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.
Relationships take work. Relationships aren't always 100% healthy all the time. There isn't a magical point in a relationship where everyone involved steps back and says, "We did it- our relationship is healthy. It is only smooth sailing from here." There are going to be disagreements, frustrations, and issues 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. Maintaining boundaries and trust, being open and honest, and creating a safe space where nobody feels pressured or coerced are important elements of keeping a relationship healthy.
Having difficulty with communication or other issues in your relationship? Did you know that University Counseling Services offers Couples Therapy? Stop by their offices in The Commons, Room 238 or VMI Building, Room 412 to schedule an appointment.
Boundary Setting in a Relationship
A healthy relationship begins with self-awareness. If you don’t know what you want or who you are- it is easier for someone to push your limits and impose their own values. Having boundaries helps you grow and experience things in a comfortable and safe environment. Boundaries can sometimes be fluid and can change over time, but boundaries should never be pushed, ignored, or crossed by another person. Ask yourself...
- What do you need from a partner(s)?
- What do you 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 you to be in this particular relationship?
- What are your reasons for staying?
- What are your feelings regarding this relationship?
- What are your partner’(s) feelings regarding this relationship?
- When you interact with your 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. This is impossible for even the most thoughtful individuals. That is why being able to communicate and negotiate expectations in relationships is extremely important.
Using I-Statements to communicate help partners to reflect on and own their own feelings and behavior.
I-statements are 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 (NOT the person). 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?
(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.