Healthy Relationships can be a source of joy throughout our lives. It’s important to understand what a healthy relationship is as well as ways to keep your relationship healthy.
First, let’s look at some of the ingredients that make up a healthy relationship:
- Communication. Effective communication is key! You should feel comfortable speaking up if something is bothering you. Understanding your partner’s communication style is important.
- Respect. Showing respect for one another is essential. Both people’s ideas and opinions are valid and important.
- Compromise. Learning to compromise is a necessity for a healthy relationship. Try to be fair and rational when solving conflicts.
- Support. Offer reassurance and encouragement to your partner. Build each other up!
- Space and Privacy. Often overlooked is the ability or allow space and have healthy boundaries in your relationship. Healthy relationships allow each individual to have some of their own privacy and space. For example: going out with friends without your partner, participating in your own hobbies, and not having to share passwords to social media, email, etc.
- Affection. Healthy relationships include affection towards one another and nurturing each other.
- Attention. Don’t forget to take time and recall what you love and admire about your partner.
Since communication is such an important part of a Healthy Relationship, here are some suggestions for effective communication.
- Find the right time to talk about difficult issues. Try to pick a time when you and your partner are both calm and free of other distractions.
- The way you raise an issue and initiate a conversation is a big predictor of how the discussion will go. Try to avoid putting your partner on the defensive. Using a calm, positive approach increases the likelihood that the communication will be seen as non-threatening.
- Stick to talking about how YOU feel. Use the words “I” and “me” to describe your point of view. “You” statements can make your partner feel attacked.
- Try to stick to one issue at a time. Try to be explain your feelings simply and concisely. Being brief decreases the chances your partner will “tune out”.
- After you have used these suggestions to get your message across, your partner should re-state in their own words what you just said. This will give you an idea if your message came across.
- Once your message was received, move on. It may be time to problem solve, compromise, or simply “agree to disagree”.
It’s also important to understand some of the basic styles of communication. Here are some examples of different communication styles:
- Passive (Non-Assertive): This style of communication is indirect and inhibited. These individuals are not communicating their feelings and needs. Nonverbal cues include looking down or away and a failure to make eye contact. This style of communication allows others to disregard your rights and needs.
- Passive-Aggressive: This style of communication uses manipulation and indirect communication. These individuals have a need for control but do not want to expose vulnerability. This style of communication does not contribute to healthy relationships.
- Aggressive: This style of communication expresses feelings and needs at the expense of others. It may seem defensive and hostile. Non-verbal cues include crossing arms, eye rolling, or finger pointing. Over time, this style can alienate and hurt others.
- Assertive: This style includes communicating your thoughts and feelings without violating the rights of others. Non-verbal cues include eye contact, straight posture, and relaxed gestures. This style should affirm your needs and desires to another while respecting their rights.
Wondering if your relationship is healthy? Test it out by taking the “Am I a Good Boyfriend/Girlfriend” quiz linked here to get a check on your own behaviors.
It’s also important to have an idea of signs to look for that may indicate an unhealthy or abusive relationship.
These qualities in a partner may indicate an abusive relationship:
- Checks your cell phone or email without your permission.
- Constantly puts you down.
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Explosive temper
- Isolates you from family or friends
- Makes false accusations
- Mood swings
- Physically hurts you in any way
- Tells you what to do
For more information on healthy relationships and warning signs, visit healthservices.boisestate.edu or www.loveisrespect.org. Download ‘Living Out the Five Love Languages’ and ‘The Relationship Spectrum’ for more information.