While the idea of “dating” might have been very common for your parents, or even your older siblings, today it seems like dating is out of style–young people are either “hooking up” or “together.” We know that there are a whole range of experiences, and that every couple’s relationship is very different. What works for your friends might not work for you and vice-versa. We are not here to tell you who to go out with; however we have some suggestions to help ensure that you stay happier and healthier, and that your heart remains intact.

Is my relationship healthy?

Here are a few signposts indicating your relationship is on track:

  • You can be yourself! You can both be different from one and other, yet respect those differences. You feel comfortable expressing yourself honestly.
  • You feel free to do your own thing. You can spend time with your friends and family. You continue with activities and interests that are important to you.
  • Your partner is truly there for you. They accept and respect your feelings, ideas, and opinions, even if they don’t always agree. They really listen when you speak.
  • You can safely disagree. You can take the time to come to an agreement and compromise when making decisions. If you have a disagreement, you talk openly with each other and prevent a buildup of anger and hostility.
  • Your partner is able to respect your boundaries. You feel comfortable enough to tell them when you need some time alone, that you don’t want to have sex, that you can’t make an immediate decision about something.
  • You have honesty and trust. You are truthful with one and other. You feel supported and cared for. You both take responsibility for your own behavior, instead of always blaming problems on others.
  • You enjoy being together! You have fun and take pleasure in each other’s company.

Indicators that you may be in an unhealthy relationship:

  • Your partner insults your looks, thoughts, or beliefs.
  • They try to keep you away from your friends, family, or other people you care about.
  • Your opinion is consistently ignored, with the other person always making decisions for the both of you.
  • You feel frightened and intimidated by your partner.
  • Your partner physically harms you in any way.
  • You are repeatedly pressured to do something sexual you do not feel comfortable with.
  • Your partner forces you to do anything you don’t want to do.
  • There is no communication, with your partner refusing to talk about important issues.

Tips for a Healthy Relationship

  • Look for a partner based on what’s inside, not what’s outside. Maybe “hot,” “rich” and “popular” seem like desirable qualities for a boyfriend or girlfriend to have, but we’re betting that a partner who is funny, sweet, thoughtful, and a good listener would be way more fun to hang out with.
  • Being in a committed relationship with someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be in a forever relationship with them. It is natural that some couples will grow apart, and most people have several relationships in the course of a lifetime. However, while you are with someone, be with only that person, and expect that person to only be with you. The more partners you have at the same time, the more likely you are to put both your health and your heart at risk.
  • Maintain your life outside of your relationship – friends, school, work, sports and other activities should not have to be dumped in order to be in a relationship with someone. When you both have your own interests and lives, you’ll have a richer, more exciting relationship when you are able to spend time together.
  • Make sure you are with a person for the right reasons – do you feel good about yourself after spending time with them? Are they supportive? Caring? Kind? It might seem that being with someone (even if you are not really into them) is preferable to being alone, but wouldn’t you rather be with someone special? It is totally okay to be single!

Are you already in a healthy relationship? Here are some tips to keep it going strong…

  • Communicate! Open communication is the key ingredient to maintaining a healthy relationship. It’s incredibly important for you and your partner to share thoughts and feelings about the relationship with one and other. If something is bothering you, don’t keep it bottled up. By honestly expressing your concerns, the relevant issue can be confronted and dealt with. Solid communication helps build mutual trust and heads off misunderstandings before they can seriously damage a relationship.
  • Maintain healthy independence. When two people care deeply about one another, it’s normal for them to want to spend as much time together as possible. But in order to create some space and inject your relationship with fresh perspectives, it’s a good idea to continue maintaining good connections with friends, family, or other individuals outside your relationship.
  • Everyone needs a little break, a chance to spend time away from one’s partner doing different things. And if and when any problems arise in a relationship, nothing is more valuable than a good support network that can provide valuable insights and assist in resolving conflict.
  • Negotiate and compromise. It’s important to keep a relationship fair and balanced. Both partners need to feel that their voices are heard and their needs are being met. If you want to go to a basketball game one night and your partner wants to see a movie, you could go to the game, but make sure you see a movie the next time you go out. Equality between partners plays a big role in keeping a relationship healthy.
  • Have fun! Yes, a good relationship is hard work, but it shouldn’t be all work. So be creative, try new things, and surprise each other. Keeping your relationship fresh and exciting (in healthy ways!) will help keep you both happy; and that’s one thing a healthy relationship should be.

