By Alison Bell
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, romance is on all of our minds, which can lead to the question, how do you create healthy relationships? This is a question that comes up often in Hillsides work with transition-aged youth.
Here, our Peer Resource Center Manager Jessica Petrass offers five tips that Hillsides youth – and all teens and 20-somethings – can follow for happier, healthier romances. And even if you are out of your 20s, you, too, may find this advice helpful. Because no matter how old we are, the heart can still use some helpful romance reminders!
Six Valentine’s Day healthy relationship pointers:
- Fall in love with this person first. Who? You. It’s hard to have a stable relationship when you aren’t feeling secure within yourself. It’s important, therefore, to make a conscious effort to accept any imperfections and celebrate your strengths. Petrass suggests taking five minutes a day to reflect on something you love and appreciate about yourself. “Finding love starts from within, not through other people,” says Petrass.
- Set boundaries, but not impenetrable ones. Many youth are so eager for love they set no boundaries in a relationship and instantly merge their identity with that of their boyfriend or girlfriend. On the flip side, youth who have experienced prior hurts and losses may put up mile-high fences that shut down a romance before it has even a chance to bloom. It helps to realize if you have the tendency to set either too low or too high boundaries, “and adjust them accordingly, so ultimately you have a safe relationship,” says Petrass.
- Start slow. The key to setting reasonable boundaries is to build a relationship on trust and respect, not passion alone. “Take time to build a friendship first, romance second,” says Petrass. “This is the real secret to long-lasting, healthy love.”
- Avoid tunnel vision. Some young people devote themselves to a love relationship at the expense of their other relationships and interests. You end up overly dependent on the other person, and can lose sight of your own needs and goals. Instead, realize that a love relationship is only one aspect of your life, not your entire life, points out Petrass. Balance the romance with your own friends, family, hobbies because these are what make you a happy and complete person capable of a true loving relationship.
- Realize love doesn’t equal conflict. Many transition-aged youth are exposed to domestic violence growing up, which puts them at risk for repeating the pattern because they don’t know anything else. Conflict in any relationship is inevitable, but too much is a sign that something is off. “A healthy relationship feels safe and comfortable,” says Petrass.
- Know you can break away from the past. Maybe other relationships haven’t worked out. Maybe growing up, you didn’t get the chance to watch your parents or other trusted adults in healthy relationships. It’s okay. “You have the power to create new patterns for yourself,” says Petrass. “The ability to make good choices rests inside you.”
Hillsides Peer Resource Center is a one-stop shop of support for youth in need ages 16 – 25, offering job training, housing referrals, and many other services. The Center, which will celebrate its three-year-anniversary in April, is located at 456 E. Orange Grove Blvd., Suite 140, Pasadena, CA 91104.
Alison Bell serves as the associate director of communications and marketing in Hillsides advancement services and is an author and writing instructor.