What is a healthy relationship and how does sex fit in?
In the simplest terms, a healthy relationship is one that makes you feel good about yourself and your partner. Not only do you enjoy being together, but you can express your true self, and allow your partner to do the same. All relationships are different, of course, but healthy ones have at least five important qualities in common.
The acronym S.H.A.R.E. can help you remember these qualities.
- Safety: In a healthy relationship you feel safe. You don’t worry that your partner will harm you physically or emotionally, and you don’t feel inclined to use physical or emotional violence against your partner. You can try new things (such as taking a night class) or change your mind about something (such as engaging in a sexual activity that makes you feel uncomfortable) without fearing your partner’s reaction.
- Honesty: You don’t hide anything important from your partner, and can express your thoughts without fear of censure or ridicule. You can admit to being wrong. You resolve disagreements by talking honestly.
- Acceptance: You and your partner accept each other as you are. You appreciate your partner’s unique qualities (such as shyness or emotionality). You don’t try to "fix" them – if you don’t like your partner’s qualities, you may want to examine your motivations for being with them.
- Respect: You think highly of each other. You do not feel superior or inferior to your partner in important ways. You respect each other’s right to have separate opinions and ideas. This doesn’t mean you have to tolerate everything your partner does or does not do (such as refusing to get help for a drinking problem). Setting limits is a sign of self-respect.
- Enjoyment: A healthy relationship isn’t just about how two people treat each other – it also has to be enjoyable. In a healthy relationship, you feel energized and alive in your partner’s presence. You can play and laugh together. You have fun.
The opposite of a healthy relationship is an abusive relationship. Such relationships involve control, fear, and lack of mutual respect. Typically, one partner does most of the controlling while the other cowers in resentment or fear. Signs of an abusive relationship include intimidation, name-calling, blaming, belittling, guilt-tripping, jealous questioning, and outright violence.
If you suspect you’re in an abusive relationship, there’s a good chance you are. Perhaps you know deep down that you’d be better off without the relationship but are afraid to leave it. You may depend on your partner’s income, you may fear being on your own, or you may rationalize the relationship as "better than nothing." In the long run, however, an abusive relationship does far more damage to your self-esteem than the absence of a relationship (and the opportunity to find a healthy one).
Many people who have abused drugs, alcohol or grown up in a home with unhealthy relationships may be so familiar with abuse that they have come to believe dysfunction is the norm. This article challenges that belief.
The 12 Step programs, Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Al-anon and others are designed to address these issues.
If your sponsor is unable to help, a social worker and/or counsellor can help you map out a strategy for leaving an abusive relationship and getting your own life back on track. Your doctor or local/regional sexual clinic can steer you toward appropriate counselling services.
- 12 Step Sponsor
- A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
- THE TWELVE REWARDS OF RECOVERY
- Easy Does It Relationship Guide For People in Recovery
- Addictive Relationships – A Recovery Book