We have a lot of different kinds of relationships in our lives. Our relationship with ourselves is one of the most important, because we will have this relationship our whole lives. It can be helpful to work towards having a healthy, caring and compassionate relationship with ourselves.
We also have relationships with friends, family, our community, people at school or work, and the land that we live on. Part of having a healthy relationship with ourselves is knowing what being in healthy relationships with others looks like. This includes being able to set healthy boundaries with the people in our lives as well as respect their boundaries.
Dating and/or romantic relationships can exist on a spectrum, from healthy to unhealthy and sometimes abusive. In a healthy dating relationship, all people have equal power and are involved in decision making. We also need mutual respect and trust to maintain healthy relationships with the people in our lives. If important things like respect and trust are missing, it may be an unhealthy relationship. If there is fear, threats and/or physical, sexual, financial, emotional/mental or spiritual abuse happening, then it often is an abusive relationship.
To figure out where your relationship might fit into the spectrum, check out the “Relationship Spectrum” activity at loveisrespect.org. http://www.loveisrespect.org/dating-basics/relationship-spectrum/.
- Healthy Boundaries
Setting emotional and physical boundaries with people in our lives is an important part of creating healthy relationships. Talking about boundaries allows people to be aware of each other’s needs and comfort levels. This sets up a basis of respect in which the relationship can feel safe and healthy for both people.
What do healthy boundaries look like & feel like?
- Feeling comfortable communicating about what you want and don’t want
- Respecting what your partner wants and doesn’t want
- Recognizing when you are happy and unhappy
- Being excited and interested in learning new things and in your own hobbies and projects
- Having personal boundaries that apply to everyone
- Having a partner that adds to your excitement in life, but is not the only source of excitement
- Encouraging others to have boundaries too
- Feeling safe and secure
- Being aware of your choices and honouring your feelings and intuition while respecting their feelings
- Recognizing that you have the right to protect your privacy without having to lie or feel guilty
- Being able to negotiate in a fair way (while maintaining boundaries & values that are important to you)
In order to build healthy relationships, we need to work on communicating our own boundaries as well as respecting other people’s boundaries. Sometimes this means learning healthy ways of working through our own emotions. This could mean talking to someone we trust like a counselor or family member about it, or engaging in an activity that helps us reflect and let go like writing, art, walking, etc. Sometimes it can be hard to deal or accept our partner’s boundaries, when they are not in line with what we want. Dealing with feelings of rejection or disappointment can be challenging and are also a normal part of life.
Examples of healthy communication in setting boundaries:
1.While it’s important to spend quality time with your partner, it’s also important to make time for yourself, your friends and your family too! This means being able to tell your partner when you need time alone. Both people should feel free to hang out with friends or family without their partner.
Your partner wants to hang out with you and your friend today. You were looking forward to spending some one on one time with your friend, catching up and going to a movie together. Here is how you could respond:
Partner: “Can I come to the movie with you and Alex today?”
You: “Actually, I think Alex and I are just going to get some friend time in today to catch up one on one. Maybe we could go to a movie together next week though.”
Partner: “Oh, no problem. I understand. Hope you two have fun!”
You: “Thanks. Talk to you later”
2. When it comes to sex and intimacy in a relationship, people get to decide what they feel comfortable with and set boundaries around what they want and don’t want. Communicating about comfort levels, likes and dislikes and asking for consent before doing anything are really important for creating fun and comfortable sexual experiences for both people. Communication is also essential for building respect, trust and ultimately healthy relationships. Check out our Consent section for more information!
You just started dating someone. You want to kiss them, but you don’t want it to go any farther at this point. Here is how you could respond:
You: “Hey, I’d really love to kiss you, do you want to?”
Partner: “Yes, I’m into that.”
