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Dating and Healthy Relationships

What is dating?

Dating means different things to different people. In general, dating is when two (or more) people who are attracted to each other and enjoy spending time together. The relationship may be sexual, but not necessarily. The relationship may be serious, or not, straight or gay, open or exclusive, short or long term. 

Are you dating?

Whether or not you or your partner call it dating, it is important to know what a healthy relationship looks like and know the warning signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship. 

When you are in a healthy relationship, you have more than just an attraction to your partner, you also have trust, respect and open communication. It is important that you both feel you are in a healthy relationship and can discuss this easily.

Young man carrying his girlfriend piggyback
Relationship Spectrum

Parts of Healthy Relationships

Healthy Communication

Open, honest and safe communication is a fundamental part of a healthy relationship. The first step to building a relationship is making sure you both understand each other’s needs and expectations—being on the same page is very important. That means you have to talk to each other!

The following tips can help you and your partner create and maintain a healthy relationship:

  • Speak Up. In a healthy relationship, if something is bothering you, it’s best to talk about it instead of holding it in.
  • Respect Each Other. Your partner’s wishes and feelings have value, and so do yours. Let your significant other know you are making an effort to keep their ideas in mind. Mutual respect is essential in maintaining healthy relationships.
  • Compromise. Disagreements are a natural part of healthy relationships, but it’s important that you find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Try to solve conflicts in a fair and rational way.
  • Be Supportive. Offer reassurance and encouragement to each other. Also, let your partner know when you need their support. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down.
  • Respect Each Other’s Privacy. Just because you’re in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to share everything and constantly be together. Healthy relationships require space.

Healthy Boundaries

Creating boundaries is a good way to keep your relationship healthy and secure. By setting boundaries together, you can both have a deeper understanding of the type of relationship that you and your partner want. Boundaries are not meant to make you feel trapped or like you’re “walking on eggshells.” Creating boundaries is not a sign of secrecy or distrust — it’s an expression of what makes you feel comfortable and what you would like or not like to happen within the relationship.
Remember, healthy boundaries shouldn’t restrict your ability to:

  • Go out with your friends without your partner.
  • Participate in activities and hobbies you like.
  • Not have to share passwords to your email, social media accounts or phone.
  • Respect each other’s individual likes and needs.
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Warning Signs of Dating Abuse

Because relationships exist on a spectrum, it can be hard to tell when a behavior crosses the line from healthy to unhealthy or even abusive. Use these warning signs of abuse to see if your relationship is going in the wrong direction:

 

  • Checking your cell phone or email without permission
  • Constantly putting you down
  • Extreme jealousy or insecurity
  • Explosive temper
  • Isolating you from family or friends
  • Making false accusations
  • Mood swings
  • Physically hurting you in any way
  • Possessiveness
  • Telling you what to do
  • Pressuring or forcing you to have sex

Unhealthy Relationships

Relationships that are not healthy are based on power and control, not equality and respect. In the early stages of an abusive relationship, you may not think the unhealthy behaviors are a big deal. However, possessiveness, insults, jealous accusations, yelling, humiliation, pulling hair, pushing or other abusive behaviors, are — at their root — exertions of power and control. Remember that abuse is always a choice and you deserve to be respected. There is no excuse for abuse of any kind.

Understand that a person can only change if they want to. You can’t force your partner to alter their behavior if they don’t believe they’re wrong. Even though you cannot change your partner, you can make changes in your own life to stay safe.

If you think your relationship is unhealthy, it’s important to think about your safety now. Call our 24-hour hotline for help.

Conflict Resolution in Unhealthy Relationships

While conflict is normal, your arguments shouldn’t turn into personal attacks and neither partner should try to lower the other’s self-esteem. If you can’t express yourself without fear of retaliation, you may be experiencing abuse. Learn more about verbal abuse and how to draw the line between it and normal disagreements.

Remember, one sign of an abusive relationship is a partner who tries to control or manipulate you. Is your partner upset because:

 

  • You went to basketball practice instead of spending time with them?
  • They checked your phone and didn’t like the texts or calls you received?
  • You’re just hanging out with friends but they think you’re cheating?
  • You’re not ready to have sex?
  • You’re trying to study but they want to talk?
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Conflict Resolution in Healthy Relationships

In a healthy relationship, communication is key. When you communicate effectively, you understand your partner better and make your relationship stronger. When you can resolve conflicts successfully, you are developing a healthy, mature relationship.

While conflict is normal, it can also be a sign that parts of your relationship aren’t working. If your conflict is based on which movie to see, what friends to hang out with or who should do the dishes, then use the tips below to help resolve these arguments in a healthy way:

  • Set Boundaries. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect — even during an argument. If your partner curses at you, calls you names or ridicules you, tell them to stop. If they don’t, walk away and tell them that you don’t want to continue arguing right now.
  • Find the Real Issue. Typically, arguments happen when one partner’s wants are not being met. Try to get to the heart of the matter. If your partner seems needy, maybe they are just feeling insecure and need your encouragement. If you’re angry that your partner isn’t taking out the trash, maybe you’re really upset because you feel like you do all the work around the house. Learn to talk about the real issue so you can avoid constant fighting.
  • Agree to Disagree. If you and your partner can’t resolve an issue, sometimes it’s best to drop it. You can’t agree on everything. Focus on what matters. If the issue is too important for you to drop and you can’t agree to disagree, then maybe you’re not really compatible.
  • Compromise When Possible. Easy to say but hard to do, compromising is a major part of conflict resolution and any successful relationship. So your partner wants Chinese food and you want Indian? Compromise and get Chinese tonight, but Indian next time you eat out. Find a middle ground that can allow both of you to feel satisfied with the outcome.
  • Consider Everything. Is this issue really important? Does it change how the two of you feel about each other? Are you compromising your beliefs or morals? If yes, it’s important that you really stress your position. If not, maybe this is a time for compromise. Also, consider your partner’s arguments. Why are they upset? What does the issue look like from their point of view? It is unusual for your partner to get this upset? Does your partner usually compromise? Are you being inconsiderate?

Still arguing? If you try these tips but still argue constantly, consider whether the relationship is right for both of you. You both deserve a healthy relationship without constant conflict.

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