Keeping the doctor away may be less about apples and more about attachments, according to research conducted at Duke University Medical Center. Patients who had solid networks of friends and loved ones were twice as likely to survive heart disease as those who didn't (Psychosomatic Medicine, 2001, vol. 63, no. 2). Try these wellness-bolstering ways to get along better with every significant other in your life.
Your spouse. "[Your marriage] won't survive as a healthy relationship unless you have some mechanism for clearing the air," says Susan Campbell, PhD, author of Saying What's Real (New World Library, 2005). Schedule a weekly session to hash out what's bothering you. Just make sure it's a two-way conversation so your partner doesn't feel dumped on, and include positive feedback, too.
Your best friend. Keep tabs on what's going on in your friend's life by marking her big events on your calendar. "Whether it's her birthday, a surgery, or her kid going off to college, keep track and check in with her to see how she's doing," advises Marla Paul, author of The Friendship Crisis (Rodale, 2005). She'll love that you're paying attention—and be more inclined to do the same for you.
Your boss. To get your needs met positively at work, focus on being reasonable. "Start with a nice, big preamble, saying, 'I value our working relationship,'" says Campbell. Then explain that you'd like to discuss making some changes. If you use "I" statements and talk about solutions instead of playing the blame game, your boss will be more likely to pay attention.
Your kids. Showing a bit of sympathy keeps the lines of communication open with your children, says Mary Sheedy Kurcinka, author of Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles (Harper, 2001). For instance, if your kid puts up a fight over not getting ice cream, say, "I know you'd like something sweet. Can you think of other things that would taste good, too?" Later, you can help find more productive ways to express frustration. Why it works: "You're connecting on an emotional level and coaching how to use words that keep you working together," says Sheedy Kurcinka.
Your parents. Practice listening mindfully when your mom calls to chat about her arthritis flare-up or her pesky neighbor. "When someone is confiding a problem, our instinct often is to jump in to try to fix it or to air our own problem," says Paul. "Instead, just listen with an empathetic nod and an occasional 'I understand.'" Your willingness to listen will lend the support your parent needs to tackle her problems.