Relationships come in many forms. Intimate partners, friendships, family relationships, roommate relationships, and relationships with coworkers or professors are all important relationships that impact students each day. Although each relationship has very different dynamics and boundaries, it is important to know that the practices of healthy relationships can be similar across each group.
Components of healthy relationships
In healthy relationships, people feel connected with each other while still having a sense of autonomy and independence. Individuals are able to express their needs, wants, and concerns with one another, and everyone's rights and boundaries are respected.
Boundaries help define the types of behaviors an individual will, or won't, accept from others. There are physical boundaries, such as touch, personal space, and privacy. There are also emotional boundaries that help individuals separate their thoughts and feelings from those of other people. Individuals define their own boundaries which can be influenced by many things, including personal experience and culture. Ultimately, boundaries help individuals to protect and preserve important personal values in relationships. It is a myth that people in close relationships have no boundaries with one another. In fact, in healthy relationships, people set and communicate their own boundaries while also respecting others' boundaries.
Trust & Respect
Mutual trust and respect is build over time and can be developed in many ways. Mutual trust can be developed when members of the relationship are consistent and supportive. Establishing respect within your relationship comes with the establishment of trust. Listening to each individual's needs and being aware of and understanding boundaries are some of the ways to establish mutual respect.
Communication is the glue that holds relationships together! Being able to express your needs and wants, while also listening to the needs and wants of others, is key to good communication. Some tips for improving communication with others include:
- Use "I" statements, such as "I feel____when you_____because________." This can help the speaker take responsibility for their feelings and thoughts, while letting others know about problematic behavior without blaming or shaming.
- Avoid unhelpful communication patterns, such as criticism, defensiveness, name-calling, and "stonewalling" (shutting down and not responding to others). If fact, these four patterns can cause a relationship to become unhealthy very quickly!
- It's okay to be assertive and hold boundaries with others as needed. This is not the same thing as being aggressive or disrespectful.
- When the other person is speaking, try to fully listen without judgement to what they are saying. Reflect back to them what you've heard them say before responding with your own thoughts or feelings.
Help is Available
Individuals who experience relationships that have unhealthy or negative characteristics can feel empowered by making their own decisions about next steps for themselves and their relationships. If you feel you could use additional support, consider scheduling an appointment at the Counseling Center.