Relationships with friends, family, coworkers, and romantic partners are often an integral part of our life experiences. While healthy relationships support life satisfaction and overall wellbeing, unhealthy relationships can be pervasive and negatively affect general health as well as a person’s school, work, and personal life.
We develop a sense of what we want in relationships through watching friends and family, what we see in the media, and our own experiences. These needs and wants change throughout our lives as we grow and learn about ourselves and others. Developing realistic expectations is important to maintaining healthy relationships with people about whom we care. Below are some tips for cultivating healthy romantic relationship expectations:
- Respect Change. People’s needs and desires change over time. Although we may hope that our partners change or stay the same, there is no way to predict or control those changes. This can happen for you or your partner individually, but also for both of you as a pair. Love and passion also evolve throughout romantic relationships. In the beginning of relationships, our brain chemistry behaves differently and consequentially, passion is more complex and often richer in an established relationship.
- Express Wants and Needs. Sometimes we may wish or expect our partner to read our minds to know all of our wants and needs. This can cause miscommunication, a lack of communication, and stress in a relationship. In order for you and your partner to be more personally satisfied, practice open and direct communication of your wants and needs.
- Respect Your Partner’s Rights. While people are often drawn to others with common interests, partners in healthy relationships respect each other’s independence. Your partner has a right to their own feelings, friends, activities, interests, and opinions. Demanding that your partner has the same priorities, goals, and interests as you can be unhealthy for both of you.
- Fight Fair. If a couple views arguments as solely detrimental and tries to avoid them, the accumulation of these conflicts can become the most damaging problem of all. Healthy couples fight; however, they are able to “fight fair.” This means that they accept responsibility for their part in a problem, focus on using “I” statements rather than accusatory “you” statements, admit when they are wrong, and work toward compromise together. Fighting fairly can help couples build and deepen their relationship further through honesty and mutual respect.
- Maintain the Relationship. In the beginning of a relationship, it is easy to expect that it will always be that way. Once the relationship grows into something more long-term, devoting time and effort to maintain and energize the connection between partners is a vital part of keeping a relationship healthy. While gifts and getaways can be exciting, it is often the small, nonmaterial things that partners do for each other that keep a relationship satisfying.
If you or a friend is experiencing an unhealthy relationship, please consider contacting the Safe Office for 24/7 confidential support and assistance: 336.758.5285, Benson 317.
The Safe Office is a confidential resource that provides crisis response, support services, and information for students with concerns or questions related to sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking.
Adapted by the WFU Safe Office from: Voices Against Violence, University of Texas at Austin