Santa Clara University

Wellness Center

All About Relationships

Throughout our lives, we are involved with many different kinds of relationships.  All healthy relationships -- whether they are friendship, roommate or romantic -- have similar characteristics. The persons involved have developed a way of combining the following common qualities in a unique way that works best for them. Each of these situations has the potential to enrich us, adding to our feelings of self-worth, enjoyment, and growth. 

Four Components of a Healthy Relationship:

  • Respect: Learning about each other and valuing what is important to the other person and themselves.
  • Honesty: Although honesty about thoughts, feelings, and the wanted direction of the relationship is hard to accomplish, it allows you and your partner to explore the real you.
  • Trust: Trust and honesty are directly related. How can you trust someone who is not honest? In the beginning, you do not have to automatically trust someone else. However, trust yourself to be who you are and to look out for your well-being. Over time, determine if your partner is trustworthy. If you have trust in your partner, hold onto it until proven otherwise. Some situations may arise where things seem ambiguous. Try to talk with your partner without accusing until you have the facts. Remember, trust is hard to earn but easy to destroy.
  • Communication: Communication is part listening and part speaking. When communicating, try to make your partner feel understood. Repeat what they are saying as you understand it and see if you are on the same wavelength. Don't throw out hints your partner may not understand or expect your partner to read your mind. Be as clear and direct as possible.

Click HERE to take a Relationship Quiz
HERE to learn the different forms of Relationship Abuse
HERE for the "Top 20 Relationship Warning Signs"

Factors to Consider When Thinking About Becoming Involved in a Relationship

I.  Individualism
Although you really care and like this person, don't forget about yourself and your needs in the process of becoming involved. Keep these things in mind:

  • What type of relationship are you looking for? (Friendship, long term relationship, love?)
  • How do your values relate to what you desire in a relationship?
  • What activities are you now involved in that you may not want to share?
  • Remember that you and your partner both had a life before you came together. Keep that going. A relationship should enhance who you already are, not replace it.
  • Also recognize change. Over time you and your partner as individuals will change which will lead to a change in the relationship. Try to avoid thinking that change is a negative thing. Change can be good and can help the relationship grow and develop.

II.  Romance
As with friendships, romantic relationships take time. Use that time to enjoy each other as friends; many times friends make the best romantic partners.

III.  When Sex is Involved
Considering your values about sexual relationships before becoming involved will give you a better sense of your needs. Think about where those values originate. Family, media, friends, religion? How strongly do you rely on those values to help make your sexual decisions?

Know this:

  • Sex should be guilt free. You can have a romantic relationship without involving sexual activity. Don't force it, if you or your partner aren't ready.
  • Sex should be something that you can discuss. It is best to communicate to your partner clearly and directly about sex (emotional involvement, monogamy, contraception, STI protection, etc).
  • Sex too early in a relationship can actually prevent intimacy. Many individuals mistake sexual intimacy for emotional intimacy. If individuals aren't emotionally connected, yet they are having sex, they may not work at creating a closer emotional bond. 
  • Don't compromise your values for someone else's sexual desires.

Questions to ask yourself before deciding whether to have sex.


1. Am I having sex to feel loved and wanted?

Sex does not equal love. In fact, if you are having sex to feel loved and wanted, it might have the opposite effect. Feeling loved and wanted comes from having a strong relationship based on mutual respect, trust, and good communication. Sex is best when these aspects of your relationship are already established.


2. Am I having sex because everyone I know is?

It's unlikely that everyone you know is having sex. Even if they are, it doesn't mean you are wrong for deciding not to. If this is your only reason for having sex, think some more about your decision.


3. Am I having sex to strengthen a relationship?

Effective communication, trust, and respect are the key to a strong relationship. If your relationship does not have these elements, sex will not make your relationship stronger.


4. Am I having sex because it is the only way to be intimate with my partner?

There are many ways to be intimate with your partner. Communication leads to greater intimacy. There is nothing more intimate than sharing your hopes, dreams, and desires with another person. Try finding ways to be emotionally and intellectually intimate, and don’t confuse these qualities with physical intimacy.


