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A healthy relationship is one that makes you feel good. There will always be difficult times in any relationship – but they shouldn’t leave you feeling bad all the time.
All relationships of all kinds, be it with your friends, family or romantic partners, need a little work from all people involved in them in order to make them positive for everyone.
Find out more about what a healthy relationship looks like and the different kinds of relationships we can have.
Don’t ignore issues
It’s important to talk about things that upset you – even if it feels silly, or you are worried that it might ‘rock the boat’. This could be something like being annoyed by a friend always turning up late when you ask them to meet you at a certain time or you feel like your partner expects you to do all the housework.
Of course, it’s not worth bringing up every single thing that annoys you, but if it’s becoming a pattern it can be better to discuss why it’s upsetting you to be able to nip it in the bud – it’s likely the other person isn’t aware that this thing is upsetting you, so by talking about it you can come to a resolution.
If you decide to try and ignore it, then lots of different little issues might pile up, which then leads to a much bigger argument. By talking about it there and then you can get it sorted ASAP.
It’s all about respect
Respecting the person you have a relationship with is key – as is them respecting you too. Respect can involve acknowledging that they have a life outside of their relationship with you. This could involve things like encouraging them to spend time with their friends as you know they enjoy their company; making sure not to interrupt them during their workday as you know how much they care about their career; or making compromises like spending Christmas or other religious holidays at your partners parents instead of yours this year.
Respect can also involve being able to resolve conflicts maturely. If you have different opinions on certain issues, or you are upset about something, don’t let the argument descend into name calling. It also involves listening to what the other person is saying without assuming what they mean. Find out more about being a good listener.
Know each other’s expectations
It’s important to know what you expect from the relationship. This is why it can be important to talk to someone you have a relationship with about what kind of relationship it is – is it a friendship, a romantic relationship, a sexual relationship or something else? This can help you have a rough idea of what it might involve.
And within that relationship you should discuss what it is you expect of each other. For example: do you expect them to talk to you every day? Or is it okay to go a couple days without chatting to each other? By talking about what you need from any kind of relationship it can help stop either you or the other person getting upset – you aren’t annoyed because they haven’t got in touch with you since yesterday; or you aren’t feeling overwhelmed by trying to keep up a constant conversation with them.
Talk about sex
Remember: the age of consent in the UK is 16. Find out more about consent.
If you have a sexual relationship with someone discussing what both of you are comfortable with – be it kissing, touching, or more – is vital. These chats should involve where you are okay with those things happening on your body too.
You can also discuss things that you would like to try together when it comes to sex too – but it has to be equal between everyone. Nobody should be pressuring someone else into anything or feel obliged to do anything.
Find out more about feeling pressured to have sex.
Find out more consent.
There should also be open discussions about STI testing and what contraceptives you each use as well. Find out more about keeping your sexual health in check and how to have important discussions with your partner.
You can also find out more about what contraceptives are available.
A lot of this stuff involves conversation – so how do you do that?
First of all: make the time and place for it. Don’t bring things up just as you’re about to leave to go to work or school, or if the person is in the middle of something else.
Tell them that you would really appreciate some time to chat about things and ask them when they would be free to do this. This should be a time when they don’t have any other commitments.
It can be useful to use “I” statements when talking about any issues – this can make the other person feel more comfortable and that they aren’t being blamed for everything. For example if you would like to spend more quality time with your partner you could say something like “I feel like I don’t get to see as much as of you as I would like to, and I would like to spend more time with you. I would really like it if we could sit down and have dinner together twice a week.”
It’s also important to make sure you have each others full attention and that you are really listening to each other. You can do this by maintaining eye contact, paying to attention to what they’re saying, and not assuming what they mean – this can be done by relaying the words they said and saying something like “When you say you don’t get to see as much as of me as you would like, do you mean that you would like to spend more time together?”.
Find out more about being a good listener.
Feel like you’re not getting through?
There are lots of places that can offer something called mediation. This is when somebody else comes in and tries to resolve the problems between you and someone else. It might involve coming up with a compromise, or it might even just let you have the opportunity to talk about how you feel.
The Scottish Centre For Conflict Resolution have mediation services as well as lots of practical information on how to improve relationships of all kinds.
You can get in touch them by calling 0131 475 2493 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where can you get help and support?
There are some things that aren't acceptable in a relationship - like physical, sexual or emotional abuse. Find out more about unhealthy relationships.
Abuse like this is always wrong. You have the right to be safe and to be treated with respect and kindness.
Find out where to get support.
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Visit the That's Not OK campaign page for more information.