Building relationships is a key part of high school life. Often, students build relationships with friends and partners that last well beyond the high school years. Having the right expectations for relationships and knowing how to identify both healthy and unhealthy relationships sets the stage for other important relationships later in life. Media often dramatizes and romanticizes relationships that are unstable and unhealthy and may give young people the wrong impression about what to expect from a friend or a partner. Building healthy friendships and partnerships can help to buffer us from negative forces in our life, including bullying.
What Makes a Good Relationship?
Relationships should help us to grow and thrive and be our best selves. Unfortunately, not all relationships end up being healthy. Many unhealthy relationships share things in common. Some red flags to look out for are*:
Putting you down (even if it’s done in a teasing or joking way)
Telling you what to do
Checking your phone without permission
Pressuring or forcing you to hook up
"Green flags" to look for when choosing a partner include finding someone who*:
Treats you with respect.
Doesn't make fun of things you like or want to do.
Never puts you down.
Doesn't get angry if you spend time with your friends or family.
Listens to your ideas and compromise sometimes.
Isn't excessively negative.
Shares some of your interests such as movies, sports, reading, dancing or music.
Isn’t afraid to share their thoughts and feelings.
Is comfortable around your friends and family.
Is proud of your accomplishments and successes.
Respects your boundaries
Doesn’t require you to “check in” or need to know where you are all the time.
Is caring and honest.
Doesn’t pressure you to do things that you don’t want to do.
Doesn’t constantly accuse you of cheating or being unfaithful.
Encourages you to do well in school or at work.
Doesn’t threaten you or make you feel scared.
Understands the importance of healthy relationships.
*Taken from loveisrespect.org
A big sign of the health of a relationship is setting and respecting boundaries. It is ok to set boundaries with your partner and to expect them to respect your boundaries.*
Setting Healthy Emotional Boundaries:
It’s healthy to spend time apart
Communicate about what you want out of the relationship
No pressure to say “I love you” - say it when you’re ready and respect the other person if they’re not
Setting Healthy Physical Boundaries:
Don’t rush it if you’re not ready
Communicate with your partner and take things at a pace you’re comfortable with
Sex isn’t a currency. Your partner can’t claim you owe them anything. No means no regardless of the circumstances.
Setting Healthy Digital Boundaries:
Passwords are private
Respect each other’s privacy- no phone snooping
Keep it positive - whether in status updates, messages or social media
Be patient and understanding when waiting for replies
Have boundaries with your partner about what you will, and will not, send via text and social media.
*List of boundaries reproduced from loveisrespect.org
What can I do if I or someone I know is in an unhealthy relationship?
You are not alone. Many students have been through this before and there are people in your life who can help. If you think you are in an unhealthy relationship or just need some advice, please reach out to a counselor, a child study team member, a teacher, coach, or other trusted adult. Even if they don't have all the answers, they can help find you the right support.
As a friend, there are things you can do to help. You can:
Tell someone that you are worried and want help or want to help.
Be supportive and listen patiently
Help your friend realize that abuse is not normal, not ok, and not their fault
Let your friend know they can reach out to a counselor, teacher, parent, or other trusted adult for help
Do not contact their partner or post negative things about them online. This will not make the situation better for your friend
Be supportive of your friend regardless of their decisions*