First of all, I don’t think it’s fair to tell someone what a healthy relationship is. People differ and have different expectations, values, boundaries and the rest. However, there are clear cut lines that should never be crossed.
As a young girl, I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about stuff like this. Nobody pointed out things I shouldn’t look for in a partner. Nobody told me I didn’t have to put up with certain things. Nobody showed me I deserved better. Additionally, my own parents had an extremely toxic and manipulative relationship between them that I only realized when I got older. I found myself experiencing cycles of, to put it quite nicely, ain’t shit situations with ain’t shit people. (I see you exes, stay in your lane).
Now that I’m on this wonderful healing journey, I can’t help but see a stark difference in the people and things I attract into my life. I’ve also realized that it’s always much easier to help people understand what to NOT look for in a partner. Here are some major points I have learned along the way.
Open, honest and safe communication is essential. It’s a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. The first step to building a relationship is making sure you both understand each other’s needs and expectations—being on the same page is very important. What I’ve seen work many times is:
• Speaking Up. In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in.
• Respecting Each Other. Your partner’s wishes and feelings have value, and so do yours. Let your significant other know you are making an effort to keep their ideas in mind. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.
• Compromising. Disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships, but it’s important that you find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Try to solve conflicts in a fair and rational way.
• Being Supportive. Offer reassurance and encouragement to each other. Also, let your partner know when you need their support. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down.
• Respecting Each Other’s Privacy. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to share everything and constantly be together. Healthy relationships require space.
Establishing and maintaining boundaries is a good way to keep your relationship healthy and secure. By setting boundaries together, you can both have a deeper understanding of the type of relationship that you and your partner want. Boundaries are not meant to make you feel trapped or like you’re “walking on eggshells.” Creating boundaries is not a sign of secrecy or distrust — it’s an expression of what makes you feel comfortable and what you would like or not like to happen within the relationship.
Remember, healthy boundaries shouldn’t restrict your ability to:
• Go out with your friends without your partner.
• Participate in activities and hobbies you like.
• Not have to share passwords to your email, social media accounts or phone.
• Respect each other’s individual likes and needs.
Relationships that are not healthy are based on power and control, not equality and respect. In the early stages of an abusive relationship, you may not think the unhealthy behaviors are a big deal. However, possessiveness, insults, jealous accusations, yelling, humiliation, pulling hair, pushing or other abusive behaviors, are — at their root — exertions of power and control. Remember that abuse is always a choice and you deserve to be respected. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind.
If you think your relationship is unhealthy, it’s important to think about your safety now. Consider these points as you move forward:
• Understand that a person can only change if they want to. You can’t force your partner to alter their behavior if they don’t believe they’re wrong.
• Focus on your own needs. Are you taking care of yourself? Your wellness is always important. Watch your stress levels, take time to be with friends, get enough sleep. If you find that your relationship is draining you, consider ending it.
• Connect with your support systems. Often, abusers try to isolate their partners. Talk to your friends, family members, teachers and others to make sure you’re getting the emotional support you need. Remember, our advocates are always ready to talk if you need a listening ear.
• Think about breaking up. Remember that you deserve to feel safe and accepted in your relationship.
Even though you cannot change your partner, you can make changes in your own life to stay safe. Consider leaving your partner before the abuse gets worse. Whether you decide to leave or stay, make sure to use our safety tips to stay safe.
If your curious about your own relationship and if it’s healthy, take this fun and short quiz! It’ll give you some helpful insight just like it gave me!
If you find yourself in an abusive situation and would like help, here are some links that may offer some assistance.