By Courtney, Health Educator
At the end of each S.H.A.R.E. session, we collect anonymous questions. It’s an opportunity for participants to ask their lingering questions about the day’s topic without their identity being known.
One participant wanted to know, “What does healthy love look like?”
I love this question because we often don’t talk about it! In the media and in classroom or group settings, we tend to focus on unhealthy or abusive relationships. While relationship violence is a critical issue in our communities and a major public health concern that still does not get the attention it deserves, it’s also important to talk about the flip side of these relationships – the healthy ones that we strive for.
So what does healthy love look like and how can we cultivate it in own lives? Whether or not you’re currently in a romantic relationship, learning how to build healthy relationships is an important skill that can be applied in many aspects of life.
The foundations of a healthy relationship are boundaries and communication.
- setting physical, emotional, personal, sexual, and spiritual limits
- asserting your own limits and respecting your partner’s
- knowing that it’s okay to say “no” and be assertive when you need to be
- expressing feelings and opinions openly
- saying what you mean and meaning what you say
- knowing it’s okay to disagree
- feeling heard when expressing feelings
- listening to each other
With this foundation, we can develop other critical qualities like trust, respect, and honesty.
- supporting your partner’s goals and achievements
- respecting your partner’s right to their own feelings, friends, activities, and opinions
- wanting the best for your partner
- listening openly
- being emotionally understanding
- valuing one another’s opinions
- respecting each other’s privacy and boundaries
- accepting and embracing each other’s flaws
- accepting responsibility for oneself
- admitting to being wrong
- communicating honestly and openly
Other important features of a healthy relationship include shared responsibility and negotiation, emotional support, empowerment, sexual consent, and respecting physical space.
I love this Equality Wheel from Rm2BSafe because it includes characteristics like trans empowerment and lesbian, gay, and bisexual empowerment. Supporting a partner’s gender identity, gender expression, and/or their sexual identity – for example, using a partner’s correct name and pronouns to validate their gender or allowing a partner to choose when and how to come out – is essential to a healthy relationship, and an added layer that folks in non-LGBTQ relationships don’t have to think about.
Here are some additional characteristics that ANCHOR Project participants value in a relationship:
- Communication skills
- Being free to share their sensitive side – or any side for that matter
- Balance – a balance of responsibilities, power, personalities, etc.
- Self-identity and worth – a partner who has their own interests, goals, and means of validation
Participants also talked about what a healthy sexual relationship looks like to them. Qualities included acceptance, complimentary libido, being able to talk about sexual wants and needs, and an openness to “spicing things up.”
What positive qualities do you value in a relationship?
What strategies have you used to cultivate healthy relationships in your own life?