Healthy Relationships

The Dating Bill of Rights

I have the right to refuse a date without feeling guilty
I can ask for a date without feeling rejected or inadequate if the answer is no
I do not have to act macho
I may choose not to act seductively
I have the right to trust myself above all others
I have the right to receive decent treatment by anyone I date
If I don’t want physical closeness, I have the right to say so
I have the right to use protection during sex
I have the right to agree to have sex
I have the right to refuse to have sex
I have the right to start a relationship slowly, to say, “I want to know you better before I become involved.”
I have the right to be myself without changing to suit others
I have the right to an equal relationship with my partner
I have the right to say NO
I have the right to leave any dating situation my instincts tell me to
I have the right to prosecute for battery and sexual assault
I have the right to be loved and cared about.

Sources Used:

National Crime Prevention Council
Alabama Coalition Against Domestic Violence
Haven House:
Michigan State University: Olin Health Center:

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Before You Begin a Relationship: A Healthy Relationship with Yourself

A healthy relationship with another begins long before the first date or the first kiss. It begins with you. Accepting yourself. Loving yourself. Respecting yourself. You need to be able to take care of yourself and be kind to yourself before you can provide these things for someone else.

The Beginning: How to take care of yourself:

  • Love yourself unconditionally without being self-righteous or arrogant.
  • Let go of blame if you have been hurt in the past; become empowered.
  • Tend to your physical health through exercise, decent nutrition, and rest.
  • Don't abuse yourself with tobacco, coffee, drugs, alcohol, or other substances which could hurt yourself or others, or impair your judgment.
  • Replace negative thoughts and judgments with positive supportive ones.
  • Treat yourself (and others) with respect, kindness, and compassion.
  • Acknowledge that all human beings are fallible (that includes you), but capable of improvement and growth.
  • Challenge unhealthy perceptions of yourself, step out of your box and consider new ways of looking at yourself, others, and your relationships.

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The Beginning: Laying a Solid Foundation

College is an exciting time, filled with new classes, new challenges, and new friendships. Some of these friendships may become romantic relationships. New relationships are exciting and fun, and even effortless. It is also the time to lay the foundation for a healthy, long term relationship.

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Getting to Know Each Other

You’ve met someone and now you cannot get them out of your mind, or maybe you have been friends for a while and you are beginning to see them in a new light. Either way, you are interested in possibly pursuing a relationship. Getting to know the person before you enter a relationship is an important first step. Hang out with this person in a group of friends to see if you can be comfortable with them and if they have the traits you look for in a partner. Is he/she bossy and controlling? Or is he/she caring and easy going?

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Deciding Whether or Not to be in a Relationship

People can respond to the idea of a relationship in very different ways. Whether you are the type to jump right in or the type to put up a wall, it’s important to take things slowly but at the same time take risks and put yourself out there so the other person can get to know the real you. If you have concerns, now is a time to bring them up. If the two of you cannot work through the concerns maybe you need to evaluate if this relationship is right for you.

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Establishing a Solid Foundation

The beginning can set the tone for a healthy relationship. Build a foundation of respect, trust, communication, and honesty. Be clear and upfront with your partner. Talk about your expectations of a relationship, and what you are comfortable doing.

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Some common expectations to address are:

  • Time spent together vs. time spent apart
  • Each person’s needs, interests, desires, and preferences (e.g. how to spend an evening together - such as, whether you go out with a group of people or just the two of you; what movies to see; how to come together after a long day at work or school-such as, does one partner initially need some “alone time” before coming together?)
  • Financial arrangements- deciding who will pay for what
  • Expectations for attention, emotional support, and affection

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Sexual Communication

Communication in bed is just as important as communication outside the bedroom. In healthy relationships, people feel comfortable expressing their sexual needs and boundaries as well as telling their partner when they do not want to be intimate. Respecting someone else's desire not to be intimate in certain ways or at certain times is very important.

Make sure to have fun! The beginning stages of a relationship are exciting and fun. Explore each other’s interest and plan activities to do together that you both enjoy.

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List of Date Ideas

  • Bake brownies or cookies together
  • Go to the library and head to the children's section. Sit down at the little table and chairs and take turns reading your favorite childhood stories to each other
  • Take a camera and go to the most creative and bizarre place you can think of. Ask someone around to take a picture of the two of you.
  • Go to a kid's playground, if it is wintertime, build a snowman
  • Take a blanket to lie on the ground when you get tired and just look at the stars
  • Be your date's chef. Plan a very romantic dinner with candlelight, elegant dishes and a homemade meal
  • Play hide and seek, this is a game that you never outgrow. If it is fall, go rake some leaves and play in them
  • Go to a large sporting goods store and test out the equipment, one sport at a time. Have fun until they kick you out.
  • You can throw a baseball while your date has the catcher's mitt ready to catch your throws. Dribble a basketball and see who can do it the longest.
  • Go to the golfing isle and practice hitting the straightest putts.

