Relationships are a big part of how most people experience the world. Every day, we see what different relationships can look like. We see relationships on TV, in our families, and among our friends. Sometimes the relationships we see around us are healthy. But sometimes, they might not be. For example, movies and TV can tell us that something is a healthy relationship when in real life, it wouldn’t be.
Because the relationships we see aren’t always healthy, it can be hard to know what a healthy relationship is. Sometimes, when a person has been in unhealthy relationships in the past, it can be even harder. But it’s just as important to know what you DO want in a relationship as it is to know what you don’t want. That can start with understanding what a healthy relationship means for you.
What makes a relationship “healthy”?
Healthy relationships – like unhealthy ones – can be different depending on the people involved. What one person wants or needs in a relationship may be very different from what another person wants or needs! For example, one person might not be comfortable in a monogamous relationship. They might feel like they need to be able to have sex or even fall in love with more than one person in order to be happy and fulfilled. But another person might need the opposite! Knowing that they and their partner are monogamous might be part of what they need to feel safe and respected.
No matter what you want your relationships to look like, it’s important that your partner respects your needs and wishes. This can mean:
- Showing that you can talk to them by listening to you and respecting your opinions and feelings.
- Encouraging you and being happy for you when you succeed at something.
- Offering you emotional support when you’re feeling sad or upset.
- Sharing responsibility for things you do together.
- Being supportive of your positive relationships with friends and family.
- Making you feel safe, valued, and cared for.
Because not all relationships are the same, not everyone does these things the same way. You can have a healthy, fulfilling relationship that’s casual, one that’s more serious, one that’s just about sex, or one that doesn’t involve sex at all – it’s up to you and your partner! The important thing is that the way you treat each other makes you both feel happy and excited to spend time together.
I’ve never dated anyone who made me feel that way. Does that make me unhealthy?
No. Lots of people struggle to find relationships that meet their needs and make them feel good. There are many reasons why this might be hard for someone. Maybe they have a hard time trusting people, or they feel like they haven’t had a chance to learn about their needs yet.
Everyone deserves the chance to have love that makes them feel good, if that’s what they want. Nobody deserves to be made to feel like they’re not worthy of love. It’s common for people to have a hard time figuring out relationships. Very few people find the perfect relationship and partner for them as soon as they start dating! Lots of people take time – and multiple relationships – to learn about themselves, their partners, and what’s healthy for them. For many people, that’s part of dating! Learning what you want and don’t want in a relationship can take time and experience.
How can I make sure I have a healthy relationship?
Building healthy relationships takes work from everyone involved. It’s okay if it’s not always easy! When you care about someone, usually you want them to feel happy and secure. If they care about you, they probably want the same for you, too. That can make it easier to do the work that keeps your relationship healthy.
Here are some positive ways you might show your partner that you care about them:
- Be supportive of their interests and hobbies, and share your interests and hobbies with them.
- If your partner does something that bothers you, try not to assume they’re bothering you on purpose. Be honest about how you feel and give them a chance to listen to you and talk about it.
- When your partner does something that makes you feel happy, excited, or proud of them, let them know!
- If your partner is having a bad day, let them know you’re there for them.
- Always respect when your partner says “yes” or “no” to something, and don’t try to pressure them into doing things they’re not comfortable with.
- Be supportive of their friendships with other people who also treat them well.
There’s no one magic formula for a “perfect” relationship. But if you care about each other and are willing to listen, respect each other, and try, you have a good foundation for a healthy relationship.
Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship – Scarleteen
Starting with a discussion about what makes a relationship “healthy,” Scarleteen helps you assess your relationship, and gives advice on how you could look into making positive changes if you need to.
Key Ingredients for Healthy Relationships – Heart Your Parts
Heart your Parts describes what makes up a healthy relationship, and some tips for how to create a healthy relationship–to yourself, to friends, and to lovers/partners.
ABC’s of Healthy Relationships
Webpage that gives a basic summary of Healthy versus unhealthy relationships.
Abusive relationships – Planned Parenthood
This quick article explains the signs of abusive relationships and what you can do if you’re in one.
Steps for Active Listening – Advocates for Youth
This article explains specific strategies for active listening, a way of listening that confirms you’re engaged and encourages clarity in conversations. It explains using practices like restating, summarizing, and encouraging.