How to know you’re in a healthy relationship

Questions and discussions about relationships: girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, partners, friends, family or other intimate relationships in your lives.
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How to know you’re in a healthy relationship

Unread postby Herstory » Thu Nov 28, 2019 5:40 pm


So if you’ve read my previous posts, you know that I’ve been involved with very abusive partners and have a pattern of engaging with people who do not respect me. Because I don’t really know what a healthy relationship is like, I was wondering if anyone could provide me some insight as to what a healthy relationship looks like. I’ve struggled with this my whole life and sometimes feel like maybe I just attract abusers and am not meant to have a healthy relationship. I know it’s not true, but it’s hard not to think that way when the only kind of relationships you have ever known were abusive ones. Will I ever be able to have a healthy relationships? How do you have healthy relationships? What are healthy relationships like? How do I know I’m in one? How do you find healthy relationships? I would appreciate any insight on these questions very much.

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Re: How to know you’re in a healthy relationship

Unread postby al » Thu Nov 28, 2019 9:28 pm

Hi Herstory,

I can understand where the struggle comes from! If you've been on the receiving end of mistreatment, abuse, or violence, it can be hard to imagine what positive and healthy interaction looks like. Not to mention the fact that popular media doesn't show a lot of examples of healthy relationships behaviors like honesty and trust, mutual problem solving, appropriate boundaries, flexibility and allowance for growth, etc. Even a lot of organizations that do work in violence prevention don't always have the resources to educate about what "healthy" looks like; they may be more focused on the more immediate "unhealthy/abusive" behaviors.
Luckily, Scarleteen is here to talk about this stuff! Have you gotten a change to look through Hello, Sailor! How to Build, Board, and Navigate a Healthy Relationship, or Does Your Relationships Need a Checkup? If so, how did they strike you? Did the components/behaviors feel realistic, and have you ever practiced them in your relationships?

I also think that you might be selling yourself a bit short on the analyzing-relationships front. If you've experienced violence and abuse, and are able to recognize them as such, I'm sure that you have some idea of what healthy relationships are in order to conclude that they were wrong. If you were to imagine yourself being in the type of relationship that you'd find ideal, what would it look like? How would you want be treated? How would you want to feel about yourself? What are behaviors or situations that you'd like to see happening frequently?

One more thing - you asked whether or not you'll ever be in a healthy relationship. I want you to know that pretty much everyone has that possibility, but some of it is circumstantial. Obviously, there has to be someone around who a) is willing to use skills of self-reflection, communication, and trust that are required for healthy relationships, and b) you want to be in a relationship with/that wants to be in a relationship with you.
We can't really control others' feelings and how they decide to act, but we can control ourselves. And by asking yourself these questions and building your self-confidence and skills in asserting your wants and needs, you set the playing field so that if that right person does come along, you have a solid foundation from with to engage with them. It can be tough, but you're worth it. <3
Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, only in contradiction to what we know of it. -Special Agent Dana Katherine Scully

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Re: How to know you’re in a healthy relationship

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Thu Nov 28, 2019 10:18 pm

So, the cool thing is that there's actually a good amount of resources out there explaining what healthy relationships look like!

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationship Models
10 Tenants of a Healthy Relationship
14 Signs of a Healthy Relationship Regarding Partnership
10 Signs of a Healthy Relationship Regarding Individuality
Specific Signs of a Healthy Relationship

I'm linking all of those because while they have a lot of similarities, they also cover a lot of different ground.

Similarly, it is good to recognize some warning signs for an unhealthy relationship. Since it feels to you like your basic knowledge is based off thinking unhealthy relationships are normal, it's good to specifically learn that being mistreated isn't normal and that you don't have to put up with it.

51 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
10 Tenants of an Unhealthy Relationship
9 Subtle Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
11 Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship
35 Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

Based off knowledge of your previous posts, here are some specific actions I think you could think about taking in order to start learning to trust yourself and be able to build a happy future.

First off, I'm really going to suggest therapy again. Therapy is a great place to start unpacking feelings, take stock of your feelings, learn to take stock of your feelings, and make a plan for what to do if situations you fear coming up (such as getting into another unhealthy relationships) do come up. It can make us feel really powerless when we don't know what will happen and don't know how we'll handle it. It can be really empowering and make us feel safer if we take some time and think ahead of time for us to assess the tools we have to address such situations in the future.

By doing this, you could also build up your trust in yourself. The thing about being in unhealthy relationships is that it actually makes us more capable of recognizing the signs if they should crop up again. The thing that can hold us back, though, is not trusting our own instincts and feelings and being unable to let go. A lot of people get caught up in "this time, if I work hard enough, I can fix things" or "I'm clearly just too sensitive because of my past experiences, so I can't trust how I'm feeling in this relationship and just need to work harder because this is how it's supposed to be" instead of learning to let go. "This is not my problem to fix. I'm ready for a deserve a partner who is my equal and will put equal work into a relationship. This is clearly not the case in this relationship, so for my own sake, I'm going to let go of this one. I deserve better."

Another thing you can do is start practicing setting boundaries. It's important to have and to uphold boundaries in our everyday life. Boundaries with friends, families, strangers, coworkers - all important and good places for you to start practicing. Boundaries protect us and can make us more confident and happier. Here is a pretty good overview by healthline on how to start thinking about and taking steps towards upholding boundaries.

Which leads me nicely into my next suggestion: take some time to think about yourself and what you want.
Do you like your current style? Is it time for a haircut? A wardrobe update? A new physical activity/sport?
Is there a hobby you've been wanting to start but have been putting off?
Is there a hobby you used to do that you want to re-connect with?
Is there a skill you've been wanting to learn or improve at?
Are you happy in the city you're located in?
Are you satisfied with your school major/current career?
What are some of your bucket list items?
What is your dream vacation?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10? 20?
Not only is thinking about these things a good way to get in touch with yourself, but these are things we should take stock of periodically for ourselves, anyway. In my experience, I think these are really good questions for once you've left an unhealthy relationship because it's likely the relationship distorted your sense of self and had you putting on hold things you had wanted before you got into the relationship. Also, thinking about these things can give you a stronger sense of self, which can also give you more confidence, and make it harder for you to feel lost and like you're losing yourself when in a relationship.

Standing up for ourselves is hard and can take practice, but confidence and a good sense of self and being in tune with your boundaries can all help you trust yourself and have the courage to stand up for yourself. And having a healthy relationship with yourself is also an incredibly worthy goal.

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