As the Relationship Grows: the Evolution of a Relationship

Relationships change over time, going through stages of high and lows. There will be times of closeness and times where you need space and may be arguing more. During the changes it is important to continue to communicate with each other. Changes in your life outside the relationship will have an impact on what you need and want from a relationship at any given time.

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Outside Pressures on the Relationship

Differences in Background. Even partners coming from very similar cultural, religious, or economic backgrounds can benefit from discussing their expectations of how a good boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse behaves. What seems obvious or normal to you may surprise your partner, and vice versa. If you are from different backgrounds, be aware that you may need to spend more time and energy to build your relationship. Take the time to learn about your partner's culture or religion, being careful to check out what parts of such information actually fit for your partner.

Time Together and Apart. How much time you spend together and apart is a common relationship concern. If you interpret your partner's time apart from you as, "he or she doesn't care for me as much as I care for him or her," you may be headed for trouble by jumping to conclusions. Check out with your partner about what time alone means to him or her, and share your feelings about what you need from the relationship in terms of time together. Demanding what you want, regardless of your partner's needs, usually ends up driving your partner away, so work on reaching a compromise.

Your Partner's Family. For many students, families remain an important source of emotional, if not financial, support during their years at the university. Some people find dealing with their partner's family difficult or frustrating. It can help to take a step back and think about parental good intentions. Families may offer well-intentioned advice about your relationship or your partner. It's important that the two of you discuss and agree on how you want to respond to differing family values and support one another in the face of what can be very intense "suggestions" from family.

Friends. There are some people who seem to believe that "I have to give up all my friends unless my partner likes them as much as I do." Giving up friends is not healthy for you or the relationship, except in circumstances where your friends pressure you to participate in activities that are damaging to yourself and the relationship. At the same time, keep in mind that your partner may not enjoy your friends as much as you do. Negotiate which friends you and your partner spend time with together. You might ask: "Which of my friends do you enjoy seeing and which ones would you rather I see alone or at other times when I'm not with you?"

Source for outside pressures list:

It is important to keep the excitement from the beginning of the relationship going. Have date night and continue to do special activities together. It is often the small, nonmaterial things that keep relationships strong. The Saint Ben’s and Saint John’s campuses have tons of fun, inexpensive activities to do, from wall climbing to playing racquetball in the Palaestra, to bingo and playing pool at O’Connell’s.

Fights are unavoidable in any relationship and certainly do not necessarily signalize a poor relationship. What will make or break a couple in a fight is how they fight. Knowing how to fight fairly is important for relationships with friends, family, or your significant other. Just like all aspects of a relationship, good communication will work wonders.

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Guidelines for Successful Communication and Conflict Resolution

Understand Each Others' Family Patterns. Find out how conflicts were managed (or not managed) in your partner's family, and talk about how conflict was approached (or avoided) in your own family. It is not unusual for couples to discover that their families had different ways of expressing anger and resolving differences. If your family wasn't good at communicating or resolving conflict constructively, give yourself permission to try out some new ways of handling conflict.

Timing Counts. Contrary to previous notions, the best time to resolve a conflict may not be immediately. It is not unusual for one or both partners to need some time to cool off. This "time-out' period can help you avoid saying or doing hurtful things in the heat of the moment, and can help partners more clearly identify what changes are most important. Remember - if you are angry with your partner but don't know what you want yet, it will be nearly impossible for your partner to figure it out!

Establish an Atmosphere of Emotional Support. Emotional support involves accepting your partner's differences and not insisting that he or she meet your needs only in the precise way that you want them met. Find out how your partner shows his or her love for you, and don't set absolute criteria that require your partner to always behave differently before you're satisfied.

Agree to Disagree and Move On. Most couples will encounter some issues upon which they will never completely agree. Rather than continuing a cycle of repeated fights, agree to disagree and negotiate a compromise or find a way to work around the issue.

Distinguish between things you want versus things you need from your partner. For example, for safety reasons, you might need your partner to remember to pick you up on time after dark. But calling you several times a day may really only be a "want."

Clarify Your Messages. A clear message involves a respectful but direct expression of your wants and needs. Take some time to identify what you really want before talking to your partner. Work on being able to describe your request in clear, observable terms. For example, you might say, "I would like you to hold my hand more often" rather than the vague, "I wish you were more affectionate."

Discuss One Thing at a Time. It can be tempting to list your concerns or grievances, but doing so will likely prolong an argument. Do your best to keep the focus on resolving one concern at a time.

Really Listen. Being a good listener requires the following: (a) don't interrupt, (b) focus on what your partner is saying rather than on formulating your own response, and (c) check out what you heard your partner say. You might start this process with: "I think you are saying..." Or "what I understood you to say was..." This step alone can prevent misunderstandings that might otherwise develop into a fight.

Restrain Yourself. Research has found that couples who "edit" themselves and do not say all the angry things they may be thinking are typically the happiest.

