WHAT IS A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP?
A healthy relationship is one where everyone is doing their part to keep things happy, respectful, supportive and fair. In healthy relationships, everyone involved shares power and responsibility instead of trying to get or keep all or most of it for themselves.
It can help to think of any relationship as being like a see-saw. If one person is sitting still on one end texting somebody instead of moving, the other person stays stuck at the top. If one person gets off and walks away, the other person stays stuck on the ground. In a healthy relationship that see-saw is always moving, with each person doing their part. That’s a big part of what makes relationships a “we” rather than just an “I” or “you.”
Relationships where each person is not making a real effort to do their part to make things good for everyone are often unhealthy.
WHAT DO WE DO IN HEALTHY RELATIONSHIPS?
We communicate. We honestly say what we want, need and feel. We listen to what the other person says they want, need and feel. As the relationship grows and changes, we keep talking openly about both the good stuff and the challenging stuff. When there’s conflict, we work through it in a kind, caring and respectful way. We focus on the issue and caring for each other instead of “winning” an argument or fight.
We respect boundaries. Boundaries are the invisible lines we draw between ourselves and other people so we have the space we need to be ourselves, separate from the relationship. In a healthy relationship, people respect each other’s boundaries. No one pushes or tries to break down anyone’s boundaries.
We don’t rush things. A new relationship may make us happy, but we need to go slow with the big stuff, like making commitments to, or agreements with each other, or changing our lives in big ways for the relationship. That means not pushing or making any huge decisions when we’ve only been in the relationship a few days, weeks or months.
We’re flexible. We understand that people, including ourselves, change. That means relationships will usually change too, in both small and bigger ways, and we accept that.
We each get to be our own person. We have lives and interests outside of the relationship. This includes having other relationships we value. We don’t rely on or ask one relationship to give us everything we want and need. We also understand that we can’t control our partner or make them be how we want them to be.
We trust each other. When we trust each other, we believe each other’s feelings and actions. We feel our private thoughts and feelings are safe with the other person. We feel we can depend on one another. We accept that we can’t know what someone else is doing every minute of every day. We shouldn’t need to know that when we trust them. If we feel distrustful, we work to build trust instead of seeking to control each other.
We’re equals. Being equals means we have the same amount of say and influence in a relationship. We make big decisions together. One person shouldn’t make all of the decisions in the relationship. One person shouldn’t use their power to do things in or with the relationship that the other person doesn’t want or didn’t agree to.
We are safe. No one should be emotionally, physically or sexually unsafe in a relationship. No one should be called names or put down, harassed, stalked or emotionally controlled in other ways. No one should be physically hurt on purpose, forced or coerced (pressured) to do anything they don’t want to do sexually, affectionately or otherwise. We should feel and be actively shown that our partner would never intentionally intentionally harm us. We should clearly show a partner we would never harm them on purpose. If we are not safe in these basic ways or we don’t feel safe, our relationships are likely abusive instead of healthy.
If anyone in a relationship is unable to be safe for everyone else in it, that person will first need to become safe for others before getting into or continuing the relationship.
We care about each other. We each want the other person to feel safe, happy, and understood in the relationship. If one of us feels scared, unhappy, or stressed by the relationship, we take that as a sign that something needs to change.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR IN A PARTNER?
Relationships require respect, trust and open communication. Whether you’re looking for a relationship or are already in one, make sure you and your partner agree on what makes a relationship healthy. It’s not always easy, but you can build a healthy relationship.
Look for someone who will:
- Treat you with respect.
- Doesn’t make fun of things you like or want to do.
- Never puts you down.
- Doesn’t get angry if you spend time with your friends or family.
- Listens to your ideas and comprises sometimes.
- Isn’t excessively negative.
- Shares some of your interests such as movies, sports, reading, dancing or music.
- Isn’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings.
- Is comfortable around your friends and family.
- Is proud of your accomplishments and successes.
- Respects your boundaries and does not abuse technology.
- Doesn’t require you to “check in” or need to know where you are all the time.
- Is caring and honest.
- Doesn’t pressure you to do things that you don’t want to do.
- Doesn’t constantly accuse you of cheating or being unfaithful.
- Encourages you to do well in school or at work.
- Doesn’t threaten you or make you feel scared.
- Understands the importance of healthy relationships.
Remember that a relationship consists of two people. Both you and your partner should have equal say and should never be afraid to express how you feel. It’s not just about speaking up for yourself -- you should also listen and seriously consider what your partner says. Every relationship has arguments and disagreements sometimes -- this is normal. How you choose to deal with your disagreements is what really counts. Both people should work hard to communicate effectively.
