Many people want healthy relationships in their lives, but defining a healthy relationship can be tricky. Relationships are informed by one’s cultural identity, relationship history, and a range of factors and so they can vary in terms of closeness, purpose, and meaning. Below are some ideas to consider when reflecting on how to achieve healthier relationships in your life.
Qualities of Healthy Relationships:
Each of us is different. There is no one way to a healthy relationship, though there are certain qualities important to most. These include:
- Respecting individuality, embracing differences, and allowing each person to “be themselves”
- Discussing things, allowing for differences of opinion, and compromising equally
- Expressing and listening to each other’s feelings, needs, and desires
- Trusting and being honest with yourself and each other
- Resolving conflicts in a rational, peaceful, and mutually agreed upon way
- Engaging in a way that eliminates controlling, manipulative, or emotional and/or physical abuse
Other Characteristics of Healthy Relationships:
- Each person has individual rights
- Open communication
- Mutual respect for opinions
- Equality in decision making
- Shared respect for each other’s values
- Respect for each person’s sexual boundaries
- Willingness to honestly discuss problems
- Willingness to tell your partner what you need or want
- Always using a nonviolent approach to resolving conflict
- Understanding that conflict and anger are okay
- Taking responsibility for yourself
- Accepting the fact that everyone makes mistakes
- Owning your own mistakes
- Joy and playfulness
- Accepting responsibility for your own happiness
Possible Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
Sometimes a relationship begins positively and only gradually takes more unhealthy forms. It can be all too easy to fall into problematic patterns without realizing. It can be important to ask yourself if any of these are t:
- Your partner gets jealous when you talk to a friend who is viewed as a threat
- Your partner or friend tells you how to dress
- You can’t trust this person and you wonder what this person is doing when they are not with you
- You feel scared or uncomfortable around this person
- This person does not like you to be close to other people
- Your partner’s friends are always more important than you
- Your partner pressures you to be sexual with them
- This person often yells at you or calls you names
- This person tries to control or manipulate you
Direct, kind, and clear communication is the most effective way to communicate with your partner, and we realize this is easier said than done. We can minimize conflict by learning to express our needs, wants, hopes, and desires clearly and caringly. This can help us prevent larger conflicts or fights that are created by unacknowledged feelings building inside. We can also listen to other people and hear what they have to say. Respecting them as well as ourselves is part of this process.
- “I want this, but what do you want?”
- “How can we work this out?”
- “I care about what you need. I want to solve this.”
- “When you don’t acknowledge what I said, I feel unimportant.”
- “I am unsure of why I am reacting this way right now, so can we talk about this when I have had more time to think about this?”
- You often get your needs met.
- You build and maintain the relationship.
- Your partner respects you.
- You work towards peace in the relationship.
- You feel heard and prevent your emotions from escalating.
Support Resources to Help Strengthen Your Relationships
If you read about some of these factors and are noticing signs of an unhealthy relationship or if you want support regarding how to build and maintain healthy relationships, here are some resources to consider:
University Counseling & Testing Center: The UCTC provides individual therapy and many therapy groups such as Healthy Relationships or Understanding Self and Others that can support you in examining your relationships and identifying how to improve their health.
UO Center for Family Therapy: The CFT provides couple’s therapy and support regarding relationship issues and couples' conflict.