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TIP OF THE MONTH

February

The Month of Love

by Lindsay Hendricks ’13 and Brendan Trujillo ’13

When you walk into any supermarket, drugstore, or department store, it is obvious that love is the air. Pink, red, and white line the racks and hearts and chocolates are on sale. This is how you know Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching.
With love in the air, it is imperative to know the importance of a healthy relationship.

Building a healthy relationship early in your relationship can establish a solid foundation for a long-term relationship. If Valentine’s Day will be your first date or you have only been with your significant other over a month or so, it is important to keep these tips in mind about building and maintaining a healthy relationship.

Every relationship should begin on a solid foundation of appreciation and respect. Focus on being considerate for the little things and finding ways to say “thank you” to your partner, rather than focusing on little mistakes that your partner may make.
Both of you may have separate interests and it is important to explore these interests. For example, if your significant other loves the outdoors and would like for you to go hiking, but the only hiking you have done is around the city of Philadelphia, give it a try. Who knows, you may enjoy hiking outdoors. Exploring each other’s interests may lead to a future mutual interest you two can continue. Also, try something neither one of you have done (i.e. ice skating). Trying new activities together will not only will be a fun way to bond but it may also be something you both enjoy and will want to do again.

There’s also the idea that “love means never having to say you’re sorry.” But admitting you have made a mistake or hurt your partner’s feelings is essential for a relationship. Although it may seem difficult at the moment, it will go further in resolving the conflict. Taking responsibility for your words and actions will build a crucial element for the relationship—trust.

Now that a healthy relationship has been established, it is important to remember that relationships grow and change. The way to remain in a healthy relationship is to recognize and confront these changes. College is a transitional phase between being a teenager and being an adult. Between the homework, research papers, on/off-campus job(s), internships, sports, and/or other extracurricular activities, it may be difficult to prioritize which is more important than the other. When decisions as big as “What am I going to do with the rest of my life?” arise, it is important to communicate these thoughts and decisions with your significant other. Check in periodically about their expectations and goals for the relationship and how those changes may impact those things. Also, take a positive spin toward such changes. Instead of looking at them in a negative sense, welcome them as opportunities to enhance the relationship so that you and your significant other grow together.

Finally, here are the 8 ways to maintain the “honeymoon phase”:

  • Be aware of what you and your partner want for yourselves and what you want from the relationship.

  • Let one another know what your needs are.

  • Realize that your partner will not be able to meet all your needs. Some of these needs will have to be met outside of the relationship.

  • Be willing to negotiate and compromise on the things you want from one another.

  • Do not demand that a partner make drastic changes to meet all your expectations. Work to accept the differences between your ideal mate and the real person you are dating.

  • Try to see things from the other’s point of view. This doesn’t mean that you must agree with one another all the time, but rather that both of you can understand and respect each other’s differences, points of view, and separate needs.

  • Where critical differences do exist in your expectations, needs, or opinions, try to work honestly and sincerely to negotiate. Seek professional help early rather than waiting until the solution becomes critical.

  • Do your best to treat your partner in a way that says, “I love you and trust you, and I want to work this out.”

One question in a healthy relationship is what to do when conflict arises. Here are some guidelines for successful communication and conflict resolution:

  • Contrary to popular belief, when in an argument, taking a “time-out” is okay. Taking some time alone may keep you or the other person from saying something that they don’t mean in the “heat of the moment”.

  • There are some things that the two of you will not agree on and that’s okay. Whether it is the fact that he’s a Steelers fan and you are a Raven’s fan or that she hates video games but that is your favorite activity to relax. Instead of constantly fighting over the same issue, negotiate a compromise to “agree to disagree” or find a way to work around the issue.

  • Both men and women do not pick up on subtle cues. If you want your partner to do something specific, request it openly with him or her, such as “I would like you to hold my hand more often”, instead of suggesting something vague like “I wish you were more affectionate.”

  • Be an attentive listener. Do not interrupt. Focus on what your partner is really saying rather than formulating your own response and check out what you heard your partner say (“I think you are saying…” or “What I understood you to say was…”). This step alone can prevent a larger fight due to misunderstanding what each other said.

  • Be careful of what you say. By “editing” yourself and not say everything that is bothering you at once, you will not prolong an argument. Focus on one situation at a time and resolve one thing at a time.

Here is what constitutes a healthy relationship:

  • Your partner respects you and your individuality.
  • You are both open and honest.
  • Your partner supports you and your choices even when they disagree with you.
  • Both of you have equal say and respectful boundaries.
  • Your partner understands that you need to study or hang out with friends or family.
  • You can communicate your feelings without being afraid of negative consequences.
  • Both of you feel safe being open and honest.

Even if there is no physical abuse in your relationship, here are some red flags of an unhealthy relationship:

  • Your partner is inconsiderate, disrespectful or distrustful.

  • Does not communicate his/her feelings.

  • Tries to emotionally or financially control you by placing your money in their banking account.

  • Keeps you from getting a job or gets you fired.

  • Humiliates you on Facebook or in front of your friends.

  • Threatens to out you to your family.

Relationships are not meant to be easy and they certainly are not fairy tales. But with these tips, building and maintaining a healthy relationship can result in “Happily Ever After.”

If you are having relational issues or wish to speak to a professional about your relationship, the Counseling Center is open for you. To make an appointment, call 610-921-7532.

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