February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Though the potential for violence in teen relationships is often overlooked, sexual assault and other harmful behaviors are all too common. As part of putting a stop to teen dating violence, it helps to understand key characteristics of healthy relationships.
Respect means appreciating and giving value to a dating partner’s opinions and decisions. It recognizes the value of the other person in the relationship. Respectful partners listen when the other says “yes” or “no.” Any boundaries that have been established are carefully observed.
Equality ensures that both partners have an equal balance of power in the relationship. Decisions are made together — and both people have the same amount of “voice” in the decision-making process. One person does not dominate the other or make all the decisions for them.
A safe relationship is one in which neither partner will intentionally hurt the other. This doesn’t just include sexual violence or physical assault — it also applies to emotional and psychological well-being. You try to protect each other, and never hurt the other person.
With mutual trust, partners can rely on each other. They can trust that the other person has their best interests at heart. They say what they mean, and speak the truth. Neither partner tries to manipulate, mislead, or take advantage of the other.
Though these four components aren’t enough to create a healthy relationship in and of themselves, they are an absolute must as part of any teen dating relationship. When these attributes are present, the risk for sexual violence and other harmful behaviors greatly declines. Healthy teen dating experiences lay the foundation for healthy adult relationships later in life. If you would like more information on how to talk to teen about healthy relationships reach out to OneEighty’s Emily Wirtz, Community Education and Outreach Coordinator at 330.804.5840 or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.