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Creating Healthy Relationships

One of the most exciting parts of coming to college is the opportunity to meet people with whom you might want to create a romantic relationship. This is a part of your college life that should be enjoyable and enhancing to your self-esteem. Sometimes, however, college students find themselves in romantic relationships that make them unhappy, that do not enhance their self-esteem, and that contain a lot of fighting and conflict. A first step in figuring out how to create a healthy relationship or to know whether you are in an unhealthy relationship, is to be clear about the characteristics of both. Therefore, we offer the following lists of characteristics to help you clarify the nature of your current romantic relationship and/or to help you determine what to look for in future relationships.

You are in a healthy relationship when:

  • you are each other's best friend;
  • you always treat each other with respect;
  • you never abuse drugs or alcohol;
  • you never try to control or manipulate each other;
  • you feel secure and comfortable with each other;
  • you never cheat on each other;
  • you are never violent with each other - no pushing, shoving, grabbing, hitting or punching;
  • you don't scream at each other - you can resolve conflict respectfully;
  • you have fun together;
  • you enjoy a lot of the same activities;
  • neither of you is possessive;
  • you have equal power in the relationship;
  • you don't put each other down;
  • you never embarrass each other publicly;
  • you are proud of each other;
  • your life is better because this person is in your life;
  • you never feel scared around each other;
  • you have privacy in the relationship - your letters, diaries, personal phone calls are your own;
  • you are both allowed to have good friends outside of the relationship;
    most of the people in your life are happy about this relationship and like your partner;
  • you never feel like you are being pressured for sex;
  • there are many more good times in the relationship than bad ones;
  • most of the time you feel happy together;
  • fighting and unhappiness are very rare in the relationship;
  • your relationship is seen as being very special by both of you;
  • you trust each other;
  • you can talk to each other; and
  • you share many of the same basic values.

You are in an unhealthy relationship when:

  • your partner tries to control or manipulate you;
  • your partner is very possessive;
  • your partner gets jealous when you talk to a friend who is viewed as a threat;
  • your partner drinks or uses drugs around you;
  • your partner makes you feel bad about yourself;
  • your partner calls you names;
  • your partner yells at you;
  • your partner tells you how to dress;
  • your partner criticizes your friends;
  • your partner is physically abusive - he/she grabs you, pushes you, hits you, throws objects at you or near you;
  • your partner denies or minimizes his or her inappropriate or abusive behavior;
  • your partner doesn't like you to be close to other people, including your family;
  • your partner tries to physically stop you from going where you want to go;
  • your partner cheats on you even one time;
  • your partner pressures you to be sexual with him or her;
  • your partner's friends are always more important than you;
  • your partner doesn't make time for you;
  • your partner doesn't really listen when you talk to him/her;
  • your partner looks at others when he/she's with you;
  • your partner flirts with others;
  • your partner has negative attitudes about your gender, in general;
  • your partner uses negative put-down words when he/she talks about your gender;
  • your partner has so many problems that his/her life is not really working;
  • your partner has trouble getting along with people, in general;
  • people close to you dislike and distrust your partner;
  • you can't trust your partner - you wonder what your partner is doing when he/she is not with you;
  • you feel scared or uncomfortable around your partner;
  • you are afraid of your partner's temper; and
  • you are unhappy a lot of the time.

What you should do if you are in an Unhealthy Relationship:

  • tell yourself that you deserve better than this and get out of the relationship;
  • get support for yourself from friends, family, your R.A., a counselor;
  • get counseling at the Counseling Center (914-633-2038).

How to Help a Friend who is in an Unhealthy Relationship:

  • tell your friend directly that you believe that she/he is in an unhealthy relationship;
  • give specific and concrete examples of why you believe the relationship is unhealthy;
  • tell your friend that she/he deserves better than to be in this relationship;
  • tell your friend you will support her/him in getting out of this relationship ;
  • suggest counseling.


For questions or concerns about your relationship, speak to an RA, RD, nurse, campus minister, friend or family member.

For professional help or couples counseling, call the Iona College Counseling Center at (914) 633-2038.