Sometimes it feels impossible to find someone who's right for you and who thinks you're right for him or her! So when it happens, you're usually so excited. It's normal to look at the world through rose-colored glasses in the early stages of a relationship. But for some people, those rose-colored glasses turn into blinders that keep them from seeing that a relationship isn't as healthy as it should be. More than likely if you are questioning your relationship, then you are not in a healthy relationship.
What Makes a Healthy Relationship?
- Mutual Respect: Does he or she get how cool you are and why? (Watch out if the answer to the first part is yes but only because you're acting like someone you're not!) The key is that your boyfriend or girlfriend is into you for who you are; for your great sense of humor, your love of reality TV, etc. Does your partner listen when you say you're not comfortable doing something and then back off right away? Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and understands the other person's boundaries. Your partner should never challenge your boundaries.
- Trust: You're talking with a random guy that might be in your class and your boyfriend walks by, does he completely lose his cool or keep walking because he knows you'd never cheat on him? It's OK to get a little jealous sometimes- jealousy is a natural emotion. But how a person reacts when he or she feels jealous is what matters. There's no way you can have a healthy relationship if you don't trust each other.
- Honesty: This one goes hand-in-hand with trust because it's tough to trust someone when one of you isn't being honest. Have you ever caught your girlfriend in a major lie? Like she told you that she had to work on Friday night but it turned out she was at the movies with her friends. The next time she says she has to work, you'll have a lot more trouble believing her and the trust will be on shaky ground.
- Support: It's not just in bad times that your partner should support you. Some people are great when your whole world is falling apart but can't take being there when things are going right (or vice versa). In a healthy relationship, your significant other is there with a shoulder to cry on when you find out your parents are getting divorced and to celebrate with you when you get a job.
- Fairness/equality: You need to have give-and-take in your relationship, too. Do you take turns choosing which new movie to see? As a couple, do you hang out with your partner's friends as often as you hang out with yours? It's not like you have to keep a running count and make sure things are exactly even. But you'll know if it isn't a pretty fair balance. Things get bad really fast when a relationship turns into a power struggle, with one person fighting to get his or her way all the time.
- Separate identities: In a healthy relationship, everyone needs to make compromises. But that doesn't mean you should feel like you're losing out on being yourself. When you started going out, you both had your own lives: your own families, friends, interests, hobbies, etc.: and that shouldn't change. Neither of you should have to pretend to like something you don’t or give up seeing your friends nor drop out of activities you love. You also should feel free to keep developing new talents or interests, making new friends, and moving forward.
- Good Communication: You've probably heard lots of stuff about how men and women don't seem to speak the same language. A classic example: We all know how many different meanings the little phrase "no, nothing's wrong" can have, depending on who's saying it! But what's important is to ask if you're not sure what your significant other means and speak honestly and openly so that miscommunication is avoided in the first place. Never keep a feeling bottled up because you're afraid it's not what your partner wants to hear or because you worry about sounding silly. If you need some time to think something through before you're ready to talk about it, the right person will give you some space to do that if you ask for it.
What's an Unhealthy Relationship?
A relationship is unhealthy when it involves mean, disrespectful, controlling, or abusive behavior. Some people live in homes with parents who fight a lot or abuse each other - emotionally or physically. For some people who have grown up around this kind of behavior it can almost seem normal or OK. It's not! Many of us learn from watching and imitating the people close to us. So someone who has lived around violent or disrespectful behavior may not have learned how to treat others with kindness and respect or how to expect the same treatment.
Qualities like kindness and respect are absolute requirements for a healthy relationship. Someone who doesn't yet have this part down may need to work on it with a trained therapist before he or she is ready for a relationship. Meanwhile, even though you may feel bad or feel for someone who's been mistreated, you need to take care of yourself - it's not healthy to stay in a relationship that involves abusive behavior of any kind.
Here's some scary news: nearly one in four women have been raped and/or physically assaulted by a partner or date during their lifetime. Men experience violence from their partners as well - they are just less likely to report it. In addition, over 1 million women and 350,000 men are stalked by partners each year. So if you think there's no way it could happen to you or someone you know, think again.
Ask yourself, does my boyfriend or girlfriend:
- get angry when I don't drop everything for him or her?
- criticize the way I look or dress, and say I'll never be able to find anyone else who would date me?
- keep me from seeing friends or from talking to any other guys or girls?
- want me to quit an activity, even though I love it?
- ever raise a hand when angry, like he or she is about to hit me?
- try to force me to go further sexually than I want to?
If you can think of any way in which your boyfriend or girlfriend is trying to control you, make you feel bad about yourself, isolate you from the rest of your world, or - this is a big one - harm you physically or sexually, then it's time to get out, fast! Let a trusted friend or family member know what's going on and make sure you're safe. It can be tempting to make excuses or misinterpret violence as an expression of love. But even if you know that the person hurting you loves you, it is not healthy. No one deserves to be hit, shoved, or forced into anything they don't want to do.
Why Are Some Relationships So Difficult?
Ever heard about how it's hard for someone to love you when you don't love yourself? It's a big relationship roadblock when one or both people struggle with self-esteem problems. Your girlfriend or boyfriend isn't there to make you feel good about yourself if you can't do that on your own. Focus on being happy with yourself and don't take on the responsibility of worrying about someone else's happiness.
What if you feel that your significant other needs too much from you? If the relationship feels like a burden or a drag instead of a joy, it may be time to think about whether it's a healthy match for you. Someone who's not happy or secure may have trouble being a healthy relationship partner.
Also, intense relationships can be hard for some young people. Some are so focused on their own developing feelings and responsibilities that they don't have the emotional energy it takes to respond to someone else's feelings and needs in a close relationship. Don't worry if you're just not ready yet. You will be, and you can take all the time you need.