WHAT IS CONSENT?
It is important to make sure that you and your partner are both comfortable with everything you do in your relationship. Therefore, you should know what consent is and how to get it.
If you are unsure about consent, NormanAid counselors are available to talk to you. To make an appointment visit the NormanAid or email Mrs. Norman-Franks, [email protected] To find out more about consent read the information below from Planned parenthood.
What Does Consent Mean?
As important as consent is, we don’t talk about it enough. So it’s understandable if you’re a little unsure about what it is – and what it isn’t.
- People typically talk about consent in the context of some kind of sexual or physical activity with a partner. In a healthy relationship, both (or all) partners are able to openly talk about and agree on what kind of activity they want to engage in. Whether it’s holding hands, kissing, touching, intercourse, or anything else, it’s really important for everyone in the relationship to feel comfortable with what’s happening.
- You may have heard the phrase “no means no.” That’s totally true, but it doesn’t really provide a complete picture of consent because it puts the responsibility on one person to resist or accept an activity. It also makes consent about what someone doesn’t want to do, instead of being about openly expressing what they do want to do.
Well, How Does It Work?
Some people are worried that talking about or getting consent will be awkward or that it will “ruin the mood,” which is far from true. If anything, the mood is much more positive when both partners feel safe and can freely communicate about what they want. First off, talk about what terms like “hooking up” or “going all the way” mean to each partner. Consider having these conversations during a time when you’re not being physically intimate. If you are in the heat if the moment, here are some suggestions of things to say:
- Are you comfortable?
- Is this okay?
- Do you want to slow down?
- Do you want to go any further?
What Consent Looks Like?
- Communicating every step of the way. For example, during a hookup, ask if it’s okay to take your partner’s shirt off. Don’t just assume that they are comfortable with it.
- Respecting that when they don’t say “no,” it doesn’t mean “yes.” Consent is a clear and enthusiastic yes! If someone seems unsure, stays silent, doesn’t respond, or says “Maybe…” then they aren’t saying “yes.”
- Breaking away from gender “rules.” Girls are not the only ones who might want to take it slow. Also, it’s not a guy’s job to initiate the action (or anything else, really).
What Consent Does NOT Look Like:
- Assuming that dressing sexy, flirting, accepting a ride, accepting a drink etc. is in any way consenting to anything more.
- Saying yes (or saying nothing) while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Saying yes or giving in to something because you feel too pressured or too afraid to say no.
Here are some RED FLAGS that indicate your partner doesn’t respect consent:
- They pressure or guilt you into doing things you may not want to do.
- They make you feel like you “owe” them — because you’re dating, or they gave you a gift, etc.
- They react negatively (with sadness, anger or resentment) if you say “no” to something, or don’t immediately consent.
- They ignore your wishes and don’t pay attention to nonverbal cues that could show you’re not consenting (ex: pulling/pushing away).
Get Consent Every Time
In a healthy relationship, it’s important to discuss and respect each other’s boundaries on the regular. It’s not okay to assume that once someone consents to an activity, it means they are consenting to it anytime in the future as well. Whether it’s the first time or the hundredth time, a hookup, a committed relationship or even marriage, nobody is ever obligated to consent to something, even if they’ve done it in the past. A person can decide to stop an activity at any time, even if they agreed to it earlier. Above all, everyone has a right to their own body and to feel comfortable with how they use it.
Consent and Sexting
- As with sex itself, consent needs to be considered when sexting, by both the sender and the recipient. When someone shares a sensitive photo of you without your consent, it’s a form of cyberbullying. It might be worth figuring out what you feel comfortable doing and what could cause trouble later on before diving in.
- Once it’s taken, a photo or video can go anywhere. It can be messaged to other people or even posted online. If the photo, video or message doesn’t exist then there’s no chance of harm. It can’t be shared if it doesn’t exist. If you’re thinking about sexting, make sure you’re prepared for what might happen if the content gets into the wrong hands.
- What can happen - If things go wrong (and this can be any number of ways) your photo or message gets shared with more people than you wanted or expected, and can cause you great distress. You might feel distressed, angry, humiliated, and like you just want to never face anyone you know again as your privacy has been breached. Remember, it will blow over, but there’s no doubt about it, it’s never a nice situation to be in. Have fun but stay safe. Be wary that once an image is out of your hands it can go anywhere.
- Ask yourself these questions before you sext:
- Are you comfortable with the risk that your photo could be shared with others?
- Is this something both the sender and recipient consent to?
- Are you feeling pressured to send nude or sexual image?
I AM LGBTQ. IS MY RELATIONSHIP HEALTHY?
