No matter what type of relationship it is -- a family relationship, a friendship or a romantic relationship -- there are four key components that make for a healthy relationship:
RESPECT: A healthy relationship involves mutual respect -- taking the time to discover and enjoy what each person has to share and contribute to the relationship. Respecting your partner means actively listening to what they say and need, and trying to understand their point of view. It also means valuing their worth as an individual and respecting what is important to them. When respect is absent from a relationship, power becomes out of balance and one partner will dominate over the other. Usually, the less dominant partner is forced to sacrifice autonomy, values, goals, or other relationships.
HONESTY: A healthy relationship means not only being honest with your partner, but also being honest with yourself. Some challenging questions you should ask yourself are What are my thoughts and feelings about this relationship, what do I want to happen in this relationship, and how do I want it to grow? Having a solid understanding of your true feelings will better prepare you for sharing them honestly with your partner. Healthy relationships thrive when both individuals involved share who they truly are and what they truly desire. Deceit and manipulation only destroy a relationship.
TRUST: A healthy relationship involves trust -- each individual feeling they truly know their partner and are truly respected by their partner. It also entails feeling confident that your partner will be there for you in times of need as well as joy. Trust is established through honesty and respect and is built over time. On the other hand, it may take only one broken promise to completely shatter it.
COMMUNICATION: In a healthy relationship, communication is the vehicle through which partners demonstrate their respect, honesty and trust. Communication has two ingredients: 1) clearly expressing your thoughts, feelings, needs, and wishes, and 2) actively listening to the thoughts, feelings, needs, and wishes of your partner. Through communication, individuals learn about their partner and gain a deeper understanding of how to enrich their relationship.
Healthy relationships require time to develop. They do not unfold overnight, or even in a week. They require an individual's willingness to invest time and emotion as well as a willingness to change and grow.
What does respect mean in a dating relationship?
Each person has a right to physical and emotional boundaries. You decide what limits you have. You set your own boundaries. You have a right to have your limits respected. You also have the responsibility to respect the limits of your partner.
You have the right to speak your mind without fear and to be heard by others. You have the responsibility to listen to your partner. The best relationships encourage two-way communication.
Both partners have an equal share in decision making. Neither partner is used selfishly by the other. The interests, opinions, and feelings of both partners matter.
In a respectful relationship, your belief in yourself stays strong and often increases. You feel good about yourself and how your partner treats you.
When respect is not there...
Boundaries can be ignored and overrun. Communication can break down. One person can ignore the wishes and rights of the other. Abuse can take place. Date rape can happen.
Being Sure About Consent
In a respectful relationship...
- Both people feel safe
- Both people feel appreciated
- Both people are considerate
- Both people are understanding
Each person feels safe, appreciated, and understood when both people in the relationship express what they are feeling and say what they want and need.
"Let's talk it over."
"I'd like to do that."
"Do you want to?"
"I don't want to have sex. I do want to kiss and be close..."
In a romantic relationship
Consent requires talking together and actively agreeing on the level of sexual intimacy you are both ready for. No bully, no pushing, no pressure. It isn't always easy -- but it is respect.
If you need help:
If you have experienced date rape or dating violence, there are people who can help. Perhaps those you usually turn to for support can help -- like parents, friends, brothers and sisters, people at your church, temple, or synagogue, or trusted adults at your school.
If you need support and information those people cannot give you, call your local sexual assault rape or crisis center hotline.
For more information, please contact the Women's Center at (203) 392-6946.