Love Shouldn’t Hurt: Healthy Relationships

Whether someone is engaging in a one-night hookup, or something more long-term, everyone deserves for their relationships to be safe and healthy. A “healthy” relationship should be built on constructive communication, trust, respect, and mutually-set boundaries. A healthy relationship isn’t controlling and doesn’t make anyone feel powerless.

Healthy communication starts with finding the right place and time to connect with one another.  Try talking face-to-face rather than over phone or text, because this can help avoid the risk of miscommunication.  It is also important to be honest with one another about what may be bothersome in the relationship. Good communication can initiate conflict resolution. Even though conflict in a relationship isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it is important to know how to deal with it effectively. A tip for resolving conflict: find the source of the real issue and tackle it head-on. Sometimes it might be easier to agree to disagree, and it’s important to compromise when it’s possible.

Healthy relationships cannot function if trust does not exist between partners. There should be support and compassion between partners, without one person needing to supervise the other.  One indicator of lack of trust in the relationship is when one person feels the need to constantly monitor the other. It is important to remember, however, that someone who may have had trust issues in the past may not always carry that with them into a new relationship. It is unfair to compare new partners to previous partners.

Setting boundaries of different kinds is also essential.  These boundaries can be emotional, physical, or digital.  Emotional boundaries might involve deciding when to say “I love you” to one another, for example, or it may mean taking some time apart. Physical boundaries involve respecting each partner’s desire (or lack thereof) to move forward sexually.  This will require honest and open communication between partners to determine everyone’s individual wants and needs.  Finally, partners should discuss digital boundaries.  How much (if any) of the relationship should be put online? Passwords should only be kept with the owner of the account(s); there’s no need for someone to have control over their partner’s social media accounts and/or phone.

Finally, partners in healthy relationships always understand consent.  Only “yes” means “yes”; a lack of a “no” or a “maybe” does not mean “yes.” Some suggestions of what to ask during the heat of the moment are: “Are you okay?/Is this okay?” and “Do you want to go further?” Consent also needs to be given for every type of activity. Just because someone said “yes” to one thing doesn’t mean they’re saying “yes” to everything else. Saying “yes” while intoxicated or pressuring someone into saying “yes” is not consent. Finally, even if consent has been given for activities in the past, that doesn’t mean consent is being given for activities in the future. There shouldn’t be any sort of obligation to have sex with someone. It’s important to be confident in any decisions made and to communicate with each other so no one’s left in the dark.

On a final note, LGBTQ+ relationships may have special concerns in addition to the ones discussed above.  Some signs of an unhealthy LGBTQ+ relationship include one’s partner not referring to them by their preferred pronouns/name, telling them their sexuality, gender, etc. isn’t “real,” or threatening to out them to others.

Relationships and what they entail can sometimes be complicated, but it’s essential to know what makes up a healthy relationship.

To support our students and campus community, we have compiled a list of resources:

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