With safer campus community week taking place across campus from the 9th-13th, it’s got me thinking about healthy relationships and made me wonder, are my relationships healthy?
Our lives are filled with relationships. These can range from family to friends to romantic relationships. In either case, I have found some reoccurring themes in each of them. I have found that healthy relationships require trust, mutual respect and a shared understanding of consent and boundaries. One thing that shocks me is that I have been with my partner for going on four years. Time really flies. While it amazes (and slightly worries) me that the time we have spent together has come and gone so quickly, it is good to stop and reflect on all the good times (and the funny in hindsight bad times) we have had together. Here are some key reflections I have on what a healthy and unhealthy relationship can feel like.
- Feeling mutual trust
Trust is a big one. I always trust that my partner will have my back and be there for me when I’m feeling down. Similarly, I know she feels the same. While we have had our disagreements over the years, I know that we still have a strong sense of trust in each other. This trust extends to our ability to cooperate and understand each other’s boundaries. One thing that took us a while to understand is that sometimes we’re just having a bad day and there’s not much we can do about it. It is no one’s fault. We might need some space or to go for a walk or to just figure it out but it’s all a part of the complex web of emotions we all feel.
- Feeling at ease and a sense of comfortability
There is always a sense of comfortability between my partner and myself. This didn’t happen overnight and it certainly took time to build but we never have to force conversation. We can talk and chatter effortlessly. One key distinction we learnt early on was the difference between banter and bullying. Banter is a mutually fun game of wit that allows both of us to have a laugh, even at ourselves. Bullying is when the joke is not felt on both sides and is at the expense of another. Some jokes just don’t land and they just aren’t funny. If this ever happens, we just brush it off, say sorry and move on with the conversation.
- Unhealthy relationships
I have experienced unhealthy relationships in previous circumstances and it can be confusing and debilitating. Some common mistakes and misgivings I carried included:
Feeling the need to do more. I felt that I needed to be nicer, buy more, plan more, be more generous. This led to me feeling constantly fatigued and unappreciated. I have found that as hard as it can be to move on sometimes, it is fairly straightforward. If the effort you put into a relationship is not reciprocated, it is not right for you.
Feeling helpless when jokes or actions are made at my expense. In my experience, this can be a really tricky thing to deal with. I have had relationships that are built on constant depreciative jokes that don’t know when to stop. It has put me in a position where I have felt I need to toughen up or think ‘if I say something I’m just being a bit too precious’. Unfortunately, this attitude led to me bottling these resentments up in a negative way. I felt the need to rant to my parents and I began to deeply resent the person.
Feeling reluctant to say something. Through reflecting, I have found that it is a big red flag when I haven’t felt comfortable speaking up. If you don’t feel comfortable telling someone that you were uncomfortable and what they did was insensitive, you are probably in an unhealthy relationship. I have had relationships that don’t hesitate to criticise something I have said or done and when I have made efforts to do the same, I have been shut down and treated aggressively. I think a healthy relationship should be able to give what it gets in a constructive way. You should feel comfortable to raise a problem and worry and so should your partner or friend. Take my mum and dad for example, they are for all practical purposes an old married couple. I can certainly assure you that one of their key successes is their ability to communicate when the other has done something they don’t like. Don’t get me wrong, this can result in a disproportionate argument about the colour of the carpet but in the long run it leads to a solid understanding of each other’s boundaries and values.