From asking someone out to actually going out, dating can be stressful. Sometimes it seems like you can’t find the right words, don’t do the right thing, or are just plain confused. Unfortunately, there are no magic answers to the whole dating thing, but there are a few tips we can recommend to help you navigate the sometimes treacherous waters of going out.

The Dos

  • Be respectful when asking someone out. Whether the answer is “yes” or “no,” it’s important to respect the other person’s feelings and behave in a responsible manner.
  • Make sure you have good hygiene: take a shower, brush your teeth, etc…
  • Come up with a specific plan for the date. Whether it’s something to do or a place to go, don’t just leave it up in the air.
  • Exchange contact information in case someone has to cancel or change the plan.

The Don’ts

  • Don’t be late; it’s disrespectful to not show up on time. Call or text if you can’t make it when you said you would.
  • It’s important not to expect something physical to happen right away. Whatever you might have heard about the other person, they may have very different ideas from you as to what pace they want to take things. Definitely don’t attempt to pressure someone to do anything they are not comfortable with.
  • If things don’t go as well as you’d hoped, avoid the urge to say negative things about the other person behind their back; you wouldn’t want them badmouthing you.
  • Getting too personal too fast can be a mistake. Definitely ask questions and try and get to know the person, but avoid overly sensitive subjects. Some people need time to get comfortable enough to share truly personal information about themselves.

Dating Violence Myths and Facts

Myth: Someone needs to be in control of the relationship. You have the right to abuse your partner if you are jealous or provoked in some way.
Fact: No one deserves to be abused. Jealousy is not an excuse for abusive behavior.
 
Myth: I was drunk and I didn’t know what I was doing. Drinking is what makes me abuse.
Fact: Alcohol or chemical use does not cause someone to be abusive.
 
Myth: No one has the right to interfere in your relationship, even if one person is abusive. People should mind their own business.
Fact: Abuse should never be ignored! People who are abusive need to be held accountable for their behavior. The person being hurt has the right to be in a safe and respectful relationship.
 
Myth: It is okay for one person to make all of the decisions in a relationship.
Fact: In a healthy relationship, both people share in decision making and respect each other’s thoughts and ideas.
 
Myth: Abuse won’t happen to me!
Fact: Abuse knows no boundaries. It can happen to anyone no matter their sex, race, religion, economic status, or sexual orientation.
 
Myth: I love my partner. I’m the only one who can help them! I can make him/her change.
Fact: Being abusive is a choice. An abuser must acknowledge their choices and get help. You can’t change someone else’s behavior.

Worried about a friend or family member

Are you concerned that a friend or family member is in an unhealthy or dangerous relationship? There are many reasons we might be concerned about the people in our lives and the relationship choices they make. If you are worried, there are some things you can do.
 
Here are a few tips on how to talk to someone you believe is in a harmful relationship:
  • Listen to the person in a non-judgmental way. This can be difficult but what they are saying is valuable. We recommend trying to be supportive without trying to step in and run their relationship.
  • The best way to get information about the relationship you are concerned about is to ask specific questions in a respectful manner.
  • There are no excuses for abuse. Abuse should never be ignored! People who are abusive need to be held accountable for their behavior. It is important to let the person being hurt know that they have the right to be in a safe and respectful relationship.
  • Offer to connect your friend or family member to valuable community resources. Let them know that it is important to find people that they trust to talk to about what is happening in their relationship.
  • Try to support your friend or family member to the best of your ability. It might seem like the person is taking forever to get out of the relationship, or isn’t saying or doing what you would do if you were in their situation, but try to be patient. It can be very difficult to safely move away from or exit the relationship.

Resources

If you feel that you or someone you know may be in an abusive relationship, there are places you can go for help. Telling someone about the abuse can be a very difficult thing to do. They care about you and want you to get the help you need. The following resources can make it easier for you.