- A Healthy Relationship is...
- Building a Healthy Relationship in College
- Communicating Effectively About Relationships/Intimacy
Healthy relationships can look a lot of different ways - they can be with partners, spouses, boyfriends/girlfriends, or dates. They can be long term or short term. However you define your relationship, you want it to be healthy.
A healthy relationship is a connection between people that increases well-being, is mutually enjoyable, and enhances or maintains each individual’s positive self-concept.* Healthy relationships are characterized by respect, sharing and trust. It is based on the belief that both partners are equal, that the power and control in the relationship are equally shared. Some of the characteristics of a healthy relationship are respect and (in intimate relationships) healthy sexuality.
Respect means listening to one another, valuing each other’s opinions, and listening in a non-judgmental manner. Respect also involves attempting to understand and affirm the other’s emotions.
Healthy sexuality is another element of healthy relationships between intimate partners. Healthy sexuality is the capacity to understand, enjoy, and control one’s own sexual and reproductive behavior in a voluntary and responsible manner that enriches individuals and their social lives. Sexuality is an integral part of the human experience with physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual dimensions.**
Healthy relationships and healthy sexual expression are frequently characterized by:
- Communication: how we express our thoughts, ideas, and feelings, including what we say (or choose not to say) to others, and how we say it. We communicate with our words, but we also communicate attitudes, values, priorities, and beliefs. We do this through our every-day behaviors and our non-verbal communication — the things say not with our words, but with our gestures, our facial expressions, and our attitude. Communicating openly and truthfully is an essential part of health relationships.
- Accountability: admitting mistakes or errors, accepting responsibility for personal behavior (including acknowledging past use of violence)
- Mutual support: supporting each other’s goals in life and respecting each other’s right to his/her own feelings, opinions, friends, activities and interests.
- Choice: Both members of a relationship should enjoy engaging in (or refraining from) activities of their own choosing.
- Shared responsibility: making relationship decisions together, mutually agreeing on a distribution of work which is fair to both partners.
- Economic partnership: making financial decisions together and making sure both partners benefit from financial arrangements.
- Negotiation and fairness: willingness to compromise, accept change, and seek mutually satisfying solutions to conflict.
- Non-threatening behavior: talking and acting in a way that promotes both partners’ feelings of safety in the relationship.
Source: Katherine, A., Boundaries: Where you end and I begin, Fireside Publications, 2000)
* Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Sexual Violence & Intimate Partner Violence (August 2009). Virginia Sexual & Domestic Violence Action Alliance: Richmond, VA.
** “Sexuality and Social Change: Making the Connection Strategies for Action and Investment” (2006). Ford Foundation: New York, NY.
Eight Steps to Maintaining a Healthy Relationship
- Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the relationship.
- Let one another know what your needs are.
- Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside of the relationship.
- Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.
- Do not demand that a partner change to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences between your ideal mate and the real person you are dating.
- Try to see things from the other's point of view. This doesn't mean that you must agree with one another all the time, but rather that both of you can understand and respect each other's differences, points of view, and separate needs.
- Where critical differences do exist in your expectations, needs, or opinions, try to work honestly and sincerely to negotiate. Seek professional help early rather than waiting until the situation becomes critical.
- Do your best to treat your partner in a way that says, "I love you and trust you, and I want to work this out."
(Source: UT Counseling & Mental Health Center)