Building Healthy Relationships
In healthy relationships, people feel connected with each other while still having a sense of autonomy and independence. Individuals are able to express their needs, wants, and concerns with one another, and everyone’s rights and boundaries are respected.
Trust is a fundamental building block of close relationships. While building trust can be a slow process, breaking trust often happens quickly. The following are tips from Dr. Andrea Bonier for fostering trust in a relationship:
- Be honest
- Allow yourself to be increasingly vulnerable
- Show respect
- Give the benefit of the doubt
- Express your feelings in a healthy way
- Do new things together
- Practice mutual giving and receiving
Boundaries help define the types of behaviors an individual will, or won’t, accept from others. There are physical boundaries, such as touch, personal space, and privacy. There are also emotional boundaries that help individuals separate their thoughts and feelings from those of other people. Individuals define their own boundaries, which can be influenced by many things, including personal experience and culture. Ultimately, boundaries help individuals to protect and preserve important personal values in relationships. It is a myth that people in close relationships have no boundaries with one another. In fact, in healthy relationships, people set and communicate their own boundaries while also respecting others’ boundaries.
Communication is the glue that holds relationships together! Being able to express your needs and wants, while also listening to the needs and wants of others, is key to good communication. Some tips for improving communication with others include:
- Use “I” statements, such as “I feel ____ when you _______ because ________________.” This can help the speaker take responsibility for their feelings and thoughts, while letting others know about problematic behavior without blaming or shaming.
- Avoid unhelpful communication patterns, such as criticism, defensiveness, name-calling, and “stonewalling” (shutting down and not responding to others).
- It’s okay to be assertive and hold boundaries with others as needed. This is not the same thing as being aggressive.
- When the other person is speaking, try to fully listen without judgment to what they are saying. Reflect back to them what you’ve heard them say before responding with your own thoughts or feelings.