Adopt a "Win-Win" Position. A "win-win" stance means that your goal is for the relationship, rather than for either partner, to "win" in a conflict situation. Ask yourself: "Is what I am about to say (or do) going to increase or decrease the odds that we'll work this problem out?"

Source for conflict resolution:

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

You have been in the relationship for a while and may be wondering if the relationship is healthy. Relationships have huge impacts on all aspects of life and an unhealthy one can cause a great deal of stress, it can affect your self-esteem, ability to handle stress, and academic life. By answering the questions in the self-assessment below, you can get an idea of how healthy your relationship may be.

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A Self-Assessment

Answer yes or no to the following statements:

  1. My partner and I have clear communication.
  2. We have trust in one another.
  3. There is mutual respect between us.
  4. We have common interests.
  5. We are able to perceive things differently without expecting each other to see things the others’ way.
  6. I feel valued intellectually, emotionally, and if intimate, physically.
  7. I am able to grow independently, and I support my partner’s growth, thus our relationship is also able to grow.
  8. We have activities and friends outside of the relationship.
  9. We accept each other and do not try to change one another.
  10. Our relationship adds joy to my life.

If you answered “no” to any of the above questions you may want to explore the health of your relationship. Speaking with a counselor can be very helpful in clarifying any doubts or concerns that you have.

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What are some things that should never be tolerated in a relationship? How you answer this indicates your boundaries. If you say no, does your partner respect that without trying to change your mind? Someone who pressures you for sex, or to drink, or to do anything you do not want to, is not respecting your boundaries. If your boundaries are violated, listen to your gut. No one should tolerate being called demeaning names, being spit on, being pushed around, having sex forced on them, being cheated on, etc. No one should have to give up their family and friends to make a relationship work. What other boundaries do you have? Write them down and keep them close.

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Ending a Relationship

Whether you have realized that you are not in a healthy relationship or it is just time to end the relationship, ending a relationship is never easy. It is also not worth staying in a relationship you are unhappy in just to avoid hurting your partner. In the long run it will be best for you and your partner.

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How to End a Relationship

  • Be honest -- with yourself and your partner.
  • Be respectful -- end it clearly and compassionately.
  • Be clear. Don't expect your partner to know what is going on. Explain the situation and your feelings fully.
  • Explain how you want the relationship to end (friendship, no contact, etc.).

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Learn From Your Past Relationships

Every relationship is a learning experience. If one does not work out, remember what you have learned and carry it over into the next relationship. It's also important to remember that every relationship is different -- with various strengths and weaknesses. Avoiding comparisons between past and current relationships will help you focus on the benefits of your current situation.

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Relationship Tips

How to tell if someone may be hitting on you.
What is Flirting - Flirting can be a simple gesture or movement in a subtle or not so subtle way to express your interest.

Examples of Flirting

  1. Prolonged eye contact with another.
  2. They touch you – even just on the hand, this is personal.
  3. Goes out of their way constantly to ensure you are the center of things.
  4. Conversation is quite easy; generally, there is a lot of laughing.
  5. You tease each other.

* Just Remember- Flirting Doesn’t mean they want to have Sex with you

Sexual Relationship Questions

  1. Why are you Having Sex?  Is it because you want to or are you in a strong relationship?
  2. Why is it being initiated?  Alcohol, depression, or bored?
  3. Do you practice Safe Sex?

How to Avoid Sexual Miscommunication

  1. Ask them if they want to have Sex.
  2. Communicate during Sexual intercourse.
  3. Avoid Sexual Activity when consuming alcohol or any other types of Drugs.
  4. Form a relationship before diving in.

10 Ways to Make Love without Doin’ It

  1. Give or get a hug
  2. Go out dancing
  3. Give each other sexy looks
  4. Eat dinner by candlelight
  5. Go for a moonlight walk
  6. Choose a special, favorite song
  7. Talk openly about your feelings
  8. Cook a meal together
  9. Watch the Sunset
  10. Send a funny card

Single- What’s the Big Deal?
Being Single has many benefits. 

  1. You have more time to focus on your work
  2. You can listen to your music or watch a movie when you are tired. 
  3. You have more time to explore about yourself.

It's a great idea to wait for the right time for a relationship, having some involvement when you feel like it in a pleasurable way, but holding out for what seems right for you. The world is full of very nice, good, compatible people who are looking for someone too, and they'll still be there when you get around to it.

What about Relationships with Friends? You need:

  1. Honesty
  2. Loyalty
  3. Respect
  4. Compassion
  5. Acceptance

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If you are in an abusive relationship and may be worried about your safety, particularly when ending a relationship, there are places to get help.

CSB/SJU Counseling:
  • CSB: Lower Lottie, Phone: (320) 363-5605
  • SJU: Mary Hall #10, Phone: (320) 363-3236

Minnesota Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-866-223-1111

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Anna Marie’s Alliance in St. Cloud: (320) 253-6900

Sources Used

The University of Texas at Austin: Counseling and Mental Health Center

University of Georgia: University Health Center