Many of us enter into our first serious relationships during college. These relationships can be wonderful, enhancing the lives of those involved and providing support mechanisms for both parties. However, even the healthiest relationships require hard work, and can often involve stressful complications, confusion and challenges.
If you’re currently involved in a relationship, or you’re interested in starting one, consider the following information a resource to help you to ensure your relationship is healthy.
Relationship Myths – Unrealistic Expectations
It’s important to have realistic expectations of our partners. Examples of unrealistic expectations include:
He/she will meet all of my needs.
We all want to believe we’ll find the perfect person to spend our lives with, and even though we know deep down they can’t possibly meet all our needs, we may still foster this expectation on some level. Remember, the real path to “happily ever after” begins with greater self-awareness and understanding, and an ability to capitalize on your own strengths while minimizing your weaknesses.
If he/she really loves me, he/she will understand what I want, what I need and what I think.
As we grow closer to someone, we become better at guessing what he or she may want, need and think – but we’re still only guessing. You can’t expect your partner to read your mind – if you want your needs met, you need to state them clearly.
We will never fight or disagree.
Many of us believe fighting is incompatible with love – but in reality, even the healthiest relationships involve friction. Remember you and your partner are unique individuals, whose differing points of view can be an opportunity for growth.
We will be able to be together 24/7.
It’s important to spend time together, but equally important to have a life outside your relationship. If you’re spending all your time with your partner — and can’t imagine being apart from them — something might be wrong. Balance is key in any healthy relationship.
If he/she really loves me, he/she will change for me.
Does your partner possess all the qualities you’re looking for in a mate? If not, you have two choices: amend your standards or move on to a new relationship. Changing your partner to suit your own needs is unrealistic.
The initial months of a relationship can be exciting and relatively effortless, but successful longterm relationships involve effort on both sides. Establish a strong foundation by engaging in healthy patterns right from the start:
- Explore each other’s interests and enjoy a variety of activities together.
- Balance your time together with time spent alone, or with other friends.
- Create a foundation of appreciation and respect.
- Apologize when you make a mistake or hurt your partner’s feelings.
As the Months Go By…
…keep the following in mind:
Change is inevitable. As you and your partner change and grow as individuals, so will your relationship. It’s better to view change as an opportunity to enhance your relationship, rather than feeling anxious because it’s no longer the same.
Check in with Each Other
It’s important to set aside time to discuss changing goals or expectations. If you ignore these inevitable changes, your relationship could encounter problems.
What to Do When Conflict Arises
It’s inevitable there will be tension and even anger between you and your partner. Not only are disagreements normal, they can also strengthen a relationship if the conflict is resolved in a healthy manner.
The keys to resolving conflict are honesty, communication, self-awareness, and a willingness to consider the other person’s point of view.
Keys to Healthy Communication
- Learn to be an active listener (don’t interrupt, focus on what’s being said rather than planning your response)
- Seek clarification when needed
- Don’t raise your voice
- Create an environment of emotional safety (e.g. no name calling)
- Consider how your partner’s family background might affect your relationship
- Discuss one issue at a time
- Take time to consider both sides of a dispute
- Resist the temptation to rehash difficulties from the past
- Agree to disagree and move on
Six Basic Steps to Maintaining a Good Relationship
- Be aware of what you and your partner want from the relationship.
- Communicate your needs and listen carefully to your partner’s.
- Accept that your partner won’t be able to meet all your needs – some may need to be met outside the relationship.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Accept each other’s differences.
- Try to see things from your partner’s perspective. You’re entitled to your own opinions, but try to respect your partner’s points of view.
Be honest about differences that arise between you and your partner. If issues persist, consider counselling – it’s always better to seek help early on, rather than allowing a situation to become too critical.
Tips for Spotting an Unhealthy Relationship
All relationships involve rough patches. But an unhealthy relationship – as characterized by the symptoms listed below – can cause undue strain on your physical and mental health, not to mention your academic performance.
Common characteristics of an unhealthy relationship:
- You put your partner ahead of yourself, to the extent you neglect your own needs
- You feel pressure from your partner to change who you are
- You feel worried when you disagree with your partner
- You feel pressure to quit activities you once enjoyed
- You feel pressure to justify what you do, where you go, and who you spend time with
- Your partner attempts to isolate you from your friends/family
- You feel obligated to have sex to maintain the relationship
- Your partner refuses to practice safe sex
- You notice arguments are rarely or never settled fairly
- Arguments with your partner devolve into yelling or physical violence
- You feel controlled or manipulated by your partner
- Your partner quickly becomes jealous
- Your partner’s behaviour is erratic and unpredictable
- Your partner doesn’t take responsibility for his/her own actions
- You are scared of your partner