Equality is the basis of any healthy relationship. That doesn’t mean that all partners’ are the same- it means that each partner’s contributions and feelings are valued equally and taken into equal consideration- there is not one person who is responsible for making all of the decisions in a relationship.
Below is a diagram that depicts some components of a healthy relationship. Note that at the center of any relationship, whether romantic or platonic, is a respect for one another.
The reality is, relationships take work and aren’t always healthy 100% of the time. There are going to be disagreements that arise when two or more people attempt to balance each other's needs. Healthy relationships evolve when all partners are checking in, communicating, and working toward keeping the relationship healthy. Relationships, like the people in them, are unique and constantly evolving.
No two relationships function in the same way, and only the people involved can decide what works for them and what doesn't. Boundaries, trust, openness and honesty are all important aspects of a healthy relationship. No party should feel pressured, coerced, or unsafe in their interactions with one another.
Having difficulty with communication or other issues in your relationship? Did you know that University Counseling Services offers free individual and couples therapy? Schedule an appointment by going to their offices in the University Student Commons on the Monroe Park Campus, Room 238, or the VMI Building on the Health Sciences Campus (MCV), Room 412.
Boundary Setting in a Relationship
A healthy relationship begins with knowing who you are and what you value. Having boundaries can help you grow and experience your relationship in a more comfortable and safe environment. Sometimes boundaries are fluid and change over time, but boundaries should never be pushed, ignored, or crossed by another person. Ask yourself...
- What do I need from a partner(s)?
- What do I want from a relationship?
- What things/actions in a relationship would be deal-breakers for me?
- In what ways am I willing/not willing to compromise?
- What motivates me to be in this particular relationship?
- What are my reasons for staying?
- What are my feelings regarding this relationship?
- What are my partner’(s) feelings regarding this relationship?
- When I interact with my partner(s)- what values guide those interactions?
Sometimes we expect others to be mind-readers, assuming that others should know that we are feeling a certain way, why we feel that way, and what we expect them to do in response. Mind-reading is impossible for even the most thoughtful individuals. That is why communicating and negotiating expectations in relationships is extremely important.
Using I-Statements to communicate can help partners to reflect on and own their own feelings and behavior. I-statements are just one way to communicate our feelings to other people. The basic structure of an I-statement is: “I feel ________ when you _________ because ________. In the future, can you ______?” I-statements do not have to be so robotic, though. The idea is to clearly share the impact of another person’s behavior. Consider the difference in tone in the following examples:
- You’re always staring at your phone when we’re together! Do you even want to be with me?
- I feel disconnected from you when you’re staring at your phone when we have meals together, because I want to spend quality time with you. Can we figure out a compromise?
- You were an hour late and I was waiting all by myself! You’re such a jerk!
- I feel frustrated and worried when you don’t let me know when you’re going to be late, because I care about you and value my time. In the future can you text me when you’re running late?
Beware of "you statements" disguised as "I statements." For example, saying "I feel like you're a jerk" or "I feel like you shouldn't be on your phone so much" are not true "I statements."
Remember, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to resolving conflict. People can use calm, rational I-statements in both helpful and hurtful ways, just as they can use loud and emotional conflict skills in both helpful and hurtful ways.
(Adapted from the Northwest Network Relationship Skills Class)
Healthy relationships are those in which all parties feel safe physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. Everyone is able to be themselves. Relationships are healthier when partners:
- Respect physical, emotional, and sexual boundaries
- Spend time together as well as time apart
- Give space to hang out with friends and family without accusations of cheating
- Respect pronouns and name
- Never threaten to “out” or spread rumors
- Communicate openly and honestly
Healthy relationships are those in which all parties feel safe physically, emotionally, sexually, and spiritually. All parties are able to be themselves.