Healthy relationships are built on healthy communication, mutual respect, and trust. In a healthy relationship both partners feel valued and respected, and have their boundaries respected. Boundaries can be physical, emotional, and sexual. In a healthy relationship, each partner respects the other’s goals, whether they are personal, professional, or educational. It is also critical to respect each other’s need to spend time with other people or alone. The dynamics of healthy relationships can apply to intimate partners, friends, family, and co-workers.

Communication is a key element of a healthy relationship.

  • Using demeaning or passive-aggressive language and not expressing one’s needs can be damaging to a relationship.
  • Each partner should feel comfortable expressing their emotions, frustrations, and concerns without fear. In any relationship, there are times where there are disagreements, but in a healthy relationship it is possible to disagree in a mutually respectful way.
  • When having a disagreement, there should not be guilt tripping, manipulation, intimidation, violence, or threats of violence.
  • This includes symbolic violence such as throwing or breaking objects or damaging property during an argument.

Trust is another key component in a healthy relationship.

  • When trust has been earned in a relationship, jealousy should not be a factor.
  • When there is a lack of trust in a relationship it can manifest in ways such as resentment of time spent with others, monitoring communication in ways such as demanding to read text messages and emails, wanting passwords to social media accounts, and wanting phone calls to be taken on speakerphone. These types of behaviors show that one partner does not fully trust the other, and could also be potential red flags for controlling and abusive behavior.
  • When there is trust in a relationship one partner does not feel threatened by the other having other relationships with family and friends.

Respecting boundaries is another key factor in a healthy relationship. Not respecting someone’s boundaries can manifest in many different ways.

  • Not respecting someone’s emotional boundaries can include bringing up painful emotional wounds during arguments or using past traumas to hurt someone.
  • Sexual boundaries can be violated by refusing to practice safe sex, coercing someone into sexual activity that they are not comfortable with, sabotaging birth control, and ignoring safe words.
  • Physical boundaries can be violated if someone is uncomfortable with public displays of affection but their partner continues to show that behavior, not respecting personal space (particularly during arguments), and using physical touch in a way that one partner is not comfortable with.
  • It is important to know what your personal boundaries are and to be able to clearly communicate them so they can be respected.

Healthy relationships are critical to emotional connection and allow us to thrive. When someone has not had healthy relationships modeled for them, it can be difficult to have a healthy relationship. However, it is never too late to learn to have healthy relationships.

Prevention works!

Adolescence is an ideal time to intervene to break the cycle of domestic violence and to prevent dating violence. The most effective approaches use multiple strategies to engage youth and the important adults in their lives including parents, teachers and coaches.

SAFE’s Expect Respect® Program was one of the first and most comprehensive prevention programs in the U.S. Its team of 16 counselors and educators serves over 14,000 students each year through a variety of programs and services. Expect Respect also provides curriculum and training to help other communities replicate the program.

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