One of the biggest challenges in middle and high school is maintaining healthy relationships. Not all relationships are created equal. We form many types of relationships, including familial, acquaintances, friendships, professional, and romantic. In middle and high school, some of our friends from elementary school may drift out of our lives, and new friends may enter. This is all normal, as relationships, like people, change over time.
Healthy relationships are built on honesty and trust, while unhealthy relationships are based on lies and manipulation. It's important to understand the difference between the two to recognize if a relationship is toxic. For example, someone with whom you've been friends since kindergarten may treat you differently now that they have a new set of friends. If this friendship is no longer healthy, it's OK to hit pause and spend some time away from each other.
Relationships are hard work
Relationships are hard work. But what do they entail?
Healthy relationships require trust, honesty, and commitment. When in a healthy relationship, we feel safe to be our true selves. In an unhealthy relationship, however, this isn’t always the case. An unhealthy relationship is one in which the person you are with makes you feel unsafe. They don’t respect your boundaries or treat you with care and compassion. In an unhealthy relationship, there is always a power imbalance between the two people involved. While healthy relationships are based on mutual respect, honesty and trust, unhealthy relationships are based on lies and manipulation.
Saying no is an important part of a healthy relationship
The key to a healthy relationship is saying no when necessary. In an unhealthy relationship, saying no can feel like it is not an option. In a healthy relationship, both people will do their best to understand why the answer is "no". You should feel safe enough to say how you feel about situations, speak up when overwhelmed, and be met with understanding. Learning how to say no, even to close friends or family members, is an important skill.
If you are being asked to do something that makes you uncomfortable, or when someone tries to pressure you into doing something that is not in line with your values or what feels right for you, you need to say no and consider if this person is a healthy relationship for you to have.
What are the characteristics of a healthy relationship?
- You have mutual respect
- You feel you can be honest with this person and vice versa
- You trust this person
- You can trust that this person won't tell your secrets (and that you will keep theirs)
- You can be yourself around this person
- You look forward to seeing this person
- You can laugh with this person
- It is enjoyable to be around this person
- This person treats you in a kind manner
- This person lifts you up and encourages you
- You are not associating with this person out of obligation
- There is good communication on both sides
What are the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship?
- Poor communication
- This person disrespects you when you're not around
- This person disrespects you when you are around
- They put you down
- This person treats you unkindly
- You do not feel like you can be yourself around them
- You do not feel you can say no to them
- You would not trust them with personal information
- Controlling behaviors
- You do not look forward to seeing them
We hope this post gives you insight into what makes for a healthy relationship and that you take the time to reflect on the relationships in your life.