What is a Healthy Relationship?
Learning how to have healthy relationships sets us up for a lifetime of love and support. When we have positive relationships, with partners, friends, and family members, we create a healthy atmosphere for growing and learning. It is important to understand what makes a relationship both healthy and unhealthy so that we can better reflect on the relationships in our lives. Healthy relationships are built on trust and communication. If you feel like one of your relationships is heading down an unhealthy path talk about it! You are the first person who can change your relationship.
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Just like any abusive relationship, an unhealthy relationship is when one partner seeks power or control over the other. This can include things like needing to know where their partner is at all times and not allowing their partner to spend time with certain people. Being aware of the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship helps us to recognize when we are in one, and prevents us from being with an abusive partner in the future.
Warning signs can include if your partner:
- Puts you down in public
- Calls you repeatedly or shows up unexpectedly to check on you
- Gets angry or makes you feel guilty for spending time with friends and family
- Makes negative comments about the way you style your hair or the clothes you wear
- Grabs your arm or hits you during an argument and then apologizes the next day
- Refuses to use a condom or other form of birth control
- Pressures or demands sexual acts
- Pressures you to take revealing pictures of yourself and threatens to show your friends or parents
- Always has to “win,” be right, or have the last word
- Refers to you as their possession
- Accuses you of cheating
- Makes you hide things or keep secrets from your friends and family
- Demands that you stop talking to people that they don’t like
A healthy partner never asks or demands you to change anything about yourself, but accepts you as you are. If you feel like you may be in an unhealthy relationship, talk to someone you trust. Counselors and parents are a great start!
Women in the U.S. who experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year.
There is a common misperception that we must argue and fight to show that we love our partners. Although disagreements happen in many healthy relationships, we do not need to fight to show that we care about someone. In a healthy relationship, after a disagreement there is a resolution. Sometimes this resolution can make us feel closer to our partner, but it is the compromise or agreement that gives us this feeling – not the argument.
If you find yourself arguing with your partner often reflect on the cause of the problem. Are you always having the same disagreement? Is it related to a lack of trust or a misunderstanding? Try to address the problem after you have both cooled down and can come to an agreement. If you cannot reach a compromise, decide what the next steps for your relationship will be. If you concede to this disagreement will your partner for the next? The best way to work through any dispute is using positive communication.
Keys to a Healthy Relationship
We know that trust and communication are the tenets of a healthy relationship, but how do we build these?
Trust grows over time. To become trustworthy, we must be consistent and reliable. If we tell someone we will do something or be somewhere it is important to follow through. It is also important to constantly treat our partners with respect. If you are kind and understanding 5 days a week but rude and dismissive the other 2 days, it is impossible for your partner to rely on you. Remember that the type of partner you are should be a model for what type of partner you want to have. Being consistent in your healthy behaviors and actions is a great way to build trust.
Healthy communication does not simply mean speaking to your partner often. Healthy communication involves having authentic discussions about your thoughts and feelings, and being honest with your partner. If something about your relationship is bothering you – bring it up. Your partner could be unaware of the problem. When you partner is speaking to you, be respectful. Communication goes both ways! Be an active listener to your partner’s problems and concerns.
Setting boundaries is also very important to a healthy relationship. If your partner only wants you to spend time with them, this can be a warning sign of their want to control you. It is important that we all have strong support systems with the many people in our lives – not just our partners. If you find that you have stopped spending time with your friends or family to be with your partner, talk to them about it and tell them you want to make more time for your friends. If it is a healthy relationship, they will be understanding and supportive of your friendships.
Once trust, communication and boundaries are established it does not mean that you can stop working on the relationship. Relationships are constantly changing and growing. It is important to always be mindful of how you are treating your partner, and how they are treating you. A healthy relationship should make you feel good!