Here at One Love, we are dedicated to helping everyone understand the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. Healthy relationships feel good and bring you up while unhealthy ones don’t feel great and can sometimes make you unhappy. While much of our #ThatsNotLove content focuses on defining unhealthy behaviors, we also want to show you what healthy relationships are all about.
Everyone deserves to be in a healthy, loving relationship and with the right person by your side, a healthy relationship is completely attainable. If you want to be that #relationshipgoals couple, here are 5 essentials for having a healthy relationship.
You’ve definitely heard the very cliché “communication is key.” But here’s the thing – it’s a cliché for a reason. Good communication is one of the most important aspects to having a healthy relationship. When starting a new relationship, it’s important to be able to talk about what you both want and expect. Sometimes this means being honest and having uncomfortable conversations, but if you’re in a healthy relationship your partner will be receptive and listen (and you should do the same). Being on the same page as your partner goes a long way and opening up to your partner about what’s bothering you, compromising over your disagreements and complimenting each other are all equally as important. While communication is important, you should both be comfortable with how often you talk to one another. If your partner needs you to always answer right away and text them all day long, and you don’t want that, that’s not healthy. On the flip side, if your partner is always ignoring your texts and it doesn’t make you feel good, then that’s not healthy either. Finding a communication balance that you’re both comfortable with is super important.
Listening to your partner (like actually listening, not just waiting to speak) and trying to understand their perspective is a key way to show respect in your relationship. Even if you disagree on the next POTUS or if you’re Team Kimye and they’re Team Taylor, respect your partner’s choices and opinions. Don’t try to persuade them to change their mind about things that are important to them, like going abroad for a semester or where they want to live post-graduation. In a healthy relationship, both partners will have mutual respect for one another. Just because you don’t always see eye to eye, it doesn’t mean that one person needs to change their mind in order for your relationship to work. Another key way to establish respect in a relationship is to be considerate of your partner’s privacy and boundaries. You are not entitled to know everything that your partner does and everyone who they interact with. It also means being mindful of your partner’s feelings and not doing things that might really hurt them, like keeping things that are supposed to be private just between you two. Having a healthy relationship isn’t defined by knowing each other’s passcodes and getting the pink heart emoji next to their name in Snapchat. While it’s cool if you share those things, healthy relationships require some space and a filter!
We all have personal boundaries on what makes us feel good, comfortable, safe, etc. In a healthy relationship, you should feel 100% comfortable communicating those boundaries and know that they will be respected (and vice versa for your partner). If you only want to hang out 3 times a week – that’s fine; if you want to wait before getting intimate – totally cool; if you want to keep your Monday Funday night with the biffles – do it! Remember that you shouldn’t feel nervous or scared to set personal boundaries in any relationship. And if you feel like your partner or friend is using boundaries to control you, like telling you not to hang out with friends or requiring you to share passwords, it’s time to rethink the relationship!
This is a big one. All healthy relationships require mutual and unguarded trust between partners. Regardless of what either partner has experienced in the past, like a cheating ex or a parent’s divorce, in a healthy relationship your partner will trust you completely. DO remember that it takes time to build trust in a relationship (it usually doesn’t come right off the bat!) and that when your partner fully trusts you with their feelings, you should respect them and not betray their trust. Cheating on them or doing things to make them jealous isn’t right. On the flip side, if you don’t trust your partner then you shouldn’t be with them. DON’T ever let your partner use their lack of trust or past experiences as an excuse to control you, question you or otherwise make you feel as though you need to go out of your to way earn their trust. Steadfast affection, support, respect, and communication will naturally strengthen the trust in your relationship.
One of the best things about being in a healthy relationship is having a supportive partner who you know has your back. Whether it’s sticking up for you when someone says something mean about you, or always being that rock you can rely on, in a healthy relationship you and your partner will support each other and treat each other as equals. Your partner won’t use tactics to manipulate you, control you or put you down. They will be protective of you, but not overly possessive. They will encourage you to spend time with friends and family, work toward your personal goals and have a life outside of your relationship. Supportive partners will always want what’s best for you, and they won’t hold you back from achieving your dreams. In a healthy relationship, you’ll feel like yourself and not like you have to change things or make huge sacrifices so that the relationship can thrive.
What isn’t healthy?
Ultimately, an unhealthy relationship is based on power and control, not love and respect. If you feel like your partner is using tactics to control you, then that is a big red flag and you should talk to someone that can help. Your partner doesn’t have to physically harm you for your relationship to be abusive. If your relationship is great most of the time, but unhealthy sometimes, that’s not good enough. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship and there is never an excuse for abuse. Even if there is a history of mental illness, cheating or other hardships either in or outside of your current relationship, those are not excuses for abusive behavior. It’s also crucial to know that you can’t change your partner. If you are in an abusive relationship, you should seek help — don’t wait for your partner to change.
For more examples of healthy vs. unhealthy relationship behaviors, check out the Couplets chapter of our #ThatsNotLove campaign.