What is a healthy relationship in your eyes? Being in a committed relationship with someone else consists of so much more than what we see in our favorite romance novels or on reality TV. So when you enter a real-life relationship outside of your favorite fictional characters, how do you know if you’re in a healthy situation? You might define it by a feeling or how it comes off to others, but it’s more than that. Healthy relationships take effort, but that effort has a massive payoff. Each relationship might look different or operate slightly differently, but they’re all defined by some major requirements — relationships must include healthy communication, healthy boundaries and healthy relationship boosters to be successful and healthy for everyone involved.
Developing healthy communication skills
Healthy communication means both partners are able to be open, honest and safe. You’re able to voice concerns, express frustrations and all the while respect each other and be supportive. This also means that you’re able to find compromise when you have disagreements. But communication also comes with limitations. You should be comfortable respecting your partner’s privacy. Being in a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you have the right to force your partner to share everything with you. Having healthy space to yourself is vital.
Setting comfortable boundaries
You should always feel like you can spend time with your friends without your partner, spend time alone and respect each other’s different likes and needs. Setting boundaries also means you have the right to keep your passwords and lock codes private if you want. You should have ample time to exist as an independent human being outside of time with your partner.
Creating healthy relationships boosters
No matter how healthy of a relationship you’re in, it’s normal to feel like relationships have gone cold from time to time. Certain activities that you both love can help bring you together during these times, and reaching an understanding that it’s ok to be open and honest about these feelings is essential.
If your relationship lacks these things, chances are it may not have staying power. And without a balance of these things, unhealthy or abusive relationships can develop.
And how will you know if your relationship is unhealthy?
Unhealthy relationships don’t have equal power and respect. Although certain characteristics may seem small in the beginning, they could escalate and are still legitimate cause for concern. If your partner doesn’t trust you without checking your phone every night, that’s an unhealthy, abusive habit that removes your power over your own privacy. Abuse isn’t always physical, but it can be. It’s also important to be aware and cautious of situations involving emotional and verbal abuse, sexual abuse, financial abuse, digital abuse and stalking.
You deserve a healthy relationship. You are never asking for abusive behavior. And as soon as you identify it, there are ways to think about your safety and take action now. Ultimately, your needs must come first. Reach out to those who you trust and love like friends and family. If your partner is trying to prevent those connections or weaken them, know that’s another sign of abuse. Supportive, healthy partners should want your other relationships to thrive. And unfortunately, the abuser will only change their ways when they are good and ready. You can’t convince someone to change their behaviors, that’s a personal decision that must be made. So if your partner isn’t leading the charge here, it’s probably necessary to think about breaking things off. If you’re not in a healthy, productive relationship like you deserve, you need to reevaluate why you’re in the relationship at all.
If you’re still unsure of whether your relationship is healthy or not, loveisrespect put together a helpful quiz to help you figure things out. Check it out here.
If you’re not the one in an unhealthy relationship but you recognize these issues in a friend or loved one, here’s how to help.
It can be hard to see people you care about participate in unhealthy relationships. You want them to thrive, actively love themselves and put themselves in situations that are beneficial to their health and wellbeing, but that’s not always what happens. In those cases, the most important thing you can do is to empower your loved one.
Provide them with a plan of action if they feel unsafe, help them get the resources they need if they want to leave. Use the same tools that can be used to create a healthy relationship to make sure you’re being supportive and respectful of them. Speak openly but considerately, set boundaries on how you talk to each other and what limits have to be reached before you seek help and provide a boost to them if you notice your friend’s behavior or attitude changing. Being support for someone who needs it most isn’t always easy, but it will help them to potentially find the strength they need to leave and grow.
This post is brought to you in collaboration with the National Domestic Violence Hotline.