Relationships can be, to put it lightly, complicated at times. You finally think you’ve found that special someone, so why aren’t things perfect all the time? Well, like a lot of things, relationships can be greatly improved with the right expectations and perspective. It’s good to know what qualities healthy relationships have and what are warning signs of an unhealthy relationship sooner rather than later. Obviously there isn’t a written code or book of rules on how to make every relationship work perfectly, but knowing what to look for and how to manage the bumps in the road can make all the difference in the world.
There are three important qualities that should be present in healthy relationships (they’re not the only good qualities, but these are easy to remember), the three C’s: communication, compromise, and commitment. All three of these should be equal, two-way exchanges between partners. Effective communication is not only what you say, but how you say it. Are you able to tell your partner when something is wrong, or even how much you appreciate them? Being able to communicate both the good and the bad in a relationship is so important. Compromise helps to show that both partners in a relationship bring differing opinions and experiences to the table, and being able to recognize and appreciate those differences is critical, even if they can lead to disagreement. Being able to work through disagreements and fights fairly and respectfully is a far more healthy way to approach those situations when they arise rather than verbal and/or physical abuse. If both parties feel heard and understood, it helps pave the way to move forward from a fight. Finally, commitment means putting a certain priority in the relationship and one’s partner. This means a lot of personal sacrifice of one’s time, energy, and resources, but between two equally committed and loving people, the payoff is a relationship that is very much worth it, building trust and intimacy through the challenges that life brings. Again, these qualities aren’t the only factors to keep in mind, but they put down a great foundation to build a relationship upon. Other qualities to note would be mutual trust, respect, loyalty, responsibility, support, fairness, independence, and honesty, to name a few.
All of this is well and good, but what are things to look for if you feel you or somebody you know is in an unhealthy relationship? A big sign is that the relationship is based on control rather than respect. Is someone being made to do or not to do things based only on pressure from their partner? Are people being kept from spending time away from their partner either by themselves or with family or friends? Is there more control/manipulation rather than clear discussion and communication between partners? These patterns of behaviors are big red flags in an unhealthy relationship, signaling either that the relationship should be ended, and/or to seek some sort of professional help with how to move forward. Unhealthy relationships help nobody in the end, and some people won’t change unless they see the problem and want to change. A relationship flourishes when it’s built from respect, fairness, and kindness, not when one person is controlling and manipulating the other or actively trying to hurt them (not always just physically). As always, should you feel you’re in a position where you need help, that’s what the counseling center is here for.
If this topic interests you, then please join us on Tuesday, November 19th at 7 pm in Grewen Auditorium for “Awkwardly Awesome”, a program all about promoting more open and honest communication. This event is co-sponsored by the Wellness Center for Health and Counseling and Vera House with collaboration from Dolphins Against Violence, and will feature Tiffany Brecht, our college liaison from Vera House. If that’s not enough, free t-shirts will be given to the first 75 students who participate! The next day (Wednesday, November 20th), the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Global Education will be sponsoring “Healthy Relationships” in their Tea and Talk series 5 pm in the Reilly Room.