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Relationship Priorities

Relationship Priorities Change

It’s natural for our relationships to change throughout life. At different times we will focus more on different relationships.5

image of military family before deployment


Our first influential relationships are often with our family. For military kids, your family may be the most consistent relationship you have over the years. You also have the shared experience of military life.

The way you get along in your family is important. It might impact the way you get along with friends, others outside of your family, and with romantic relationships.6

Why? These family interactions can shape our expectations for relationships and communication. We learn a lot from our families: how to share feelings, how to express our needs, how to show support, how to argue, how to set boundaries, and more.

It is important to remember that while family experiences affect how we relate to people, that does not mean these experiences are “right” or “wrong.” Part of developing relationships throughout your life will be exploring your own personality, preferences, and values.

There may be some ways your family treats each other you do not like. Their ways of relating might not match your personality, or may be hurtful. Having trusting, supportive relationships outside your family can help you learn different ways of connecting to people.

Sometimes we don’t even realize how family dynamics influence us.

Try this exercise. If you can, have a friend or two also do it and compare answers: A friend will come stay with your family. Write down five unspoken rules they need to know to make a good impression on your family.


Even if you remain close to your family and the people you live with, friendship is likely central to your life. You may start to rely on your friends for advice and support more than your family.

Military life can make friendships challenging. Military kids move an average of six to nine times during their school years.7 Feeling like you need to start over every move can become discouraging.

Many military kids say they cope with frequent moves by investing less in their friendships. Some spend more time alone or keep relationships superficial.2 Others focus on building online relationships since those are not as affected by moving.

Feeling discouraged makes sense, and it is important to persist with friendships. These friendships help you develop your own identity outside of your family.8 They help you explore your personality and interests. How you practice relationships now will also influence the quality of your relationships later in life.4, 5

Close friendships are relationships where you feel connected and know you belong.10 In close friendships, you can share important information about yourself, feel encouraged, get support, and cope with feelings of loneliness or isolation.11

How many close friends should you have? Some people have a group of friends. Some people feel close to one or two friends. Friendship groups come in all shapes and sizes. If a person has even one close friend, they typically feel happier, are healthier, and cope better with stress.

Romantic Relationships

Over time, romantic relationships may become an important part of your life. Romantic relationships can feel exciting and intense.

Dating means different things to different people. It generally means an intimate relationship between two or more people. It may include physical, emotional, or sexual expressions of affection or not. It may include a commitment to each other or be more casual or open. If you are in a romantic relationship, the important thing is for you and your partner to have a clear and shared idea of definitions and boundaries for your relationship.12

At times it might feel like you’re expected to be dating or in a romantic relationship. It’s OK to be single. Two in three younger teens and one in three older teens reported they had no romantic relationship in the past 18 months.6

If you’re thinking about starting a romantic relationship, it’s good to ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you expect from this romantic relationship?
  • Are these expectations fair to the other person?
  • Is this a good time to have a romantic relationship?

It’s normal to become focused on your romantic partner. It’s also important to maintain your friendships with others.8, 11 Becoming completely dependent on your partner for companionship can stress the relationship and contribute to isolation over time. It can leave you feeling distant from others. It can also make it feel like you don’t have anyone else to turn to when you need support.

A support network will help you cope with stress and give advice. Friendships can also be a helpful outlet for hobbies or interests that your partner might not share.

How do you know if your romantic relationship is healthy? See the Healthy or Unhealthy? page.

Revised: Mon, 04/05/2021 - 10:11