Healthy Teenage Relationships
Ten Characteristics of Healthy Teenage Relationships
There are lots of ways to portray the characteristics of a good relationship. Feel free to augment or refine this list if you like and remember these characteristics apply to relationships in general, not just healthy teenage relationships. Not all good relationships have all of these characteristics all of the time, nor are all of them of equal strength or importance in a particular relationship. These characteristics are relevant for friendships as well as girlfriend/boyfriend relationships. They are the building blocks in the foundation of relationships.
Respect can be in regard to opinions, emotions, beliefs, values and differences in general. It can also relate to personal boundaries/space, including touching and other sexual behaviors. In respectful relationships partners do not diminish (put down) one another in front of others or privately. In respectful relationships partners also accept each other as they are, even though they may challenge and support each other in growing.
Trust is a two-way street – it means making the leap to trust another as well as behaving in trustworthy ways. “I choose to trust you until you show me that I can’t.” “I will act in consistently trustworthy ways.” Sometimes trust is violated, even in the best of relationships. If it’s not a pattern or too big a violation, you can usually recover from such a screw-up and even build a stronger relationship. That doesn’t hold true if the violations continue.
No lying, including by omission. Being honest also requires knowing what you are thinking and feeling and being able to communicate that. This takes the courage to put yourself out there, which is a deceptively tough challenge requiring more courage than you might think. Do you know where each other stand? Are each person’s characteristics and behaviors consistent (or do you not know what to expect from day to day or week to week)? Being honest and genuine doesn’t mean that you can’t keep some things private
This has a lot to do with power, which is a key issue in relationships. Both partners have an equal say in decision-making. Each partner’s needs and desires matter. Power and decision-making is shared. You have the same standards for each other. Equality doesn’t mean keeping every little thing in balance all the time because there is a rhythm to relationships, but it does mean making sure that there is a general balance of equality.
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Partners in a relationship must clearly value each other and express that. It’s important the people in the relationship are open to feeling appreciated by the other (that’s surprisingly tough sometimes). You celebrate each other’s accomplishments – large or small. Partners bring a positive approach to life and the friendship. There is fun and enjoyment in the relationship.
This is a basic foundation for relationships, especially healthy teenage relationships. Each person feels safe from physical, emotional, sexual or other forms of abuse. It is safe to be fully present in the relationship, sharing hopes and fears, interests and needs, thoughts and emotions, doubts, etc. You can be yourself in the relationship. The relationship is a safe haven from the stresses of life.
Being emotionally competent means being aware of your own emotions and being able to manage those emotions. It means you can manage your emotions without just “dumping” them and expecting others to deal with them. You can deal with conflicts and disagreements peacefully and creatively. In healthy relationships empathy is practiced – being aware of others’ experience and aware of your impact on them through behaviors (or lack of). In healthy relationships anger is managed and is neither too frequent nor too intense.
There is so much to communication. You share your own thoughts and feelings and show an active interest in others. You talk openly about problems, hear each other out, respect differing needs or opinions and find ways to compromise – to meet as many of each other’s interests as possible. Really listening is a key element in the relationship. Listening is a very strong indication of interest and caring and it is a powerful connector.
“Assumptions are the termites of relationships.”
This is not an “either/or” issue. The strongest and most resilient relationships are those where partners also have significant separate lives. You enjoy spending time apart and you have an individual sense of identity. You enjoy each other’s company, but also enjoy other relationships and activities. In fact, the parts of your lives that are separate enrich the experience you have together.
Mutual Support & Growth
You make each other better people. You challenge each other to be your best and support each other when doubting, injured, sick, scared or under a lot of stress. You know the other “has your back.” You also encourage each other to try new things, to be curious, to stretch. With the teen years constantly presenting new challenges, this support is especially needed in healthy teenage relationships.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It's not something you learn in school. But if you haven't learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven't learned anything.”Muhammad