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Am I in a Healthy Relationship?

Sometimes it feels impossible to find someone who's right for you -- and who thinks you're right for him or her too. So when it happens, you're usually so excited about it that you look at the world through rose-colored glasses in the early stages of a relationship. But for some people, those rose-colored glasses turn into blinders that keep them from seeing that a relationship isn't as healthy as it should be.

What Makes a Healthy Relationship?

Hopefully, you and your significant other are treating each other well. If you're not sure if that's the case, take a step back and think about whether your relationship has these seven qualities of a healthy relationship:

  • Mutual respect. The key is that your BF or GF is into you for who you are. Does your partner listen when you say you're not comfortable doing something and then back off right away? Respect in a relationship means that each person values who the other is and understands and values the other person's boundaries.
  • Trust. You're talking with a guy and your boyfriend walks by - does he lose his cool or keep walking because he knows you'd never cheat on him? Jealousy is a natural emotion, but how a person reacts when feeling jealous is what matters. There's no way you can have a healthy relationship if you don't trust each other.
  • Honesty. This one goes hand-in-hand with trust because it's tough to trust someone when one of you isn't being honest. If you catch your partner in a major lie, the next time they tell you something, you'll have a lot more trouble believing them.
  • Support. It's not just in bad times that your partner should support you. Some people are great when your whole world is falling apart but can't take being there when things are going right (and vice versa). In a healthy relationship, your significant other is there either way.
  • Fairness/equality. You need to have give-and-take in your relationship. Do you take turns choosing which new movie to see? As a couple, do you hang out with your partner's friends as often as you hang out with yours? Things get bad really fast when a relationship turns into a power struggle, with one person fighting to get his or her way all the time.
  • Separate identities. In a healthy relationship, everyone needs to make compromises, but that doesn't mean you should feel like you're losing yourself. When you started going out, you both had your own lives (families, friends, interests, hobbies, etc.) and that shouldn't change. And you should also feel free to develop new talents, interests and friends as you move forward.
  • Good communication. You've probably heard lots of stuff about how men and women don't seem to speak the same language - but what's important is to ask for clarification when you're not sure what your partner means. Additionally, speak honestly and openly to avoid miscommunication in the first place.

Warning Signs

Warning signs of being in an abusive or unhealthy relationship include having a partner who:

  • gets angry when you don't drop everything for them
  • criticizes the way you look or dress, and says you'll never be able to find a better partner
  • keeps you from seeing friends or from talking to other guys or girls
  • wants you to quit an activity, even though you love it
  • raises a hand to you when angry, as if they were about to hit you
  • tries to force you to go further sexually than you want to

These aren't the only questions you can ask yourself. Trust your instincts. If you can think of any way in which your partner is trying to control you, make you feel bad about yourself, isolate you from the rest of your world, or -- this is a big one -- harm you physically or sexually, then it's time to get out, fast. Let a trusted friend or family member know what's going on and make sure you're safe.

No One Deserves to Be in an Unhealthy Relationship

It can be tempting to make excuses or misinterpret violence, possessiveness or anger as an expression of love. But even if you know that the person hurting you loves you, it is not healthy. No one deserves to be hit, shoved or forced into anything he or she doesn't want to do.

Whether you're single or in a relationship, remember that it's good to be choosy about who you get close to. Think about the qualities you value in a friendship and see how they match up with the ingredients of a healthy relationship. Cultivate those qualities in yourself and those you surround yourself with.

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