5. Am I having sex because my partner needs it and I want to please him/her?

Nobody needs to have sex to live. Wanting to please your partner is understandable, but having sex when you don’t want to is not the way to go about it.


6. Am I able to talk to my partner about what I want out of sex and our relationship?

Being able to talk to your partner about your emotional and physical needs is essential. People in healthy relationships want to hear about how to please their partners. If you are not able to discuss these needs with your partner, think about whether you are ready to have sex.


7. Am I having sex to prove I am in love with my partner?

If your partner loves you, he/she will respect the decision you make about whether to have sex. Remember that sex doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with love.


8. Do I know how to protect myself and my partner from unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections?

Before you decide whether to have sex, you need to learn about precautions you and your partner can take to reduce the chance of unwanted pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Remember that the only 100 percent effective method for preventing pregnancy and STIs is abstinence.


9. Am I having sex because it is a normal, healthy, fun thing to do?

Sex can definitely be part of a healthy relationship, and a healthy relationship can certainly exist without sex. Essential aspects of healthy relationships are trust, effective communication, and respect. It is important that you and your partner be able to talk about the emotional and physical issues associated with having sex, like expectations about your relationship, possible pregnancy, and sexually transmitted infections.


Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationship Factors

Being in a HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP means ...


Loving and taking care of yourself, before and while in a relationship.

You care for and focus on another person only and neglect yourself or you focus only on yourself and neglect the other person.

Respecting individuality, embracing differences, and allowing each person to "be themselves."

You feel pressure to change to meet the other person's standards, you are afraid to disagree, and your ideas or criticized. Or, you pressure the other person to meet your standards and criticize his/her ideas.

Doing things with friends and family and having activities independent of each other.

One of you has to justify what you do, where you go, and who you see.

Discussing things, allowing for differences of opinion, and compromising equally.

One of you makes all the decisions and controls everything without listening to the other's input.

Expressing and listening to each other's feelings, needs, and desires.

One of you feels unheard and is unable to communicate what you want.

Trusting and being honest with yourself and each other.

You lie to each other and find yourself making excuses for the other person.

Respecting each other's need for privacy.

You don't have any personal space and have to share everything with the other person.

Sharing sexual histories and sexual health status with a partner.

Your partner keeps his/her sexual history a secret or hides a sexually transmitted infection from you or you do not disclose your history to your partner.

Practicing safer sex methods.

You feel scared of asking your partner to use protection or s/he has refused your requests for safer sex. Or, you refuse to use safer sex methods after your partner has requested or you make your partner feel scared.

Respecting sexual boundaries and being able to say no to sex.

Your partner has forced you to have sex or you have had sex when you don't really want to. Or, you have forced or coerced your partner to have sex.

Resolving conflicts in a rational peaceful, and mutually agreed upon way.

One of you yells and hits, shoves or throws things at the other in an argument.

There is room for positive growth and you learn more about each other as you develop and mature.

You feel stifled, trapped, and stagnant. You are unable to escape the pressures of the relationship.


Ending Relationships: When Is It Time To Let Go?

Letting go is hard, but there are certain times that we need to end a relationship, including:

  • When one or both partners are experiencing abuse of any kind
  • Unhappiness with the relationship persists for a significant amount of time
  • There is unresolved conflict
  • You are staying in the relationship to avoid hurting your partner
  • It seems as though trust can not be rebuilt
  • You are considering pursuing a relationship with someone else

Some individuals stay in a relationship because they are "afraid" to be alone -- even when there are no feelings for the other person. Using a relationship as a security blanket to protect you from loneliness isn't fair to the other person and doesn't give you an opportunity to grow, learn about yourself and find out what you need. If you're in that type of situation, ending the relationship might be best for you and your partner.

