I like to think about relationships in the same way that I think about sex:
- What does it mean to be in a relationship?
- What types of relationships can people be having?
- What are some healthy and unhealthy signs in a relationship?
- How can one make a relationship emotionally and physically safe for all partners involved?
Simply, a relationship is what you define it to be. Out of curiosity I looked up the definition for relationship according to dictionary.com. As expected, the definition for a relationship is very broad and open to interpretation. A relationship is defined as “a connection, association, or involvement, connection between peoples by blood or marriage, an emotional or other connection between people, or a sexual involvement; affair.” Specific types of relationships that can exist within the umbrella term are friends, family, casual/acquaintances, and romantic/intimate. Most people will have all of these relationships in some form or another at any given time in their lives. So the question is how can you keep all of these relationships healthy?
I like thinking about relationships as existing on a spectrum that ranges from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. If you feel that a relationship is moving in an unhealthy way, you can make the choice of working on the relationship or ending it. The spectrum appeals to me because it is important to remember that relationships have many different aspects and that people have different needs. What may be the most important aspect of the relationship for you may not be the most important aspect for another. Healthy relationships include communication, respect, trust, honesty, equality, loving and taking care of you, enjoying personal time, and making mutual choices around sexual boundaries and safer sex methods. Of course, healthy relationships among family and friends may look very different from healthy relationships with sexual or romantic partners. Nevertheless, a healthy relationship is one that allows for positive growth, security, and happiness.
Some aspects of an unhealthy relationship include lack of communication, disrespect, lack of trust, dishonesty, one person attempting to control or pressure another, not spending time with others, being pressured into sexual activity, and ignoring the consequences of sex. This list isn’t meant to be comprehensive, but only a place to start thinking about the important aspects of a relationship for you and how someone may or may not be meeting your needs. On the opposite end of the spectrum is an abusive relationship. Characteristics of an abusive relationship can include feeling trapped in the relationship, communicating in a way that is insulting or demeaning, mistreatment of the feelings and safety of another, making false accusations to justify physical or verbal harm, denial of abusive actions, feelings of being controlled, forced isolation, and forced sexual activity.
If you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship of any sort, it is important that you take care of yourself, be safe, and reach out for help. If you are wondering about what to do in your relationship, you can educate yourself about relationship violence and what it entails, talk with people that you trust, or seek help from a health center, counseling office, faith-based organization, or a hotline.
At the end of the day, relationships shouldn’t hurt and you deserve to be in healthy relationships. The greatest thing that I think anyone can carry with them when entering new relationships is The Relationship Bill of Rights, which I have attached a link to below. You have the right to a healthy relationship. Those of us living in the dorms of the UC Berkeley campus are in luck because the health workers will be promoting healthy relationships the entire month of November.
So remember, stay healthy and stay happy!
Relationship Bill of Rights: