What is a healthy relationship? First and foremost, in trying to define “healthy,” keep in mind that you have the right and power to end a relationship at any time if you’re made to feel uneasy or uncomfortable – even if the “signs” of an unhealthy relationship don’t necessarily apply.
Being smart about who you date and why you date will keep you farther away from a broken heart, but how do you know the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship? In many unhealthy relationships, one dating partner abuses the other in various ways – an issue sometimes referred to as dating violence. The abuse, or abuses, can be:
- Mental/Emotional Abuse (usually verbal): name-calling, belittling, or constantly humiliating.
- Physical Abuse: can be slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, forcing a dangerous/scary situation.
- Sexual Abuse: a partner forcing another to do something sexual that is not agreed upon or makes him/her feel uncomfortable.
It’s important to note that victims of dating violence don’t always know that they’ve entered into a dangerous relationship, oftentimes not even until they’re already caught up in the cycle of abuse with their partner. If you’ve wondered why someone stays in an abusive relationship, consider that it may not always be as easy to get out of it as you might assume. When a person is violent in a relationship, the victim must remember he or she is never responsible for the abuser’s behavior. If you know someone in an abusive relationship and they talk with you about their situation, there are three things you can do to help them:
- Listen. Give your full attention to the victim while they talk with you; try not to interrupt them while they tell their story.
- Believe. Seventy-five percent of young people turn to a friend for help when they’re experiencing abuse. Believe your peers if they talk to you about any violence they say they’re going through. Saying something like, “I believe you and it’s not your fault,” may help.
- Support. Ask your friend what kind of support they need. Try not to assume what they need and do not act on anything before talking to them first.
Now that you know more about dating violence/unhealthy relationships, you should know what a healthy relationship looks like. A healthy relationship should include the following parts from both partners:
- Self-worth. Your partner should make you feel accepted and wanted.
- Communication. Be honest and direct about what you want and need from your partner, and in life.
- Agreements. Talk about your roles in decision-making with your partner and make sure you agree on what feels okay to share, like emotional boundaries.
- Independence. Know who you are, and spend time with family and friends separate from one another.
Questions to ask yourself throughout your relationships:
- Do I feel positive or negative about who I am?
- How do we communicate, and are we able to disagree without starting a fight?
- What kind of agreements have we made and how well do they work for us?
- How are we involved with others? Do we spend individual time with family and friends?
If the answer is ever “No” to any of these questions, don’t hesitate to seek support from people you trust. You should never feel threatened in any relationship you have. You always have the right to live free from fear and abuse and have happy and enriching relationships.
Additional Source: Dating Violence Intervention and Prevention for Teenagers. Kraizer, Sherryll, Ph.D, and C. Lyn Larson.
Photos by Sophia Gallegos