Healthy Relationships

Having healthy relationships is one of the most important parts of a well lived life, and contributes greatly to happiness and less stress. There is no one correct path to finding good friends or a life partner. But we are all healthier and happier when we have healthy connections with others.

Healthy relationships involve realistic expectations. This means not trying to force the other person to be what we want, but accepting them as they are. Feeling the need to remake someone is probably an indicator that the relationship is not healthy. Allow for a learning curve; take time to get to know and become comfortable with each other, time to understand each other's interests and preferences. Be open to each other's thoughts and opinions, and be open to sharing more as you get to know each other better.

People in healthy relationships take time to be present with each other. This means taking time to communicate; both talking and listening. It is hard to listen completely when the only communication is text, Facebook, Snapchat, or Twitter; it is important to be aware of both verbal and nonverbal communications and to listen with an open mind, rather than using listening time to think about what you want to say next. Be alert to a tendency to read too much in to brief text or electronic messages, or to overreact to lack of immediate feedback. This kind of controlling or jealous behavior can be a signal that a relationship is not doing well.

Be dependable in your relationships; if you make plans show up; if you need to study or work or have other commitments (even with other friends) say so and follow through. Respect the other person's commitments outside your relationship, trust that they care about you without having to check in every hour on the hour. This means being comfortable with separateness in your relationships; support each other to have other friends as well as time alone. Share interests and activities but make time for individual or separate interests and activities without feeling threatened. Be clear about your boundaries, limits, and expectations in terms of intimacy and physical contact as well as the amount of time you spend together, and be careful to respect each other's personal boundaries.

Work through the conflict by talking about the problem and without assuming you know what the other person feels or thinks rather than attacking the person. Talk about concerns without blaming. If possible, do so in person rather than electronically. Be alert to attempts to control or make the other person feel guilty, and be thoughtful about the use of social media to air relationship issues. Approach problems with the mindset that both of you may be contributing to the situation, and both will feel better if you can work together to find a solution.

Remember that developing a relationship of any kind requires intentional effort and time. It may look like everyone else has lots of friends or is in an intimate relationship, in truth most people have periods of feeling alone or of longing for more intimacy in relationships. Being a friend or a partner involves practice but these are skills that can be learned. Ask for help from an RA, a counselor, or other support persons if you are struggling.