Over the eight years I’ve worked with young women, one of the most prominent themes of discussion is relationships. Many of the girls I’ve worked with have experienced rejection and abandonment to the degree that it becomes hard to know who to trust. Some young women I’ve worked with have shared that they are so scared to be truly vulnerable with anyone because they don’t want to feel hurt again.
All of us take the risk of pain and loss when we enter into meaningful relationships. My belief is that love is always worth the risk–as long as you enter a healthy love. Yet so many remain confused about the way healthy relationships look like. For those struggling with this understanding, here are five simple guidelines to follow:
1. Respect for Boundaries
- Your partner respects you when you set a limit, rather than continue pushing or making you feel guilty for setting the boundary
- Your partner feels comfortable setting their own boundaries with you and trusts that you will honor the request
- You see genuine changes in behavior once you have agreed to the reasonable boundary
- You respect each others’ timing
- You are both able to communicate calmly if you don’t understand a boundary/limit
- You are comfortable spending time away from each other–you trust what your partner does during their down time
- You can manage other relationships in your life as well: friends, family, school, work, etc.
2. Healthy Communication
- You both apologize when you have made a mistake
- You are only asked to apologize over reasonable matters–you should not be apologizing for things that are beyond your control or influence
- You can stay calm during talks about upsetting/challenging issues
- You refrain from using insults or personal attacks on each other
- You don’t avoid talking about things that need to be addressed
- You do pick your battles and learn to let go
3. Emotional Safety
- It feels okay for you to be vulnerable–you are able to share emotions/perceptions/your life story without fear
- Your partner keeps your confidence
- You are able to confront unhealthy issues with each other without shaming the other
- You are both able to seek support within and outside of your relationship–it’s not, “all or nothing”
4. Personal Integrity
- You both spend time developing yourselves outside of the relationship–school, work, friends, hobbies, etc.
- You trust that what your partner tells you is true
- You trust that your partner treats everyone with a high level of respect
- You agree with your partner’s values
- You go at a pace that feels right to you
- You don’t share parts of yourself until you feel absolutely comfortable
- You don’t go to the physical parts of the relationship until you see your partner’s level of integrity
- Your partner doesn’t pressure you to speed up your pacing
The goal of understanding these guidelines is to take action. Your heightened awareness can lead you to feel more reassured about your relationship, make the necessary changes, or ultimately decide to let go of something unhealthy.
Challenge of the week: identify one area (or subcategory) that you are struggling with. Work on that for an entire week and then note any influence it’s had on your relationship. Feel free to leave a comment below on your progress.