Good relationships are fun and make you feel good about yourself. The relationships that you make in your youth years will be a special part of your life and will teach you some of the most important lessons about who you are. Truly good relationships take time and energy to develop.
All relationships should be based on respect and honesty, and this is especially important when you decide to date someone.
In a healthy relationship, both partners:
- Are treated with kindness and respect
- Are honest with each other
- Like to spend time together
- Take an interest in things that are important to each other
- Respect one another’s emotional, physical and sexual limits
- Can speak honestly about their feelings
Types of Relationships
Many people confuse love, commitment, and sex, or assume the three always go hand-in-hand. There are many ways to express love, and you don’t need to have sex with someone to show them you love them. Having sex with someone also does not necessarily mean you are in love with them.
Sexual relationships work best when everybody is clear about what they want. If you don’t tell your partner what you want, you might find you expect different things. One of you might be looking for a fling, and the other a marriage!
When entering into a new relationship and throughout the course of a relationship (since our expectations often change over time!), talk about whether you want a relationship that is:
- Committed or non-committed? Do you want a commitment such as marriage, long-term dating, raising children, sharing finances, and/or sharing a home, or do you want a less committed dating relationship?
- Friendly or Romantic? Do you want a relationship that is based on friendship, or do you prefer a romantic, emotionally intimate relationship?
- Sexual or non-sexual? Do you expect that you will want to have sex with this person? If you do, are there some sexual activities you want to do and others you do not?
- Monogamous or non-monogamous? Do you want your relationship to be only with that person, so that you each have sex only with each other, or not, so that you and your partner have sex with other people?
Remember to explore each of those questions separately. All combinations are possible!
Love should never hurt
Dating relationships can be wonderful! But while it’s important that dating partners care for each other, it’s just as important that you take care of yourself! About 8.5% of high school students say they have suffered violence from someone they date. This includes physical abuse where someone causes physical pain or injury to another person. This can involve hitting, slapping, or kicking.
Sexual abuse is also a type of violence and involves any kind of unwanted sexual advance. It can include everything from unwelcome sexual comments to kissing to intercourse. 9.7% of high school students reported having experienced sexual dating violence in 2021.
Abuse doesn’t always mean that someone hits or hurts your body. Emotional abuse is anything that harms your self-esteem or causes shame. This includes saying things that hurt your feelings, make you feel that you aren’t worthwhile, or trying to control who you see or where you go.
If you are – or have been – in a relationship where you were mistreated, it’s very easy to blame yourself. The problem is with the abuser, though, not you. It’s not your fault! Anyone can be abused – boys and girls, men and women, gay or straight, young and old – and anyone can become an abuser.
Abuse doesn’t happen because you did something wrong, or weren’t smart enough or strong enough. Give yourself a break: remember that you probably did the best you could at the time, and now you’re learning how to be safe, healthy, and happy in your relationships.
In any intimate relationship, ask yourself:
- Have they ever hit or slapped me?
- Have they ever grabbed or threatened me, or made me feel afraid?
- Do they demand to know where I go and who I see?
- Have they ever hacked into my social media or looked at my texts and private messages? Do they stalk me online?
- Do they try to isolate from my friends and family? Are they extremely jealous?
- Do they threaten to break up with you? Do they threaten violence against you (or themselves) if the relationship were to end?
- Do they talk to me in a way that isn’t nice, or that puts me down?
- Do they try to pressure you into sexual activity you’re not comfortable with? Pressure you to use alcohol or drugs?
- Do they always have to have their own way?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, the relationship is not a healthy one. These are signs of abuse. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Remember, you didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re not the problem. Talk with someone you’re comfortable with. Call a hotline (see below). If you ever feel that you’re in immediate danger, get away and call 911.
- Get to know someone before going out. At first go to public places like a movie, restaurant, or park.
- Let someone know whom you’re with and where you’ll be going, especially with a new partner or a first date.
- Take your cell phone on a date. Have some cash in case you need to get home on your own.
- For teenagers, date someone who’s close to your own age. Dates who are older sometimes are more aggressive about sex, or more likely to be abusive and controlling.
- At any age, be careful when you meet someone online. Don’t give away personal information, such as your real name or where you live. Remember, people on the Internet sometimes are not what they say they are.
Resources for help
- National Sexual Assault Hotline
24/7 help via phone, text and online chat.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline
- Esperanza United
- RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network) Live Chat
Remember, you deserve healthy, happy relationships. Abuse of any type is never okay. Learn more about abuse and how to stay safe.