November 12, 2021

Building Healthy Relationships

Alondra Aguilar

Healthy relationships are often glamorized online and within mainstream media as being picturesque, simple, and easy. It’s easy to jump to the conclusion that a relationship that doesn’t experience domestic violence is a healthy one. Domestic violence is not the only type of abuse that can occur within a relationship. It’s important to note, that healthy relationships must be maintained through active engagement and reflection. More often than not, the first couple of years of a relationship can be healthy, but over time can become abusive and neglectful. How a partner once was does not excuse maltreatment in the present. 

Domestic violence impacts 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men in the United States.  If you know someone experiencing domestic violence, the idea of leaving can be daunting. Saying phrases such as “why don’t you just leave” can feel belittling, and though well-intended, these are not pragmatic approaches to discussing domestic violence. The House of Ruth, an organization that aids families and victims of DV, suggests the following approaches to making a difference in DV: 

  1. Providing options rather than advice. 
  2. Helping create a safety plan 
  3. They suggest creating a readiness kit that includes all forms of identification (passports/medical records/birth certificates/driver’s license), a bag of clothing, lists of important numbers, an order of protection, and money. 
  4. Calling the House of Ruth (1-877-988-5559) 
  5. Providing a non-judgmental space to listen and support 

Building healthy relationships requires knowing how to identify abusive behaviors and proactive behaviors. In the heat of the moment, spewing unfiltered rage to “win the fight,” is the easy way out to an uncomfortable discussion. It’s important to weigh in the cost of an argument. Is “winning” the fight worth it at the cost of the relationship? Conflict, within any relationship, is inevitable. Conflict doesn’t need to be callous to be communicative. Jennie Estes, a marriage and family therapist, suggests that having a healthy relationship means breaking a negative cycle. She suggests the following to break away from a negative cycle: 

  1. Use first-person (I-statements) to convey emotion and perspective 
  2. Avoiding second-person statements: using second-person can elicit a defensive response (e.g., “you think” or “you never”) 
  3. Asking introspective questions (e.g., why does this bother me?) 
  4. Pausing to think about what you want to say  

Every relationship has its ups and downs, but these “downs” should not be abusive. Creating healthy relationships after a history of abuse and trauma is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. Day by day we must build a healthy relationship with ourselves. The mental health foundation argues that to maintain a healthy lifestyle with ourselves we must; 

  1. Talk about our feelings (set boundaries and expectations of how we’d like to be treated), 
  2. Stay Active (exercise is great for the mind and body), 
  3. Eat well and drink sensibly, 
  4. Accept who we are. 

Healthy relationships are not reserved for the elite. A history of negative relationships does not mean one is not entitled to want more or to ask for better. Building healthy relationships means being honest about our needs. Respect, communication, and safety are not negotiable in a healthy relationship. We cannot accept less than what we deserve. Some tips the Help guide gives to maintain healthy relationships are as follows: 

  1. Maintaining emotional connection 
  2. Respectful disagreement  
  3. Quality time 
  4. Reading body language (stress/discomfort) 
  5. Resolving conflict without “winning” 

Resources:  

California Partnership to End Domestic Violence

P.O. Box 1798 

Sacramento, CA 95812-1798 

Phone: (916) 444-7163 

Your Public Law Library

Monday-Thursday: 8-5 pm 

Friday: 8-4 pm 

Free Battered Women

1540 Market St., Suite 490 

San Francisco, CA 94102 

Phone: (415) 255-7036 ext. 320 

House of Ruth

599 N Main St, Pomona, CA 91768 

The Safe Alliance  

P.O. Box 19454, Austin, TX 78760 

Phone: 512.267.SAFE (7233) 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hello! My name is Alondra Aguilar and I am a first-generation college student. As an immigrant, much of my interest in psychological topics are focused on cultural narratives, family therapy, and human rights issues. I currently am a full-time student at the University of California Riverside studying to pursue Educational Psychology.