Relationship wellness: Part 2

The green flags for healthy teen relationships.

A man and woman laughing and hugging.
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

As discussed in Part 1 of this Michigan State University Extension series, relationships are essential to our livelihoods due to the need for connection and a sense of belonging. Thus, it is important to know the building blocks to obtain healthy relationships and unlock their desirable outcomes.

For instance, research from the Better Health Channel suggests that engaging in healthy relationships can lower rates of anxiety/depression, raise self-esteem, improve empathy, and increase trusting and cooperative interactions. In addition, partaking in healthy relationships can improve immune system functioning and may even lengthen life span, due to life satisfaction.

Here are 10 green flags to look for when navigating or entering a teen relationship, based on the findings of the One Love Foundation

  1. Comfortable pace. Comfortable pace is when the movement of the relationship is enjoyable for both parties. During this time, teens do not feel rushed or pressured in a way that makes them feel anxious. In turn, this allows room for open communication and respect within one’s boundaries.
  2. Trust. Trust is when teens can rely on their partner or peers to not impact the relationship in a negative way. Within this space, trust can grow easily and can be strengthened, due to consistency between both parties. With a strong core of trust, most relationships can navigate conflict within a healthy way, thus maintaining low levels of anxiety.
  3. Honesty. Honesty is when teens can be completely vulnerable to their partner or peers, without fear of negative consequences. While an individual may not like what is said, there will be a level of respect and acceptance that can allow them to be heard. In turn, teens can navigate relationships with pure motives, reducing the temptation to lean on lies to meet their needs.
  4. Independence. Independence is when teens have the space to be themselves outside of the relationship and they do not always have to involve the other party. Within healthy relationships, having hobbies or friendships that do not pertain to the other individual is appropriate and needed. By doing this, teens create room for exploration, which aids the molding of self-identity. As a result, teens feel supported within their endeavors, while providing the same freedom in return.
  5. Respect. R-E-S-P-E-C-T is when the beliefs and opinions of teens are valued within the relationship. This results in healthy management of boundaries and upholding them to the same level as their own. 
  6. Equality. Equality is when both parties put the same effort into the success of the relationship. In doing so, all voices are heard, leaving no room for power struggles. When needed, compromises are established with the well-being of the relationship in mind. As a result, teens should feel a sense of validation within the experience, operating within a team framework. 
  7. Kindness. Kindness is maintaining empathy for each other and keeping emotional wellness in mind. As a result, teens can experience feeling loved, valued and seen, counteracting any prior negative assumptions. 
  8. Accountability. Accountability is when both sides own their actions and mistakes. In doing this, teens limit deflection, thus instilling healthy conflict strategies and connection within the relationship.
  9. Healthy conflict. Healthy conflict is when teens can discuss disagreements in a respectful manner without the fear of it escalating. As a result, teens can develop confidence to discuss things early on, when emotions are more regulated. In turn, this normalizes conflict and fosters trust and honesty within the relationship.
  10. Fun. Fun is when teens can enjoy each other’s company and bring out their childlike personality. Additionally, incorporating fun can foster a friendship between both parties, which deepens the connection and overall bond. As a result, longevity of the relationship is increased, thanks to more positive experiences.

In essence, navigating relationships can be hard, especially within the early years of life. However, it is up to us to recognize and know the signs so we can have the chance to form healthy relationships. By doing so, it aids our mental health functioning, unlocking our potential for a healthier quality of life.

You can learn more about mental health and wellness by visiting MSU Extension’s 4-H Healthy Youth page or getting involved with organizations such as One Love Foundation to become an advocate for change. 

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