You: “Okay great, I think that’s as far as I want to go right now though. “
Partner: “That’s fine. Whatever you’re comfortable with sounds good to me. ”
3. Everyone has a right to privacy in a relationship. This includes social media and phones. People get to keep their passwords, text messages, phone, snapchat etc. private. Both people are independent and deserve respect in a relationship. This includes respecting that each person has their own life, hobbies, friends and right to privacy. It’s not okay to go into a person’s phone or social media accounts without asking for permission. It’s also not okay to expect to have access to a partner’s phone and social media.
Your partner asks to use your phone; they want to check out your photos and snap chat and want to know your password so they can get into your phone. You don’t feel comfortable sharing your password and feel weird about them looking through all your stuff. Here is how you could respond: Partner: “I’m bored. Hey, can I look through your photos and snapchat? What’s your password?”
You: “Ummm, I’m not really comfortable with sharing my password and other people looking through my phone. You can look at my snapchat post through your account though. “
Partner: “Okay. That’s cool. I totally respect your privacy. “
You: “Cool. Thanks. Can I show you some pictures of that cute dog I saw yesterday though?”
It’s important and okay to have boundaries that are not negotiable and if a partner isn’t respecting your boundaries, pressures you to do something that just doesn’t feel right, or they try to control you in some way, that’s not okay.
Some things you can do if your partner isn’t respecting your boundaries:
- Talk to them about it. Tell them to stop. Tell them how they are not respecting your boundary and that this is not okay. (If you feel safe)
- If it doesn’t feel safe to talk to them about it or they continue disrespecting your boundaries after you’ve talked to them about it, it may mean the relationship is unhealthy or abusive. If this is happening, it’s important that you get support and talk to someone about it or make a break-up plan. (See the Abuse & What to do section below)
- Talk to someone you trust about it. You could talk to a friend or family member, a guidance counselor, elder, or a counselor in your community.
- Call a phone line to talk about it as well as to get more information and resources, Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868, they also offer online or ap-chat Wednesday-Sunday or the Klinic Crisis Line is 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019.
- Healthy Relationships
- Positive relationships where people feel safe and respected are good for our emotional, physical, mental and spiritual health. In terms of dating relationships, we all have different things we want in a partner or from a dating situation because we are all attracted to and want different things. However, there are some basic qualities that everyone’s list should have in common, such as respect, consent, trust, honesty, and healthy boundaries. Healthy relationships can be a source of happiness and help people to feel connected.
Everyone’s list might look a little different, but some things you might want in Healthy Relationships include:
- Mutual Trust – This means that you trust your partner and they trust you. You trust each other to respect the boundaries and agreements you’ve committed to in your relationship. You have faith that you will treat each other in a kind and caring way. Trust is often something that develops over time and the people build together in a relationship.
- Respect – Respect means treating the other person with kindness, as a worthy and valuable being. It means that you treat them well and honour their integrity, rights and independence.
- Honesty – Being honest often means telling the truth, but more than that it’s also about being true to yourself, honoring yourself, and communicating about who you are and what you need or want in a relationship.
- Equality – This means that both partners have equal power and say in the relationship. It means that emotional and physical workloads are shared.
- Good communication – Communicating openly and kindly can take practice. You can practice being assertive about your needs and wants every day including during a conflict and also by listening to your partner’s needs and wants and by negotiating fairly. The more you practice communicating the better you will get at it.
- Boundaries (link to boundaries section)
- Care & Compassion
- Quality time together
- Time apart
Make your own list! Having our own personal list of what a healthy relationship means for us can make it easier to figure out what we want in a relationship and what we don’t want. It can also help us think about what kind of partner we want to be and assess what we are good at already and what we might need to work on. Creating healthy relationships is a process and we are all learning. Building healthy relationships does take work, but they should be fun and enjoyable too! We don’t always see good examples of healthy relationships in our lives or in media, so it’s important to find good role models or seek out more examples. Everyone deserves healthy, positive and caring relationships.
- Healthy Break-ups
- You have a right to end a relationship at any point. Sometimes it’s the healthiest choice we can make. A relationship doesn’t have to be unhealthy or abusive to end. Sometimes healthy relationships come to a natural conclusion too.
