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Healthy Relationships

What does a healthy relationship look like?
The healthy relationship puzzle
Is your relationship healthy?
If you were wondering ...

We love to be loved. There's nothing better than a great relationship with the person of your dreams. But dating can be confusing and relationships are a lot more work than they look like on TV or in the movies. It may be helpful to learn a little about what healthy relationships look like, what you should expect from a relationship, or even how you can work to improve the relationship you're in.


What does a healthy relationship look like?


If you guessed that a healthy relationship looks the exact opposite of an unhealthy one ... you'd be right, but you'd be taking the easy way out. Can you think of some important elements of a healthy relationship?


What did you come up with? Trust? Respect? Lots of money and a new car? Did you find it easy or hard to brainstorm the items on your list? Most people don't sit down and write out what they want in a relationship, but knowing what you want can be a great way to find a relationship that's perfect for you.


Below, you'll see some of our ideas of what you need to have a healthy relationship. Your list may be longer or shorter, and it may or may not include some of the elements below. We encourage you to be proactive and honor yourself by figuring out what you want in a healthy relationship and defining each item on your list for yourself.


The healthy relationship puzzle


Think of a relationship like a puzzle. You need all of the pieces to create a picture. If even one piece is missing, it spoils the finished product.


What are the pieces to the healthy relationship puzzle?


  • Trust & Support

  • Honesty

  • Communication

  • Intimacy

  • Physical Affection

  • Fairness & Negotiation

  • Shared Responsibility

  • Respect

  • Boundaries


Now that we have all the pieces, let's look at the big picture.


All relationships are different, but the best relationships have all the elements listed above. Take a look at your list again. Maybe you wrote down that you want someone who is nice to you. What does being nice mean to you? No hitting? No putdowns? Someone who's nice is probably honest. They're nice because they respect you and they're fair.


In the best relationships, both partners are equal. It doesn't mean that each person thinks, feels, and acts exactly the same. You can have different interests, likes and dislikes, friends, etc ... In fact, you can support your partner's other interests and create a relationship that is balanced and fair. Equality means you both have a say about what happens in your relationship. You both make decisions, you both talk about your boundaries, you both share responsibility for what happens when you're together.


Negotiation and communication are two key elements in healthy relationships. Why? How will you know what your partner likes or doesn't like if you don't talk to each other? How will your partner know what your expectations are if you don't tell them? And what about those times when you want to go to a football game but your partner wants to stay home? You have to be able to talk to each other and you have to be willing to negotiate--fairly--when you have decisions to make as a couple.


Communication is important. You can't be intimate with someone you don't know and physical affection means more when you're with someone you trust. You're together because you want to spend more time with each other. Intimacy isn't just physical--it's sharing pieces of yourself that you don't share with anyone else. It's those little moments: the joke just between you two, the private moments that only the two of you share. It's important to communicate your desires about physical affection, also. Maybe you're the touchy-feely type but your partner doesn't like being touched in public. You show your respect for your partner by asking them what they want. In turn, they share another piece of themselves with you. You have to be able to trust the person you're with in order to have intimacy and honesty in your relationship. There's nothing worse than being betrayed by a person you love. It makes it hard to trust them again and when you don't trust your partner, your relationship suffers.


Is your relationship healthy?


  • Do you feel free to be yourself when you're with your partner?

  • Does your partner support you and encourage you to try new things?

  • Does your partner encourage you to spend time with your friends and family alone?

  • Do you let your partner spend time with their friends and family without you?

  • Do you text them multiple times a day to check up on them?

  • Do you call them constantly, worried that they might be with someone else?

  • Do you feel you can trust them?

  • Do you feel comfortable talking about intimacy, physical affection, and sex with your partner?

  • How do you fight? Do you fight fair?

  • What is your partner like? Name some things about them that you really admire.

  • Do your friends and family like your partner?

  • Do you feel safe with them?

  • Do you let them pick out their own clothes, wear their hair the way they want to, talk to whomever they want to? Does your partner allow you to do the same?

  • Have you ever felt frightened of them? Why?


Do you have questions about whether or not your relationship is healthy? Do you think you're in an abusive relationship? If you'd like to speak to someone now, please call 866-953-6837 or text us at 515-599-6620.


If you were wondering ...


Healthy relationships look the same whether you're gay, straight, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, polysexual, asexual, transgender, or questioning. LGBTQIA+ relationships experience the same rate of dating violence as straight relationships do. While the dynamics of a healthy or unhealthy relationship look the same, there may be some additional challenges for you if you identify as LGBTQIA+ and you're in a relationship.


  • Are you out? If you haven't told your family and friends, it could be an additional pressure for you if your partner is abusive and threatens to tell everyone about your sexual orientation or preferred gender identity before you're ready.

  • You might be concerned that you don't have the same rights to protection as people in straight relationships do.

  • You might think--or your partner might tell you--that no one will help you if you decide to leave the relationship. Your partner might tell you that the DOVES Program or other crisis intervention programs only serve women or only serve heterosexuals.

  • Your partner might use your gender identity or sexual orientation against you or question whether you're "truly" gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc ... or whether you really are transgender.


The point is, you have the right to a healthy relationship free from violence no matter who you are or how you identify yourself. The DOVES Program will help you regardless of your sex, race, gender identity, income, sexual orientation, etc ... We want you to have a healthy, safe relationship. We are dedicated to ending relationship violence. Please call us if you need help. 866-95-DOVES (36837).

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