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Maintain a Healthy Relationship
Exponent article by Dr Brian Kassar
Counseling & Psychological Services
In conjunction with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it seems appropriate to discuss what makes a healthy relationship. One of the most common thoughts about what makes a relationship healthy is "good communication." This broad classification encompasses many things: sharing things openly, expressing needs, being able to say "no," and managing conflict appropriately are just a few. Appropriate conflict management entails expressing what's bothering you in a direct, specific way. Saying hurtful things, bringing up past/unrelated issues, blaming, and enacting any type of abuse (by either partner) are examples of unhealthy and non-productive ways to manage conflict.
Having boundaries in a relationship is also important. Relationships can become unhealthy when one or both of the members lose a sense of who they are. A healthy relationship supports the growth of both people and allows for the distinction between "me," "you," and "us." Healthy relationships are reciprocal: each member brings something to the relationship and mutual trust is established.
Equality in a relationship is positive. An unhealthy dynamic is created when one person has the "power" or "wears the pants," because it can silence the non-dominant partner, as well as put a burden on the person "in charge" to make all the important decisions. Healthy relationships enhance the self-esteem of both members, so dynamics that inhibit that may signal a need for change.
Unhealthy elements may be obvious to some but not to others. Any form of physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual mistreatment (by either a male or female) in a relationship is unhealthy. Jealousy, dishonesty, and cheating are clues that something is amiss in the relationship, as is incomplete intimacy. Intimacy includes sex but also comes in many other forms; a relationship built upon just one form of intimacy (e.g. sex) is usually not a complete relationship. Substance abuse often interferes with a relationship, and can lead to the aforementioned difficulties. It can also lead to the non-abusing partner to function and care-take for the substance abuser, which is detrimental both to the relationship and to the individual.
There are several resources on campus to aid in exploring healthy relationships. The counseling center offers seminars on relationships, as well as provides couples counseling for committed couples. The VOICE center offers information and support for those who may be in an abusive relationship. If you have further questions, call or stop by one of these agencies to learn more.