Humans have an inherent desire to be close to other people in order to connect and build relationships. While a man stranded on an island talking to a volleyball (you remember the movie!) isn’t necessarily “healthy,” his need for company is. Research tells us that healthy relationships—whether that be romantic relationships, friendships, or familial relationships—can help make for a happier healthier overall life.
There are many benefits of being in a healthy relationship both physically and mentally.
- Less stress. Studies show that people in healthy committed relationships have less of the stress hormone cortisol—which can negatively impact our health if not properly checked.
- Better sleep. Loving relationships lead to less stress, which consequently means you’re more likely to have a satisfying nights rest. Tensions are eased when you feel supported, respected and loved.
- Lower risk of depression. A 2013 study at the University of Michigan concluded that clinical depression was notably reduced in people with strong, meaningful relationships.
- Longer life. Positive friendships and loving, healthy relationships can help prolong your lifespan.
But what exactly does a healthy relationship look like? A healthy positive relationship can be shared by any two people who support, care for, and treat each other with respect. People who are in healthy relationships tend to:
- Listen to each other. You should be able to listen to one another without judgment, anger or fear of retaliation.
- Talk openly and honestly. Honest and open communication about how you are feeling is an essential component of any healthy relationship. Take time to check in with your partner, friend or family member. Good relationships need work. Being comfortable to communicate both good and not so good things with your partner is vital in fostering a healthy relationship.
- Respect the opinions and boundaries of the other person. What feels comfortable and normal for you might be totally different than your partner. Make sure to listen to and respect their needs.
- Trust each other. Mutual support is crucial for a healthy relationship.
- Participate in activities with one another but take some time apart. Your partner shouldn’t pressure you to hang out 24/7. It’s both normal and healthy to need space. Being together doesn’t mean being together all the time.
- Don’t be afraid of conflict. You will disagree with each other at various points in your relationship. That’s normal. Constant conflict, or making your partner feel guilty about how they feel, is not.
- Recognize feelings of discomfort. You should feel safe in your relationship and trust your partner. Feelings of insecurity are normal, but they shouldn’t take over your relationship or turn into controlling behaviors (like looking at your partner’s cell phone to see who they are texting).
The dark side
All types of relationships have natural highs and lows. However, if you ever feel unsafe in a relationship, it is important to get help. Unhealthy behaviors can sometimes lead to abusive behaviors if not changed. Here is a list of some unhealthy behaviors to look out for:
- Intensity. Rushing the relationship, feeling like someone is obsessed with you.
- Jealously. While a normal emotion, jealousy becomes unhealthy when someone tries to control you because of it. For example, getting upset with you if you want to hang out with someone other than them.
- Manipulation. Tries to force you to do something you are uncomfortable doing.
- Sabotage. Purposefully ruining your reputation, achievement or success.
- Isolation. Keeping you from the activities and people you care about.
- Guilting. Blaming you for why they are upset.
- Deflecting responsibility. Making excuses for their poor behavior, blaming you for their actions.
- Volatility. Examples can be mood swings, getting violent or yelling, threatening to hurt you or destroy things, and making you feel afraid of them.
- Belittling. Putting you down with insults or degrading language.
- Betrayal. If your partner acts differently when they are not around you as opposed to when they are with you. Examples include lying, cheating, and talking about you behind your back.
Read more about signs of unhealthy relationships. Remember: Any kind of physical harm is abuse.
Not all of the above behaviors will turn into abuse. Recognizing and being able to communicate about your concerns with your partner is an important way to turn these behaviors into healthier ones.
If you need to talk to someone about an unhealthy or abusive relationship here are some resources both on and off campus that you can reach out to. If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
- Student Counseling Services
Confidential counselors are staffed to talk about an array of issues
- Providing Access to Help (PATH) Crisis Center
Available 24 hours
1-888-865-9903 or (309) 827-4005
- Countering Domestic Violence/Neville House
Available 24 hours