Respect, honesty and trust are important hallmarks of healthy relationships. In healthy relationships, people talk honestly, listen well, and trust and respect each other. In contrast, in unhealthy relationships, one person tries to exert control and power over the other in ways that can have damaging effects.
February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. This February, help everyone in your community learn more about healthy relationships.
Your Relationship with Yourself
Your relationship with yourself is the most important and longest lasting relationship you will ever have, and it can affect your relationships with other people. Love yourself first and build your connection with yourself. Find out what makes you happy and know that you deserve to be treated well. You have the right to expect others to treat you with respect.
Stressful relationships can be bad for your health. Reducing stress in your relationships will improve your relationships and improve your health. This might mean ending an unhealthy relationship or learning how to use healthy relationship skills.
Characteristics of Healthy Relationships
What makes a relationship healthy? There are many different types of healthy relationships. One size doesn’t fit all, but in general, both people feel good about the relationship. Partners in a healthy relationship:
- Support each other’s dreams and goals.
- Respect each other’s boundaries and alone time.
- Speak freely and honestly about their needs and preferences.
According to youth.gov, the following are common characteristics of unhealthy relationships.
- Making all the decisions and telling the other person what to do, what to wear or who to spend time with.
- Being unreasonably jealous.
- Trying to isolate the other partner from friends and family.
- Picking fights or antagonizing the other person so that they change their behavior to avoid possible conflict.
- Lying to or withholding information from the other person.
- Stealing from the other person.
- Making fun of the other person.
- Destroying the other person’s belongings.
- Feeling that he or she “cannot live without” the other person.
- Threatening to do something drastic if the relationship ends.
- Trying to control aspects of the other’s life by making the other partner fearful or timid.
- Attempting to keep the other person from seeing friends and family.
- Threatening to break up if the other person doesn’t comply.
- Using force (e.g., hitting, slapping, grabbing or shoving) to get the other person to do something
- Pressuring or forcing the other person into sexual activity against their will or without consent.
Many of these warning signs are often taken as proof of passion, love or commitment, but don’t be fooled. Jealousy and possessiveness aren’t romantic. They’re unhealthy behaviors that could point to an unhealthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, there is trust, which leaves no room for jealousy and controlling behaviors.
Talking Through Conflict
Arguments and disagreements are a fact of life, even in healthy relationships. Conflict is OK, as long as the partners argue in a healthy way. Abusive behavior is not OK. If a discussion is getting too heated, take the time to cool off, but don’t leave the conversation unfinished. Revisit the issue when you’re both ready to talk calmly.
In some conflicts, both people are talking but neither person is hearing what the other is saying. Saying what you mean is important, but listening is even more important. Listening builds your understanding of the other person’s perspective and feelings, and also shows the other person that you care and are paying attention. Listening is especially important in conflict, when emotions are high and partners feel misunderstood and hurt.
- Use “I” statements to speak about your feelings and thoughts.
- Don’t blame, intimidate, threaten or pressure.
- Be aware of what your body language is saying.
Use positive language to build each other up:
- “I believe in you”
- “Thank you for being supportive”
- “I appreciate that you’re being so understanding of my needs”
- “What’s wrong with you?”
- “You can’t do anything right!”
- “You NEVER…” or “You ALWAYS…”
It’s OK to say:
- “Please don’t talk to me that way.”
- “I don’t want to have sex.”
- “I need to be alone right now.”
Take Away: Learn how to communicate, use positive language and argue in ways that build connection and don’t harm the relationship or the other person. Expect the same treatment in return.
For more information about healthy relationships, check out the QuickSeries guide: Dating and Intimate Partner Violence