Some signs that it may be time to break up are:
- Feeling annoyed a lot or uncomfortable
- Arguing a lot (even over little things)
- Feeling like you’ve grown apart or want different things
- Having different levels of affection
- Liking somebody else
- Not feeling interested or into your partner / the relationship anymore
Some tips for healthy breakups* are:
- Use assertive communication. Ideally tell your partner first hand, not through other people or social media.
- Be honest and kind about why you want to end the relationship.
- Consider your partner’s feelings. Recognize that “guilting” or begging a person into staying is not healthy or helpful to either person.
- Negotiate status changes and implications for social networking sites.
- Consider taking a break from social media.
- Don’t spread rumours after the break up.
- Try to stay respectful (no matter what your ex is doing or saying.)
*If there is abuse happening in a relationship, this list might look different. See the “Abuse & What to do” section.
Regardless of whose idea it is to end the relationship, break ups can be difficult. It is important to take care of yourself, get some supports, and work to accept what has happened. If you don’t seem to be bouncing back (feel depressed), it may be a good idea to talk to someone you trust about it.
- Abuse & What To Do
- If someone is experiencing abuse, it is never their fault. It is always the fault of the person choosing to use abuse. Abuse is often about one person trying to control or take away someone else’s power. If you know about abuse that is happening, or if you are experiencing abuse, tell an adult you trust. Youth in Manitoba can also use crisis lines* for support.
- The Klinic Crisis Line is 204-786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019
- Kids Help Phone is 1-800-668-6868, they also offer online or ap-chat Wednesday to Sunday
- Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Line is 1-204-8631 or 1-888-292-7565.
*All of these are free and open 24 hrs, 7 days a week.
Some types of abuse are:
Emotional / Mental / Verbal: Using insults, putdowns, or “jokes”, keeping someone away from their friends and family, using jealousy to control, using manipulation, guilt tripping, playing mind games, making threats, etc.
Sexual: Coercing, pressuring or trying to change someone’s no into a yes, not stopping if someone wants to stop any kind of sexual activity, getting or waiting for someone to be drunk or high in order to have sex with them, any unwanted touching or any verbal harassment /comments about someone’s body, sexuality, etc., sending someone unwanted sexy texts, pictures, nudes, or forcing someone to send them.
Financial: Stealing someone’s money, bank card, credit card, etc., bribing, keeping someone from going to work or school, forcing someone to work, trying to control what someone does with their money, or wrecking someone’s things.
Spiritual: Making fun of someone’s spiritual beliefs, making someone feel like they can’t practice their spiritual beliefs, prayers or ceremony’s, or forcing someone to change their beliefs.
Physical: Hitting, pinching, biting, “play fighting”, threats, using intimidation, restraining (blocking doorways, holding wrists, etc), throwing objects, punching walls, trashing space or objects.
What can you do if you are experiencing abuse?
- Remember that it is never your fault.
- If someone has experienced a sexual assault, it is never their fault, and they deserve support and help. The Klinic Sexual Assault Crisis Program offers support and counseling through their phone line, (204)-786-8631 or 1-888-292-7565. They also offer in-hospital support for medical exams, advocacy, legal support and in-person counseling services.
- Tell someone that you trust about what is going on. This could be a family member, close friend, counselor, elder, teacher or phone line, like the Manitoba Klinic Crisis Line, 1-888-322-3019 or Kids Help Phone, 1-800-668-6868.
- Go for counselling somewhere that will help you and be non-judgmental. For people in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line (1-888-322-3019) can let you know what options you have.
- Make a safety plan for yourself. If you decide to end the relationship, try to do it in a public place with lots of people around. If you’re deciding to stay in the relationship, your safety plan could include having a bag packed in case of emergency, having a list of people you can call and safe places to go any time of day.
- Make a break-up plan. If you are ready to end the relationship, make a plan to ensure your safety including when, how and who you can talk to or spend time with for support.
- Do things that make you feel good about yourself as it can be hard to feel good when you’re being treated badly.
