*If you are in a violent or abusive relationship or in immediate danger call 911*
Healthy relationships involve a variety of skills and encompass many different components.
Healthy Relationships Overview
Feeling unhappy in your relationship? Fighting more often than not with your partner? Wondering what you can do to make your relationship stronger? Even if you are in a healthy relationship, these skills can help make it even better.
This page is designed to help develop healthy relationship skills for people in all types of relationships—romantic, friendship, or professional. We use the word “partner” as an inclusive term for anyone with whom you are in a relationship.
To explore how to make your relationship a healthy(ier) one, we focus on four main topics:
Having positive self-esteem creates stronger relationships. Sometimes, we think our partners are there to make us happy; however, it our responsibility to create and maintain our own happiness. It is important to fill your own voids and not rely on someone else to do it for you.
Different people have different levels of comfort. Because we all have different comfort levels, it is important to ask for consent when engaging in sexual activities (kissing, touching, oral/anal/vaginal sex) with your partner. Respecting boundaries is about checking in at every step of sexual interaction and waiting for your partner’s answer. NEVER assume consent.
There are many forms of communication: talking on the phone, on IM, through texts, and in person to name a few. Some of these forms, particularly when technology becomes involved, limit our ability to communicate clearly. We do not communicate simply through the words we use, but also through tone of voice and body language. If you notice technology is interfering with effective communication, plan to meet in person when discussing important issues with your partner.
In every situation, we have three options as to how to react: passive, aggressive, or assertive.
- Passive behavior: not expressing feelings, ignoring personal rights, allowing others to infringe upon them, being emotionally dishonest and self-denying
- Aggressive behavior: expressing feelings at the expense of others, ignoring the rights of others, dominating or humiliating others, expressing but acting defensive and hostile
- Assertive behavior: expressing feelings in ways that don’t violate the rights of others, being honest, direct, expressive, self-enhancing
Although in certain situations passive or aggressive behavior may be called for, assertive behavior is typically the best and clearest style of communication for building and maintaining relationships.
“I statements” are critical to communicating assertively with a partner. By using I statements, you can assert your own feelings and thoughts without putting others on the defensive. For example, saying “I feel unhappy when…” allows you to clearly express your feelings without attacking or judging the other person. When you verbalize your feelings you give others all of the information they need to treat you well. If they do not respond in the way that you hoped, that empowers you to decide if you’re being treated well enough to stick with the relationship or if it’s time to move on. For a list of feeling words to use with I statements, click here.
Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
- Can’t be honest about your feelings or talk about them freely with your partner.
- Think you can make your partner’s problems go away.
- Are afraid of your partner’s temper, so you avoid making him/her angry.
- Usually feel unhappy in this relationship.
- Breathe a sigh of relief when your partner leaves the room.
- Wants to know where you are and who you are with at all times.
- Won’t let you talk to others, even if they are your friends.
- Criticizes your friends or family and asks you to stop seeing them.
- Decides how you spend your time together.
- Has the power to make you feel bad and uses it.
- Scares you by driving fast, drinking too much or doing other risky things.
- Has threatened to hurt you or has hurt you, even if s/he is sorry afterwards.
- Tells you that it’s your faulty s/he hurt you.
- Makes threats about hurting your friends or pets, or threatens to kill him/herself if you don’t obey or agree.
- Pressures you to do sexual things when you don’t want to.
- Does not support your decision to practice safer sex.
- Won’t accept breaking up.
- Abuses drugs or alcohol and pressures you to take them.
- Blames you or others for their problems.
- Does not respect privacy or personal space.
- Have warned you that they are concerned for you.
How to help a friend
If a friend tells you he or she is in a violent or abusive dating relationship (whether as the victim or the offender), here are some suggestions on how you can help:
- Don’t ignore signs of abuse. Talk to your friend.
- Express your concern and support. Tell your friend you’re worried. Support, don’t judge.
- Inform your friend about available help and share the resources provided here.
- Never put yourself in a dangerous situation with the victim’s partner. Don’t be a mediator or otherwise become directly involved.
- If you see or hear an assault in progress, call the police. Do not intervene and jeopardize your own safety.
How to Host a Healthy Relationships Program
Interested in sharing this information with your organization or residence floor? The Student Anti Violence Educators (SAVE) at TCNJ are currently offering a program on Healthy Relationships. For more information on resources available through the Office of Anti Violence Initiatives (OAVI) or to arrange a meeting, please contact Jackie Deitch-Stackhouse at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on healthy relationships, check out these websites: