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How to Be in a Healthy Relationship

This article appeared in a September 2016 issue of the student newsletter.

By Marielle McGregor

What are the components of a healthy relationship?

This is no small question. In fact, there are entire books (like "Safe People") and websites (such as that tackle how to be in a healthy relationship. Today we'll examine a few of the key pieces to a healthy relationship based on student thoughts.

During fall back-to-school parties, students surveyed said to you must be sincere, flexible, loving and safe to be in a healthy relationship, and that these qualities are required by both parties.

1. Be Sincere

Healthy relationships are built on trust. Communication between two individuals stays open because the dialogue is sincere, and over time, it's evident that one's words match up with one's actions. So mean what you say. If you promise you'll be somewhere, be there. If you say you'll do something, do it. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. Trust comes from both individuals being reliable and true to their word.

Do you have a friend or family member you feel you can trust?

2. Be Flexible

Of course, there will be exceptions where we as humans fall short. We are fallible. Sometimes we break promises. We say we'll be somewhere, and then we get sick. Or a tire blows out. Or we have to work late (or study late). But we do our best, and when it's not enough, we openly communicate with one another that our best try isn't going to cut it. We are going to forget a birthday. Or break a treasured item we borrow. We might even say something awful when we are angry. But in a healthy relationship that's built on trust, we make allowances for being human, and support one another. We ask for forgiveness rather than defend ourselves or create excuses. We don't hold grudges against a friend who lets us down. We're flexible. We adapt to the current situation and move forward. Imperfections and all.

3. Be Loving

Perhaps the hardest part of being in a healthy relationship is the call to love one another. And we're not talking about love as in a physical attraction or a warm feeling like butterflies. We are talking about love as an action. Being patient. Being kind. Show love to one another even when your heart doesn't feel like it.

Part of this ability to be loving comes from being able to trust that we as friends (or as family) truly care and want the best for one another. Even when it seems like the other person is just "being mean."

To be loving requires, well … love. And a lot of it.

4. Be Safe

Have you ever heard the saying "follow your heart"?

How about the saying "guard your heart"?

These two expressions sound contradictory. But you can have both in relationships if you set healthy boundaries. By healthy boundaries right now we're talking about healthy emotional boundaries (although healthy physical boundaries are equally as important).

As you become closer to friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend, or family members, your intimacy grows with that person. And there is deep power in connecting with someone emotionally. In the right context it can be beautiful, but without healthy boundaries it can be harmful.  It's important to set boundaries and voice your needs to the other person so they can respect those boundaries.

Do you have any emotional boundaries? Are the people you are in relationships with aware of those boundaries? 

Final Thoughts

To be in a healthy relationship, remember relationships are a journey of building trust. Counselor and author Debra K. Fileta summarized this idea well in recent blog post for Relevant Magazine. 

"You build a little at a time. You give a little at a time," she explained. "Be real, be genuine, be honest, but never without the anchor of healthy boundaries and the weight of wisdom."

A professional counselor like Fileta can help you identify, understand and develop skills to resolve your relational, educational and career issues. Students attending a Dallas Community College can access free counseling services on campus.