What can you do if a friend is experiencing abuse?
- Let them know it is not their fault.
- Listen without judging the other person.
- Be supportive and don’t try to control or criticize them as that will make them less likely to get help.
- Check in with them as much as you can.
- Tell an adult you trust.
- Encourage them to call a phone line, talk to a counsellor or visit a teen clinic.
- Talk to someone about it yourself, because it’s hard seeing a friend in that situation.
Often people find it hard to talk about abuse because they don’t know how other people are going to react. That means it’s important to be open and non-judgmental, so people don’t keep abuse a secret.
What can you do if a friend is using abuse?
Sometimes people think that if you are witnessing abuse or disrespectful behavior you only have two choices: get physically involved or do nothing. In reality, getting physically involved often leads to the abuser further hurting their partner or ‘getting them back’ later. It is important to do something, because by doing nothing we are telling the abusive person that what they are doing is okay.
Here are some ways that you can intervene in any situation. Remember, we should always think about our safety, the safety of the person experiencing abuse and the safety of the people around us. For example if someone is using abusive language you could:
- When alone, ask your friend how they are feeling about the situation because their behaviour is probably coming from a place of hurt or anger. Let them know you aren’t okay with what is happening.
- Offer them support and help to change.
- Share resources & information with them
- Some things you can say to a friend who is using abuse could be:
- “feeling upset is ok, but your behaviour isn’t”
- “that’s not cool.”
- “I believe that you can work on yourself and do better.”
- “I don’t like seeing you act that way”
- “I see this causing problems for your relationship and for you”
- “I can’t stand by and watch you continue to hurt someone and I feel like this is driving a wedge between us”
- “You are not a bad person, but your behavior is harmful and unhealthy”
- Check in with their partner and ask how they would like to be supported.
- Role model positive ways to be in a relationship.
- Tell an adult that you trust.
- It’s important to take care of yourself. Someone who is using abuse deserves support and care; however we can’t always be the ones to provide that. You have the option to give them resources and take space away from that friendship. Especially if it’s impacting you in a really negative way because your friend is not taking responsibility for their behavior, has continued abusing their partner or other people, or they are using abuse & manipulation on you.
- If you choose to stop hanging out with your friend who uses abuse, you could say something like ““It hurts me to say this, but I don’t think I can stay friends with someone who’s hurting others and themselves like this”. You can also let them know if they are ready to stop and need help & support, you will be there for them.
- Reach out for support. Supporting a friend can be difficult so we need to reach out for non-judgmental support from friends, family, teachers, or guidance counsellors we can trust. Teens in Manitoba can call the Klinic Crisis Line (204-786-8686) or go for free drop-in counselling in Winnipeg at Klinic (545 Broadway).
What can you do if you are using abuse?
- Take responsibility and admit to yourself that you have a problem.
- Talk to someone you trust about it like a counsellor, support group, family member, friend, or phone line, etc.
- Try to learn different ways of communicating and expressing your feelings.
- Learn your triggers such as noticing when you start to get angry by your face turning red, clenching teeth or fists and what you can do to stop yourself..
- Leave the relationship, and give the other person space.
- Work on changing your behavior. (It is possible, remember that you are not bad person but have bad behavior.)
Questions about Relationships
- What if you like someone, how would you know? How can you tell someone likes you?
Everyone experiences feelings in a personal way, so we can’t tell you exactly how you might know if you like someone or not. Some of the more common signs someone may have include thinking about the person a lot, feeling nervous and/or excited when talking to the person, or physical feelings of attraction.
As for how to know if someone likes you, the only way to know for sure is by talking with them. There may be hints like this person wanting to spend more time with you, or they be flirting with you, but none of these things guarantees they like us in that way. Sometimes we think someone is flirting when they are not and they may want to spend more time for us because they really like us as a friend.
