Many teens in today’s society unfortunately have experienced or have knowledge of relationships that have had negative effects on themselves, peers or family. Some of the negative effects of these relationships may have been caused by the pain and hurt associated with broken relationships, betrayal, risky behavior, violence, or dishonesty. It is important to define the true meaning of a relationship so that teens can use this definition as a basis for establishing future healthy relationships. Sadly, many teens do not know what a healthy relationship may look like.
What is the definition of a relationship? A relationship is simply an attachment two people or a group of people may have that is positive in nature. A relationship can be between males or females, family members, peers, or may be considered friendly or romantic in nature. Relationships play an active role in teen social development skills and can also influence the self-worth and self-esteem of a teen. Proper definition and expectations of relationships are crucial to the establishment of healthy relationships.
A healthy relationship should be a positive experience that isn’t a ‘chore’ to maintain. All people involved in the relationship should be flexible to the changes that may occur as the relationship progresses and recognize that with life changes and personal growth, relationships may be maintained or some may come to an end. Being honest and realistic about the expectations of a relationship places all people involved in a win-win situation. A healthy relationship has mutual respect and allows everyone involved to express their opinions in an appropriate manner-even if the opinions are different. Healthy relationships are happy, safe, and have boundaries that encourage individual growth and development. If a relationship is too demanding of your time, energy, or emotions then it over-steps the boundaries of being ‘healthy’ and should be considered ‘unhealthy’.
Unhealthy relationships are usually characterized by negative feelings or actions that do not encourage personal growth and development. The negative feelings or actions may start small and seem insignificant but may eventually lead to those involved having the roles of ‘victim’ and ‘abuser’. Unhealthy relationships include anger/emotional abuse (threats/ name -calling/putting others down), isolation/exclusion (attempting to control the actions of others), sexual abuse (engaging in risky behaviors/assault), and violence (physical abuse/bodily injury/death). Needless to say, these relationships do not last and can be detrimental to the safety, self-esteem and self-worth of everyone involved. Having the courage to safely distance yourself from relationships that give you negative energy and that do not enhance you may be hard but the process is necessary for your growth, development, safety, and well-being. Speaking with trusted people, such as peers, adults, clergy, or law enforcement, about the unhealthy situation can give you needed support as you make changes in the relationship.
Having knowledge that you deserve a healthy relationship that builds your self-esteem and self-worth helps you have higher expectations for each relationship you establish. Establishing clear, flexible, and safe boundaries are also essential as you establish healthy relationships, temporary or long- lasting, that will impact your growth and development.