Sometimes it feels like we are bombarded with information about what a relationship should not look like. We learn the definition and examples of abuse and red flags in school and through social media. This information is important to understand and share, and is a huge piece of relationship abuse prevention. That being said, you may feel like you are always being told what a relationship should not look like, and never what it should. Sometimes the differences can feel blurry and depend on the relationship itself.
To start the conversation about healthy relationships, we need to understand what they look like first. Here are some specific examples of what happens in healthy relationships (and remember that this list is not exhaustive!):
- Putting in the time to learn about each other’s boundaries with certain conversation topics. If a subject is sensitive to your partner, let them set the pace of conversations about it.
- Asking your partner if they would like space or not if they are upset. Especially at the beginning of a relationship, it is important to learn what your partner finds the most helpful when they are struggling.
- If something you’ve said or done upset your partner and you don’t understand why, sincerely asking them how it hurt them and how you can make it better.
- Checking in with your partner every time before increasing the intensity of physical touch. This doesn’t just mean before sex- getting consent before touching, kissing, or taking clothes off is equally as important.
- Being present when your partner is talking to you. Active listening can look like remembering important information about a story being told, making eye contact, nodding your head, and asking questions. These elements of active listening make your partner feel heard and understood.
- Understanding your partner’s long-distance communication style, such as if they prefer calling or texting. If you aren’t sure, you can simply ask them what their preferences are.