What springs to mind when you think of your partner or the last time you spent time together?
A healthy relationship can enhance your life and makes you feel good about yourself. It can make you feel healthier, happier and more satisfied with life. A healthy relationship is one where you love one another, feel intimately connected and enjoy spending time together; but you have your own privacy and space, and still spend time with friends and family without your partner. You treat each other with respect and kindness, and you trust and are honest with each other. You feel able to speak your mind without fear and can have respectful disagreements.
You share the good times and help each other through the tough ones. At the end of the day, a healthy relationship feels like a safe, stable place to come home to. Healthy relationships are good for you, but a relationship can be extremely draining if it is not working or has become unhealthy. A relationship is unhealthy when it involves disrespectful, controlling or abusive behaviour. It causes stress that builds up over time and can spill into other areas of your life, such as family, work or social life.
Unhealthy relationships generally do not happen overnight. Some of us probably aren’t even aware of the dangerous direction our precious relationship is slipping into as we tend to turn a blind eye. The issue is that once the damage starts, it is infinitely difficult to reverse. Obviously, we all would like to have a healthy rather than an unhealthy relationship but you must be aware of the signs first.
Here are some characteristics of a healthy relationship:
- You care for one another and do things for each other that show it.
- You share activities that you both enjoy.
- Decisions are made together about things that affect you both.
- You make decisions about things that are important to you.
- You can share your thoughts and feelings openly.
- You respect and trust one another.
- You aren’t afraid of what the other may do, say or think.
- You feel that you can just “be yourself”.
A healthy relationship is one that consists of mutual love, respect, space, growth, encouragement, consent, independence, and overall good intent and deed. Of course, everyone makes mistakes, but if one hurts their partner in a serious way, and/or hurts them repeatedly over time, and makes no effort to change their flawed behaviour, it may be considered abusive and hurtful to their partner, and potentially themselves and others who may be involved indirectly. Unfortunately, our society often condones many injustices and abuses through the media, many which infiltrate our day to day lives and interactions. Staying aware, yet still having trust in your partner, and having open communication with your partner is the best way to ensure that the relationship stays mutually happy and healthy.
No one deserves to be in an unhealthy relationship, so if you feel you are currently in one, talk to your partner, talk to a friend or family member, get outside/professional help, and/or leave the relationship as soon as possible.
Here are some characteristics of an unhealthy relationship:
- Force, either physical or psychological, is used to try to control you.
- You are not allowed to freely associate with people you care about.
- You need permission to do things you want to.
- You must report where you have been and face accusations that you have been somewhere else or with someone else, “fun” gets carried away to the point of hurting you.
- You are criticized for what you wear or how you look or talk – you are verbally belittled.
- Your family or friends are criticized or made fun of.
- You are pressured to do things that you do not approve of, morally, sexually, etc.
- You feel you can’t ever let your guard down or just be yourself.
It is important to be educated about the value of respect and the characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships before you start dating. Sometimes we may not be equipped with the necessary skills to develop and maintain healthy relationships. If you feel like you are slipping into an unhealthy relationship, start dealing with it now.
The deeper your unhealthy relationship progresses, the harder it is to reverse or dissolve it. Lean on yourself and strengthen your self-confidence. With these things intact, you have a better shot at attracting a partner with the same level of self-differentiation, and you are well prepared for a healthy relationship.