Building Healthy Relationships

Healthy Relationships

When a relationship is new, we are often so "into the other person" that we only see the good. Relationships can be one of the best, and most difficult parts of life. They can be exciting, challenging, energizing, intense, and a lot of work. Often these relationships can make you experience feelings you have never felt before. Be selective when getting involved with someone. Make sure they have the same qualities that you admire in your friends and family. In the end, you have to be able to both love and like the person you are with. Ultimately, relationships are about:

  • Friendship: Be a friend and respect each other. Learning about the other person, and valuing what's important to them is essential in a healthy relationship.
  • Patience and tolerance: Both partners need to recognize that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. Without the effort and compromise of both partners, the relationship cannot work. 
  • Understanding and support: What do you need to feel understood and supported? For many people, this means having a partner that challenges you, stands beside you when you need them, and catches you when you fall, yet gives you space to grow as a person.
  • Trust and intimacy: Means that you feel that you can count on each other and that the other person will be there for you. Trust is earned over time.
  • Be real: Let your partner get to know the "real you." In a healthy relationship, you need to accept the other person, flaws and all. Don't go into a relationship trying to change the other person.
  • Communication: This is how we show our respect, trust, and honesty. It requires listening to and sharing thoughts and feelings.
  • Safety: Both people feel physically and emotionally safe with each other. You're comfortable to set boundaries and say no without fear.
  • Honesty: You can be yourself. You don't hide things from your partner, your parents, or your friends. You may have things that are private, but not secretive. You are also able to be honest with yourself about your feelings.
  • Acceptance: You feel accepted by your partner for who you are, and you accept yourself when you are with your partner. You also accept your partner's boundaries, decisions, and values.
  • Respect: You feel valued and respected in your relationship. Your decisions, values, beliefs, and boundaries are respected and you offer that in return.
  • Enjoyment: You enjoy spending time together, but also know how to balance other things in your life. You also feel okay to have your own space.

An engaging, secure, and loving relationship can be an ongoing source of support and happiness. Good relationships strengthen all aspects of life: your health, your mind, and your daily life. However, if the relationship isn't supportive, it can be a tremendous drain. Relationships get better or worse, depending on how much, or how little we understand and invest in them. Identify which of the characteristics above can be found in your current or past relationships.

Choosing the Right Person for You

Here are some tips to help you make a good choice when it comes to entering a new relationship.

  • Listen; people will tell you exactly who they really are
  • Look for someone who is kind, considerate, and loving
  • Find someone you find interesting to talk to
  • Make sure you have the basics in common
  • Some differences are exciting and keep you on your toes
  • Find someone who makes you laugh

Life offers no guarantees and you can't be 100% sure about anything. Take your time, and pay attention to what gut is telling you. Listen to your friends and family; they won't steer you wrong. Picking the right person for the right reasons at the right time is a gift.

What are some relationship red flags?

Ask yourself the following questions. Does your partner...      

  • Get jealous often? Remember, love is not jealous!
  • Frequently check your cell phone, email, or other social media accounts?
  • Makes you feel guilty if you do things with your friends or your family?
  • Refuse to practice safe sex?
  • Use crude or disrespectful language when talking about you or others?
  • Do mean things to animals?
  • Start fights or threaten to start fights with you or others?
  • Blame you when he or she is angry?
  • Pressure you to use drugs or alchohol?
  • Have big mood swings that make it hard to know what to expect when you're together?
  • Accuse you of things you didn't do?
  • Embarrass you or put you down in front of your friends or in public?
  • Pressure you to have sex or do things that you don't want to do?
  • Pinch, hit, slap, push, grab, or inflict any type of physical abuse?

If you experience any of these "red flags" in your relationship, it's time to step away, get help, and get out of the relationship. It won't be easy but, you are worth it!

Be Aware of Manipulation Tactics (Gaslighting)

A form of emotional abuse, gaslighting, is a manipulation tactic used to take power and to make a victim question their reality. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers and narcissists. It is often done slowly so the victim does not realize they have been brainwashed. Psychology Today's website provides additional details.

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