If you like them and are hoping they like you, it’s okay to let them know and it’s also okay for them not to return these feelings. This may hurt and feel frustrating, but remember that we don’t get to put them down or make them feel bad. If they do like you, but you don’t share those feelings, then it’s also important to be respectful, but also know that you do not owe them anything. Be honest and direct with your feelings.
Having open conversations about our feelings may be intimidating. Check out our section on Communication for more tips on how to have difficult conversations.
- How can I find love?
It can be a normal thing to want to find love and/or be in a relationship. We can’t give you an exact answer, because there is no set way to find love. Some people get set up by friends and fall in love, others turn to online dating and find love or bump into someone randomly and it leads to love. Some people do all these things and it does not lead to love.
It’s also okay to be single! Being single can give you time to focus on the relationship you have with yourself. This is most important relationship you’ll ever have. Strengthening this relationship by doing things that are fun, that help you grow and that bring you pleasure also helps provide you with a good foundation for finding healthy relationships in the future.
Remember that you also already have love in your life. Love comes in many forms, not just romantically. There is love with our friends, our family, our pets, ourselves and with the land. These can all provide us with support, care and wellbeing.
- I like someone, but they don’t like me. What should I do?
It can feel tough when we like someone who doesn’t like us back. Rejection doesn’t feel good and that’s ok. At some point, everyone who is interested in dating develops a crush on someone who does not return the feelings. While it’s okay to feel hurt or frustrated, you do not get to make the other person feel bad for not liking us in the same way. You also can’t try to force the person to like us.
It’s important to figure out how to deal with any difficult feelings you may be having. It can help to find a mix of things to distract you and things that give you time to reflect on your experience. Having a mix is important because if you only distract yourself you may not be working through your feelings, while only reflecting on things may start to feel overwhelming. Distractions come from things that give us a break from our thoughts and are fun. This could include hanging out with friends, watching movies or Netflix, playing sports and playing video games. These are just a few examples. Reflecting activities give you a chance to think about and start to release your feelings. Some examples include writing, journaling, art, creating or listening to music and talking with someone you trust.
- How do you move on from a relationship?
A relationship coming to an end is never an easy thing. The truth is there isn’t a short cut or necessarily easy way to move on from a relationship. Start by taking things day to day (or even hour to hour at first). The biggest thing it may take is time. Time to process, time to heal, and time to move forward. How much time will vary from person to person, and from relationship to relationship. You may find at first you are always thinking about the person. Over time it may become every other day, then every few days and then eventually you won’t really be thinking about it at all.
It can help to find a mix of things to distract you and things that give you time to reflect on your experience. Having a mix is important because if you only distract yourself you may not be working through your feelings, while only reflecting on things may start to feel overwhelming. Distractions come from things that give us a break from our thoughts and are fun. This could include hanging out with friends, watching movies or Netflix, playing sports and playing video games. These are just a few examples. Reflecting activities give you a chance to think about and start to release your feelings. Some examples include writing, journaling, art, creating or listening to music and talking with someone you trust.
- If my partner hit me, is it wrong to hit them back?
From Teen Talk’s perspective we all have the right to feel safe in our relationships. This is a really good question, but it’s one that’s too big to answer without more info. What we can tell you is that responding to violence with more violence tends to worsen the situation. Sometimes we do have to use self-defence, but this is different than hitting someone back. Hitting someone back is an act of violence, while using self-defence may have to be used to leave a situation.
No matter what the situation is, you don’t have to go through this alone. Try talking to someone who can help you: a family member, a school counselor, teacher, social worker, teen clinic, or in Manitoba, the Klinic Crisis Line at (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019 (it’s free and confidential). If you are in Winnipeg, you can also visit Klinic for free drop-in counselling. Talking to someone you trust about what’s going on in your relationship can help sort out how you’re feeling and can be helpful in safety planning.
- Can guys get abused?
Yes, abuse can happen to anyone. While it’s true that most sexual and physical violence is done by men, our society doesn’t always talk openly about when guys experiencing abuse. Sometimes guys are called weak or made fun of if they try to come forward with their experiences. This can make it hard for guys and men to admit that they’ve been hurt or experienced abuse. No one deserves to be abused and it’s ok to ask for help.
