A healthy relationship makes you feel good about yourself and your partner. You have fun together and you and your partner can be yourselves. All relationships are different, but healthy relationships share at least five things in common – the S.H.A.R.E. qualities.
- Safety: In a healthy relationship, you feel safe. You don’t have to worry that your partner will harm you physically or emotionally, and you aren’t tempted to harm them. You can change your mind about something – like having sex – without being afraid of how your partner will respond.
- Honesty: You don’t hide anything important from your partner, and can say what you think without fear of being ridiculed. You can admit to being wrong, and you resolve disagreements by talking honestly.
- Acceptance: You accept each other as you are. You appreciate your partner’s unique qualities, such as shyness or spaceyness, and don’t try to “fix” them. If you don’t like your partner’s qualities, you shouldn’t be with that person.
- Respect: You think highly of each other. You do not feel superior or inferior to your partner in important ways. You respect each other’s right to have separate opinions and ideas.
- Enjoyment: A good relationship is not just about how two people treat each other – it also has to be enjoyable. (If it’s not enjoyable, why bother?) In a healthy relationship, you feel energized and alive in your partner’s presence. You can play and laugh together. You have fun.
The opposite of a healthy relationship is an abusive relationship. Abusive relationships revolve around control, fear, and lack of respect. Usually, one partner has control while the other cowers in resentment or fear. Abusive relationships can involve threats, name-calling, blaming, guilt-tripping, jealous questioning, and outright violence.
If you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship, there’s a good chance you are. Perhaps you know deep down that you’d be better off without the relationship but are afraid to leave it. You may depend on your partner’s income, you may fear being on your own, or you may rationalize the relationship as “better than nothing.” In the long run, however, an abusive relationship does far more damage to your self-esteem than the absence of a relationship (and the opportunity to find a healthy one).
You may think you have no options, but you almost certainly do. A social worker and/or counsellor can help you map out a strategy for leaving an abusive relationship and getting your own life back on track. Your doctor or local/regional sexual clinic can steer you toward appropriate counselling services.