Let’s be real, relationships are all around us. From family, to friends, to our classmates, and even to our professors or the workers in the dining hall, we have relationships everywhere. But what many people may not know is how important relationships actually are. From the time we’re born, we need connection. This is why hospitals stress the importance of babies connecting with their parents through skin to skin contact. It is a vital step for us to start to develop other healthy connections and attachments in our lives as we get older. If you’re reading this, you’re probably in college with a whole bunch of relationships, so let’s dive deeper into why I’m writing about them.
The relationships we form in college are exponentially different from those in high school, with one of the biggest differences being making friends who are from every edge of the world. This creates a mix of culture, ethnicity, religion, political views, and so much more. Another difference in your relationships is that you can potentially be living with these people, which is very different from the high school friendships most of us have experienced. In addition to meeting people from all walks of life, we’re also engaging with them in an environment that has less structure than high school and more room for independence and individuality. Because traditional developmental progression at the college age includes developing our own beliefs and values, this can create tension with some of those peers we were friends with in high school. We start to see friends drifting apart or growing into different people who sometimes can’t find common ground anymore. Although this is a part of growing up, it’s also a time to examine what we gained and failed to have in our former relationships.
Being a young adult can also cause trying times in our family relationships. As we grow up, our parents instill values, morals, and beliefs into us and we tend to blindly go with it, simply because we don’t know anything else. Well….get to college and you’ll definitely KNOW other things. College does a wonderful job of creating exposure to things we’ve never seen or heard before, which allows us to then explore what other ways of life feel more organic to us, even if it’s not what our parents and families taught us growing up. You might find yourself exploring new lifestyles and maybe some of you reading this are finding it’s creating strain in the relationships with your family. For those of you who still live at home and attend college locally, you may notice changes in your relationships with your family due to new sets of rules popping up or old expectations trying to be put to bed.
I’M DATING….I THINK?!
And now that brings us to the lovely world of dating. *Sigh* The struggle is real when it comes to this other complex relationship level. From being serious, to hooking up, to “situationships”, friends with benefits and everything in between, how do we know who we want to be intimate with? College has lots of opportunities for us to get cozy with our peers, but that also means it gives lots of opportunities for confusion and unhealthy relationships. Our views on romantic relationships may be different from those we had in high school, or they may be the same and we’re trying to navigate how to maintain those beliefs in an environment that might not understand them. As complex as dating is, let’s keep this short and sweet so we can jump into the real stuff…recognizing if our relationships are healthy or not.
So now that I’ve helped you identify different relationships in your life, let’s examine what to look for to determine if they’re healthy or unhealthy relationships. To start, ask yourself these questions:
1. How does this relationship make me feel?
If you answered “like crap”, then it’s probably not a healthy relationship. If you answered “amazing” then you’re probably on the right track. If it’s somewhere in between, go to the next question.
2. Is the time/effort/energy/interest being reciprocated?
If you say “no”, I’m going to suggest you really examine this relationship to see if the benefits outweigh the cost. If you said “yes”… nice job, that sounds like a healthy relationship. Move on to the last question.
3. Can I be my authentic self?
If you said “yes”, then WOO HOO! Keep this person around. If you answered with anything other than yes, we need to look closer at if this relationship is healthy for you. Now of course these three questions aren’t a full proof way to determine the health of your relationship, but it is definitely a start.
Healthy relationships should make us feel good, first and foremost. We should enjoy spending time with those people and notice that they enjoy spending time with us. Relationships will ebb and flow, but when we consider which person puts in the most effort or energy, it should be a balance of give and take.
I think my favorite question is about being authentically you, because if you’re putting on a front to fit in, DROP THOSE PEOPLE. Why waste your time trying to be something when you can put that energy into a relationship with someone who accepts you for you. I promise, it’ll be better.
WHAT IF IT’S NOT HEALTHY?
Have no fear, friends! If you took my mini assessment and feel that you’re struggling to have healthy relationships, there will be a follow up article coming your way about creating, setting, and maintaining boundaries. Relationships take a lot of work, whether it’s with friends, family, or someone you’re more serious with. Unhealthy relationships don’t necessarily mean the relationship should be terminated. We can take some steps to work to improve it and always re-evaluate the status once we’ve tried different options. Stay tuned for more quick tips and tricks to create boundaries in your life that lead to healthy, fulfilling relationships!