All people, boys and men and anyone else, who experience abuse deserve support. You can talk about a relationship with a guidance counselor, at a teen clinic, with a trusted friend or family member, or in Manitoba, use the Klinic Crisis Line at 204.786.8686 or 1.888.322.3019, or Kids Help Phone at 1.800.668.6868. If you are in Winnipeg, you can also visit Klinic for free drop-in counselling.
- My friend is in an abusive relationship, how can I help them?
It’s stressful knowing that someone we care about is in an abusive relationship. Just being there and listening without judging can be a big help. Try to spend time with your friend doing things that are enjoyable and that you both like to do. Remind them that it’s not their fault. You can tell them that you think what is happening to them is wrong and unfair. You can also talk about what you both think a healthy relationship would look like. But it’s not helpful to demand your friend to leave their relationship. They may be in a vulnerable place and not feel like they have a lot of power in their life. Having another person tell them what to do only takes more power away. Being supportive may mean allowing them to make choices you don’t agree with, but being there for them anyways.
You might encourage your friend to talk to other people they trust (and who might be able to help) about what’s going on too. This can help them sort out what they are going through and figure out a plan to keep themselves safe and healthy. You could go with them to see the school guidance counsellor or other adult they trust. Other places to go for help could be a teen clinic or nursing station, help lines like the Klinic Crisis Line 204.786.8686 or 1.888.322.3019 or Kids Help Phone 1.800.668.6868, or if you are in Winnipeg you can try free Klinic Drop-In Counselling.
Supporting a friend who’s in an unhealthy or abusive relationship can be challenging and stressful. If you think it’s getting to be too much it’s ok to set boundaries with your friend and get help for yourself too. All the same resources above may be helpful to both you and your friend.
- How do you know if you are in an abusive relationship?
Sometimes it hard to know what’s happening in a relationship because we might have strong feelings for the person, we might be in denial or we might think some types of abuse are routine or normal. We all deserve to feel safe and respected at all times in our relationships. Do you feel comfortable around your partner and do you trust them? Do you feel like you’re always treated with respect? Or do you feel scared and intimidated by your partner? Do you feel worried about how they might react? Our feelings can tell us a lot about how a relationship is doing.
Here’s a list of some of the ways abuse can happen in a relationship that we don’t always hear about
- Insults and name calling
- Criticizing your clothes, your friends or the way you look
- Following you around, texting/phoning you all the time and demanding to know where you are
- Trying to stop you from seeing your friends or family
- Hitting, or throwing things at the wall
- Threatening to hurt you or themselves if you leave
- Blaming you for the hurtful things they say or do
- Trying to force you to have sex
- Taking your money
- Putting down your spirituality/beliefs
These are only a few examples. If you feel like you may be in an abusive relationship, talk to someone about it. You can talk about a relationship with a school counselor, at a teen clinic, with a trusted friend or family member, or in Manitoba, use the the Klinic Crisis Line (204)786-8686 or 1-888-322-3019, the Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868, or if you are in Winnipeg you can try the free Klinic Drop-In Counselling. If you are in Winnipeg and need temporary shelter call Macdonald You Services, 204.477.1804 or the Ndinawe Safe House, 204.586.2588.
- What does a healthy relationship look like?
A healthy relationship includes feelings of respect, equality and safety. Trust is part of a healthy relationship too, but trust is something that may take time to build, while these other three qualities should be in place from the beginning. A healthy relationship does not mean there are never arguments or uncomfortable moments, but it does mean people know how to handle these situations while maintaining respect, equality and safety for one and other.
Building healthy relationships takes work, but they should be fun and enjoyable too! We don’t always see good examples of healthy relationships in our lives or in media, so it’s important to find good role models or seek out more examples. You can learn more about healthy relationships by reading the section above. Remember, everyone deserves healthy, positive and caring relationships