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HPRC's human performance optimization (HPO) website is for U.S. Warfighters, their families, and those in the field of HPO who support them. The goal is Total Force Fitness: Warfighters optimized to carry out their mission as safely and effectively as possible.

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Relationships for performance optimization

The Warfighter’s family is a crucial support system, yet military families must face special demands and challenges. HPRC offers suggestions on how to keep these relationships healthy and strong.

From the Field

Why are family relationships key for Warfighter performance?

HPRC's Answer

The awareness that family well-being is crucial to Warfighter readiness and success is growing. Admiral Mullen’s talk at the Total Fitness Conference in December centered on the importance of the family for total Warfighter fitness. There are numerous programs designed to support the Warfighter’s family – from family readiness groups to advice and counseling services. But other than the common knowledge that military life can be hard on families, why are family relationships so important to Warfighter performance?

For many of us, everything we do, all the choice and decisions we make, are with our families in mind (be it parents, spouses, children, or siblings). This is because relationships enrich our lives. At the same time, relationships can be a double-edged sword – while happy and supportive relationships help people deal with stress better, unsupportive relationships with lots of fighting are a source of stress. In fact, being in a difficult relationship can go beyond just being a source of stress – relationships can impact your health for better or for worse. People in supportive and loving relationships are in better health, rebound from pain and trauma faster, and heal faster than those in unsupportive and negative relationships.

Now imagine the impact a personal relationship filled with a lot of conflict could have on a Warfighter’s ability to be successful in theater, and on returning home from a demanding tour.

The military lifestyle, with its long and stressful deployments and multiple moves, can take a toll even on the best relationships. But stepping outside of the military for a moment, relationship happiness is a major problem for most Americans. Divorce statistics in this country speak for the state of most relationships, and surveys show that of the 50 percent of couples who stay married, less than half report actually being happy with their spouse.

The good news about relationships, though, is that they can improve!

Learning the relationship skills that strengthen families and ease problem areas is something everyone can do. The saying “relationships take work” is true, but the work we put in can powerfully benefit all of our relationships. The importance of these skills is recognized by the Army’s Comprehensive Soldier Fitness program, which focuses on prevention and enhancing family relationships as key components of Warfighter performance and success.

In the next article, the HPRC will identify what we think are the best strategies for enhancing one’s relationships, based on the research we’ve read. Just like our bodies, relationships also need daily training for optimal fitness. Read the next article for what we think should be in everyone’s “relationship fitness plan.”