful interactions are not taking place, then it means that the individuals are not getting the opportunity to bond and connect with each other. This eventually leads to the development of distrust in the relationship.

Distrust in a relationship often leads to a lot of miscommunication and misunderstandings. This very naturally then gives rise to conflict. If the conflict gets unresolved it develops a lot of irritability. All this does not do any good for the emotional wellbeing of the person, who is already experiencing a lot of frustration because of having dissatisfaction with the relationship.

The distrust and irritability that is experienced in one relationship can easily pass on to the other significant relationships that the individual has, which ends up making life very difficult. Low relationship quality, therefore, has serious negative implications on mental health and wellbeing.

In contrast to low relationship quality, high relationship quality fosters wellbeing. High relationship quality indicates that the relationship involves affection and nurturance. A relationship evaluated to be high on relationship quality has been found to be a great source of happiness. High relationship quality, thus, is associated with a high sense of subjective wellbeing.

Subjective wellbeing is an overall evaluation of life based on current emotions and expectations, as well as past experiences, involving cognitive evaluation and positive affect. Relationship quality, in fact, is known to be one of the major determinants of subjective wellbeing.

A high relationship quality suggests that the individual’s experience with the relationship is positive and highly satisfying. Relationships shape the self and personality. A positive relationship leads to a healthy development of the self and contributes extensively to personal growth.

The positive experiences associated with high relationship quality boosts the self-confidence of the individual. The feeling of being satisfied with the relationship, further, enhances the self-esteem of the individual. This allows the person to cope well with stress and anxiety, and will have a lesser likelihood of developing depression or other psychological and emotional problems.

High relationship quality, further, involves self-expression and self-disclosure, which again play an important role in mental health. Experiencing companionship and support, the individual becomes highly unlikely to experience loneliness. On the whole, the individual, due to high relationship quality experiences better psychosocial adjustment, compared to individuals with low relationship quality.

On comparing low and high relationship quality, it is evident that low relationship quality leads to poor mental health and high relationship quality is associated with personal growth and a wide range of positive experiences. This implicates that people experiencing low relationship quality are not only dissatisfied with their relationship, but they are also facing a number of emotional and psychological problems.

In this regard, intervention and therapeutic programs can be developed that will help individuals to resolve the issues in their relationships, which will enhance their relationship quality. This is turn, will enhance their self-esteem and emotional wellbeing. It will help them to deal with their loneliness and depression.

This indicates that relationship quality is a significant psychological construct. Relationship quality not only helps in sustaining the relationship, it also helps in experiencing a fruitful and fulfilling life. Enhancing the relationship quality of individuals, then, has implications of creating a harmonious and socially connected society.

Saif Farooqi

A PhD in Psychology (from the University of Delhi). I have been blogging about psychological issues for more than ten years. I am extremely passionate about teaching psychology. I'm a writer, podcaster, and TEDx speaker. I also conduct workshops and awareness programs in schools and colleges. Currently, I'm also working as an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India