Everyone wants a healthy relationship, but how do you go about creating one? The most important thing to remember is that healthy relationships take a ton of effort and work from both people in the relationship.
There are four major qualities present in a healthy relationship: trust, honesty, communication, and respect. These may sound like small things but they cover a lot. Being supportive, listening, and treating each other equally are great ways to show respect in a relationship. Setting boundaries, keeping your word and believing in your partner are excellent ways to show trust and honesty. You can show good communication by expressing your feelings, listening, and talking rather than yelling when you have an argument. These are just some ideas to get you started. One more thing, it’s O.K. to make mistakes. Even adults have to work really hard at making healthy relationships work, just keep trying.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you know if your relationship is healthy:
- Does your partner encourage you to have interests outside the relationship? Do you encourage your partner to do the same?
- Do you have to be together all the time?
- What are five things you like about your partner?
- Can you have different opinions and still get along? Are you friends?
- Does your partner understand when you want to spend time with other friends?
Unhealthy relationships are missing trust, honesty, respect and/or communication. Sometimes unhealthy behavior feels good. It might feel flattering if someone wants to be with you all the time and doesn’t want you to go out with friends. Acting that way shows that your partner doesn’t trust you, and while it may feel good at first, pretty soon jealousy and all unhealthy behavior, becomes suffocating and uncomfortable. People aren’t perfect, but when unhealthy behavior becomes a habit instead of a rare mistake, it’s time to evaluate the relationship.
In abusive relationships one partner uses unhealthy behavior to gain power and control over the other partner. For example, an abusive partner may use a guilt trip to control who their partner hangs out with: “If you really loved me you wouldn’t go out with your friends.” Sometimes they will use violence to get their partner to act a certain way. Abusive relationships don’t always start out abusive. They start out like any relationship. Usually there’s a really intense time of getting to know each other and spending a lot of time together. Abusive relationships gradually become abusive maybe it starts with name calling, or possessiveness, or a push during an argument. It can be hard, if you’re in the relationship, to recognize if it’s becoming abusive. Here are some warning signs that your relationship isn’t healthy and is becoming abusive. If you feel . . .
- Afraid of your partner.
- Like you never make them happy or that all the problems in the relationship are your fault.
- Scared to disagree with your partner.
- Pressures you to do things you don’t want to do.
- Embarrasses you on purpose.
- Intimidates or threatens you.
- Makes all the choices in the relationship.
- Prevents you from seeing your friends or doing other activities.
- Hurts you.
If you find yourself answering “yes” to any of these questions, please talk to a trusted adult or contact your local resources. These are big signs that your relationship is unhealthy and could be abusive.
How to help friends in abusive relationships
It can be really hard to know what to do if you have a friend in an abusive relationship. Here are some things you can do:
- Listen without judging.
- Tell them it’s not their fault and that they don’t deserve to be treated abusively.
- Let them know that you’re concerned about them.
- Encourage them to talk to a trusted adult, and go with them if they need support.
- Keep being their friend.
- Give them our hotline number 1-877-538-9717 – or contact us via web
It is NOT helpful to put down the abuser or tell the victim what to do. These things only make the victim feel worse, which can prevent them from talking to you in the future.
Being a friend to someone in an abusive relationship takes a lot of energy and effort on your part. Be sure to find support for you too! The hotline is a place you can call for support and information.