Talking Mental Health: Healthy Relationships

Nearly all of us have observed, or perhaps even experienced, a romantic relationship that didn’t seem right. Maybe you’ve had a friend who seemed smothered by her jealous boyfriend, or were surprised to hear the way a friend spoke to her partner.

Maybe you wondered why that person stayed in the relationship or it helped you clarify how you want to be treated by the future people you date. We all want to feel heard, respected and supported and that is exactly what a healthy relationship should do for you.

A healthy relationship is based on honesty and trust. You should feel safe to make decisions freely, and should extend that right to your boyfriend or girlfriend.  When you value fairness, openness and equality in your relationships you convey trust and high regard; everyone deserves a relationship that makes them feel that way.

When you work toward open communication intentionally, you ensure that your partner can share their true feelings with confidence.
Everyone has a unique identity and personality, and your relationships should not undermine your confidence or self-esteem. When communication slows or starts to break down, it can easily become miscommunication.

Miscommunication is one way that a healthy relationship can turn into an unhealthy one. Every now and then it is important to examine your relationship and how it makes you feel to detect any gradual changes; it’s a slippery slope from a healthy relationship to an unhealthy one and into an abusive one.

Negative changes that become the norm can lead to acceptance of a relationship that isn’t healthy for you. Just because you’ve developed unhealthy patterns in your relationship, doesn’t mean things can’t change. As long as you both still trust and respect each other and want what is best, negative patterns can be resolved in a comfortable and healthy way.

Sit down and talk about how you are really feeling. Don’t make accusations, instead use “‘I’ statements” like ‘I feel rejected when you want to go out with your friends instead of me’ or ‘I feel hurt when you text other people while I am talking’.

These statements give your significant other the chance to understand you better and the opportunity to express themselves instead of being defensive. Your partner might explain that maintaining a social life outside of you is important, this gives you the opportunity to be supportive rather than working against it.

When two people respect each other and value each other’s autonomy and individuality, an unhealthy relationship is not likely to become abusive. A relationship is abusive when someone is being controlled or threatened by the other person. There are many examples of abusive behaviour.

If one person suggests that something bad will happen if the other doesn’t comply with his or her decisions, for instance. Or if one person feels intimidated by certain looks, actions or gestures from the other.

Other signs that you are in an abusive relationship are if your social life is being monitored or controlled, if you are being coerced into having sex against your will, if you are being teased or ridiculed in a way that makes you feel bad or if you are being treated like you are subservient in any way rather than equal in the relationship.

If you find yourself in an abusive relationship, it’s important to get help. If you feel unsafe in your relationship, you can contact the Waterloo Region Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Centre or go to the emergency room at St Mary’s Hospital.  You can also always call or drop in to Counselling Services for support in dealing with any aspect of your relationships.

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