Keeping Relationships Healthy

I absolutely love working with the thousands of women I meet as I travel all over the country. I get asked countless questions about what it takes to maintain a healthy relationship, however unfortunately some stories I hear make me question just how “healthy” that particular relationship really may be. Throughout our lives, we are involved with many different kinds of relationships. We have friendships, romances, work and school-related connections, family ties, and, quite often, associations that challenge these categories. Each of these situations has the potential to enrich us, adding to our feelings of self-worth, enjoyment and growth. These types of relationships are healthy and can bring many positive aspects to your life.

However, there are other situations where you may find yourself feeling uncomfortable. It can be difficult to come to the realization that a partner, friend, colleague or family member is not treating us with the respect we deserve. Keep in mind that in all kinds of interactions, there is likely to be some disagreement, need for compromise and times of frustration. These instances alone do not necessarily indicate that you are experiencing an unhealthy relationship. Below are some things to think about when considering whether a particular bond is a healthy one or not:

In a healthy relationship, you:

  • Treat each other with respect
  • Feel secure and comfortable
  • Are not violent with one another
  • Can resolve conflicts, even if it takes some work
  • Enjoy the time you spend together
  • Support one another
  • Take interest in one another’s lives (work, friends, hobbies)
  • Have privacy in the relationship
  • Can trust each other
  • Are each sexual by choice
  • Communicate clearly and openly
  • Have letters, phone calls and e-mail that are your own
  • Make healthy decisions about alcohol or other drugs
  • Encourage other friendships
  • Are honest about your past and present sexual activity if the relationship is intimate
  • Know that most people in your life are happy about the relationship
  • Have more good times in the relationship than bad

If you are experiencing an unhealthy relationship, at least one of you:

  • Tries to control or manipulate the other
  • Makes the other feel bad about themselves
  • Ridicules or call names
  • Dictates how the other dresses
  • Does not make time for the other
  • Criticizes the other’s friends
  • Is afraid of the other’s temper
  • Discourages the other from being close with anyone else
  • Ignores the other when they are speaking
  • Is overly possessive or get jealous about ordinary behavior
  • Criticizes (or supports others in criticizing) you for your gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, disability or other personal attribute
  • Controls the other’s money or other resources
  • Harms or threatens to harm children, family, pets or objects of personal value
  • Pushes, grabs, hits, punches or throws objects
  • Uses physical force or threats to prevent the other from leaving

Sometimes, it’s not so easy to decide if a troublesome tie should be maintained the way it is, worked on, or ended before it goes any further. One thing that is important to consider if you feel like you are experiencing an unhealthy relationship is if it was ever different than it is now. Is there something stressful happening that could be impacting the way you interact? Maybe money is tight, you’ve moved, you are looking for work, you are dealing with a difficult family circumstance or you are going through some other kind of transition. Or maybe there are problems from a while back that were never resolved and are now resurfacing. What in particular is bothering you, and what would you like to see change?

Discuss these questions with your partner or with someone you trust, like a friend, health care provider or counselor. You can find a reliable and certified counselor or therapist in you area by visiting www.aasect.org. Think about what you can each do (if anything) to make the other feel more comfortable in the relationship.

There are a lot of resources available to help you work through your relationship concerns and help you get back on track. The most important thing for you to do is to trust your instincts and the people close to you whose opinions you trust and value. Each and every one of us deserves to feel loved, cared for and valued. Keep in mind that one of the strongest signs of a healthy relationship is that both people involved feel good about themselves. Also, by treating yourself with self-respect and believing in your right to be treated well, you are taking important steps towards developing equitable, mutually fulfilling ties in the future.

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