How to End a Relationship
Ending a relationship is a hard thing to do. There could be feelings of guilt, fear of emotionally hurting your partner, fear that your partner may take it the wrong way, or wondering if you did everything possible to save the relationship. Although ending a relationship is easy for some, for others it can be a difficult thing. If you feel it is the best option for you, then you need to follow through no matter how difficult the process may be. In some instances, your partner may feel the same way, and in others, your partner doesn't realize what's going on. Holding on to a relationship that is over will only make the relationship worse and become more of a strain on you and your partner's life. If ending a relationship is the best thing for you, then it would be the best thing for your partner. Some tips:

  • 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.).

Where to Get Help?

Relationships can be diffiuclt and sometimes a neutral, professional counselor can be a great source of support to help you decide if your relationhips are healthy and right for you. There are a lot of resources available to help you on campus. Contact the SCU Counseling Center (554-4172) or Wellness Center (554-4409) to speak with trained professionals who can help you feel better and understand your relationship.



Other Relationship Topics

  • About Resolving Conflict and Preventing Violence - Brooklyn College
  • Addictive Relationships - University of Illinois
  • Becoming Open to Others - University of Florida
  • Beyond Fear of Rejection and Loneliness to Self-Confidence - California State University, Long Beach
  • Boyfriend/Girlfriend/Spouse Rapport Scale - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Building Healthy Relationships - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Committed Relationships and School - University of Illinois
  • Common Expectations, Patterns, and "Mistakes" in Relationships - University of South Florida
  • Common Questions About Relationships, And Some Answers - SUNY at Buffalo
  • Communication in Sexual Behavior - Michigan State University
  • Conflict Resolution - Massey University
  • Coping with a Breakup - University of Texas at Dallas
  • The Death of a Marriage - University of Florida
  • Death of a Relationship - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Fair Fighting: The Art of Managing Differences in Intimate Relationships - University of Florida
  • Fighting Fair - University of Texas at Austin
  • Fighting the Fair Way - SUNY at Buffalo
  • Friendship Building - SUNY at Buffalo
  • Friendship Building - University of Florida
  • Getting Along with a Roommate - University of Miami
  • Handling Common Relationship Problems - University of Florida
  • Harmonious Relationships: Achieving Intimacy and Assertiveness - California State University, Long Beach
  • A Heads up Relationship Can Go a Long Way - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Healthy Intimate Relationships: 12 Tips - University of Cincinnati
  • Healthy Relationships - Kansas State University
  • Help! My Partner Just Left Me! - Massey University
  • Highlights from Relationship Rescue - University of Texas at Dallas
  • How Can I Be Wise About Online Dating? - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • How to Cope When You Leave a Relationship - Massey University
  • How to Cope with a Broken Relationship - University of Florida
  • How to Live with Your Roommate - St. Joseph's University
  • Improving Communication Skills - Michigan State University
  • The Insurmountable No - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Is Your Relationship Heading into Dangerous Territory? - University of Texas at Austin
  • Keys to a Successful Marriage - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • The Lesson of the Porcupine - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Long Distance Relationships - University of Missouri -- Rolla
  • Long Distance Relationships - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Love is a Verb and Not a Noun - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Maintaining a Relationship - Michigan State University
  • Maintaining Relationships Abroad - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Making Friends - Massey University
  • Male Sex Role: Changes and Stressors - University of Florida
  • Meaningful Relationships - Southwest Texas State University
  • On Relationships - Pace University -- Westchester Campuses
  • Problem-Solving - SUNY at Buffalo
  • Relationship Abuse - University of Cincinnati
  • Relationship Assessment Scale - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Relationship Violence Warning Signs - SUNY at Buffalo
  • Relationships - University of Oregon
  • So, You Want to Have a Relationship - SUNY at Buffalo
  • Social Skills - University of Cincinnati
  • Statements on Love and Relationships - University of Wisconsin -- Eau Claire
  • Surviving the Loss of Love - University of Cincinnati
  • Thinking About Sharing a Flat? - Massey University Violence in Relations - George Washington University
  • When Criticizing Others - Michigan State University

    Source: Student Counseling & Resource Service- University of Chicago Virtual Pamphlet Collection

    Printer-friendly format