You know your relationship is probably healthy if your partner:
- Respects your chosen gender pronouns or name.
- Respects your boundaries.
- Gives you space to hang out with friends and family without thinking you’re cheating.
- Doesn’t take your money or tell you what to buy.
- Never threatens to out you to people.
- Never tells you you’re not a real lesbian, gay man, trans person or whatever you identify as because you don’t have sex the way they want you to.
Healthy relationships usually feel good. Everyone in a healthy relationship will feel good in it and about it most of the time.
Set Healthy Boundaries
Whether you’re casually hooking up or have been going out for a while now, setting boundaries is an important part of any relationship. It’s good for both individuals to be on the same page. To have the healthiest relationship, both partners should know each other’s wants, goals, fears and limits. You should feel comfortable communicating your honest needs to your partner without being afraid of what he or she might do in response. If your partner tells you that your needs are stupid, gets angry with you or goes against what you’re comfortable with, then your partner may not be showing you the respect you deserve. Talking about your boundaries with your partner is a great way to make sure that both of your needs are being met and you feel safe in your relationship. Here are some things to think about when setting boundaries in your relationship:
- The "L" Word: Saying “I love you” happens for different people and different times in a relationship. If your partner says it and you don’t feel that way yet, don’t feel bad -- you may just not be ready yet. Let your partner know how it made you feel when they said it and tell them your own goals for the relationship.
- Time Apart: As great as it is to want to spend a lot of time with your partner, remember that it’s important to have some time away from each other too. Both you and your partner should be free to hang out with friends (male or female) or family without having to get permission. It’s also healthy to spend time by yourself doing things that you enjoy or that help you relax. You should be able to tell your partner when you need to do things on your own instead of feeling trapped into spending all of your time together.
- Take Your Time: Don’t rush it if you’re not ready. Getting physical with your partner doesn’t have to happen all at once if you’re not ready. In a healthy relationship, both partners know how far each other wants to go and they communicate to each other if something changes. There isn’t a rule book that says you have to go so far by a certain age or at any given time in a relationship, so take things at your own pace.
- Sex Isn’t Currency: You don’t owe your partner anything. Just because your partner takes you out to dinner, buys you a gift or says “I love you” doesn’t mean you owe them anything in response. It isn’t fair for your partner to claim that you don’t care about them because you won’t “go all the way.” Even if you’ve done it before, you are never required to do it just because your partner is pressuring you. Remember, no means no.
Privacy & Digital Boundaries
Passwords are Private: Even if you trust your partner, sharing passwords for your phone and website accounts isn’t always the best idea. Just like you should be able to spend time by yourself, you are entitled to your own digital privacy. Giving your partner access to your Facebook or Twitter allows them to post anything they want without getting your permission first. They can also see everyone that you talk to, which may cause unwarranted jealousy, especially if there isn’t anything going on. Just to be safe, your password should be something that only you know so you know you always have control of your information.
- Similarly to your physical boundaries, it’s important to have digital boundaries about what you’re comfortable sending via text message. Once you’ve hit send on a photo or text, you lose control over who sees it. If your partner sends you an inappropriate picture and demands that you send one back, you should be able to express to them that you aren’t comfortable sharing that over text message without them getting angry or threatening you.
- Boundaries are all about respect. You and your partner should know what is too far in all aspects of your relationship so that both of you feel safe.
- Sex Related Photos - “Sexting” typically refers to sex-related or nude photos taken and shared via cellphone or online. The images are meant to remain private, but sometimes, they can get into the wrong hands and end up being more public than you ever would have felt comfortable with.There can be significant psychological consequences, if coercion’s involved or if one partner later shares photos without the other’s consent. If you receive a sex related photo or have a sex related photo of you being distributed, please talk with your parents, a trusted adult or a counselor at NormanAid. NormanAid counselors are available to talk to you. To find out more about sexting read the information below from ReachOut.com.
When is it legal? The practice is not illegal when photos are shared between consenting adults, but when minors are involved, sexual-exploitation and child-pornography laws can come into play. If you’re not 18 years-old and you’re sending sexy texts (or if you’re receiving them from someone under 18 years-old), you could get in a lot of trouble.
Any naked or sexual images of people under 18 years-old are considered child pornography. There are some really serious legal consequences for people who distribute or possess child porn.
Don’t feel pressured into sexting. You shouldn’t ever feel like you’ve been forced into sexting with someone. It’s never OK for someone to pressure or guilt you into taking and sharing photos of yourself. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s not a condition of being in a relationship, and your partner should get to keep compromising photos of you on their phone. It’s always up to you.
Learn How to Have Healthy Relationships