When you first read the title of this post you might think “well this is going to be obvious, EVERYONE knows what a healthy relationship looks like”. Let me tell you right now, that is definitely not the case! You might even be in an unhealthy relationship and now realize it.
So if we’re going to discuss what a healthy relationship looks like, we should probably talk about what an unhealthy relationship looks like.
What does an UNHEALTHY relationship look like?
In an unhealthy relationship, you might feel like you have to change who you are in order to make the other person happy. They may make you feel as though you’re not good enough to be with them and that you should change. You may feel worried or on edge when you disagree with the other person, because when you have a disagreement of any kind perhaps they turn cold or become threatening.
When you’re in an unhealthy relationship you may notice that one of you has to constantly justify your actions. Your partner may refuse to use safer sex methods, or push you to do sexual things you’re not comfortable with.
Experiencing yelling or physical violence during an argument is another sign of an unhealthy relationship. You should be able to calmly communicate with your significant other during an argument. Screaming at, yelling at, and hitting each other is not healthy.
Within an unhealthy relationship you may attempt to control or manipulate each other. You may feel the need to snoop through their phone or computer, because you don’t trust them. Let me tell you, if you don’t trust them, it’s not a healthy relationship.
If you feel like your partner never makes time to spend with you, or you never make time to spend with your partner, this can be a sign of an unhealthy relationship. In a healthy relationship, all parties will value spending time with each other. They will make sure their partner doesn’t feel neglected.
So, then, what does a HEALTHY relationship look like?
When you’re involved in a healthy relationship, you treat each other with respect. You will feel safe and comfortable with the other person (or people).
In a healthy relationship you support each other’s hopes and dreams. You don’t want to be an enabler if they’re doing something unhealthy or dangerous, but if they’re doing something that they’re passionate about you should be supporting them.
You won’t feel the need to go through their phone or know what they’re doing every hour of the day, because you will trust them. Trust is such an important component to a healthy relationship and it’s difficult to regain once it’s lost.
Trusting your partner starts with clear and open communication. Tell them how you’re feeling, tell them if they’ve done something to upset you, talk about your problems. Keeping things bottled up can lead to an unnecessary argument down the road. Just be honest and you shouldn’t have an issue (unless, you know, one of you cheated on the other and you finally fess up… then you’ll have problems).
Make sure that you’re honest about your past AND present sexual activity. You don’t have to give them every detail of who you’ve slept with and what you did, but you should definitely be honest about the number of people you slept with and if you have/had any STI/STDs or HIV/AIDs. People tend to find out the truth one way or another, so being honest will prevent a lot of problems in the future.
Being in a healthy relationship means that you have sex because you want to, not because you feel like you have to. If you’re not comfortable having sex with your partner, don’t. They should respect you enough to not guilt trip you into sleeping with them.
The last thing I’ll talk about is drugs and alcohol. In a healthy relationship, as I mentioned earlier, you won’t be an enabler. If you know your partner is an alcoholic, don’t tempt them to drink. Make smart choices about drugs and alcohol together. I’m not going to give you the whole “drugs are bad” speech, but you already know most of them are. Being high or drunk all of the time doesn’t make for a healthy relationship.
Oh shit, I’m in an unhealthy relationship. What can I do?
First and foremost, if you believe that your safety or the safety of others is at risk, CALL 911! Having to hide from your significant other for fear they will hurt you is not okay. If you’re in danger call for help.
If you have concerns make sure to address them with your partner. Of course, only do that if it’s safe to do so. If they have a horrible temper and you’re afraid they’ll hurt you, I wouldn’t risk it.
After you address your concerns with your partner(s) and if you feel it’s necessary, you can opt to seek couple’s therapy, family therapy, or even individual therapy. Sometimes it takes an outsider looking in to see the flaws of a relationship and how it can be saved… or IF it can be saved.
If nothing is working and the relationship is unable to be saved, end the relationship. It isn’t fair to you to keep trying to work things out when the other person isn’t trying. You can’t save your relationship if you’re the only one who cares.
Reach out to family or friends to help you leave the relationship. It can be difficult to leave someone you’ve been with for a long period of time, even if they treat you like shit. Trusted friends and family members will be willing to help you get out of a toxic, unhealthy relationship.
If you need to, you can seek help from law enforcement agencies. They can help you to stay safe while moving your belongings if necessary.
Someone I know is in an unhealthy relationship, how do I help?
If you believe someone you know is in an unhealthy relationship, set up a time to talk about the situation and let them know you’re concerned for their safety. Make sure that you’re being supportive of them and know that it can be really hard to leave a toxic relationship.
Offer specific help, don’t be vague. If you’re offering for them to stay with you for awhile so they can get away from their partner, tell them that. If you can recommend a counselor or therapist for them to see, do that. Just make sure you’re being specific and offering helpful suggestions.
Don’t place blame, shame, or guilt on your friend. It’s not their fault that they’re being treated badly, don’t act like it is. People can get so wrapped up in a bad relationship and not even realize it’s unhealthy. Oftentimes the partner who is the abuser will make the other person feel as if they wouldn’t be wanted by anyone else and that it’s best off to stay with them. Don’t blame your friend.
You can help them make a safety plan for what to do in an emergency. Encourage them to do things outside of the relationship. It’s not healthy for your partner to refuse to let you see other people. Call 911 if you believe that their immediate safety is at risk.