It would be thoughtless to talk about being in your 20s without discussing toxic and healthy relationships. We are young, new to things, excited and craving for connections. Relationships in our 20s are the most fun, spontaneous, innocent, childish but sincere.
This is when we are still new to the world, new to the dating scene and new to ourselves. We are confused as we fall in love, hard and fast.
Lots of people underestimate the importance of young relationships, thinking because it’s childish, it doesn’t mean anything. But no, these relationships we have when we are young are the ones that stay in us, they live in us as we grow older. They teach us about ourselves, they change our perspective on love and connection.
So how do we build healthy relationships when we are still young, inexperienced, a bit dumb and for some people, far away from home.
Here is everything I have learned from my past and current relationships. This post is inspired by a very special person and an amazing boyfriend, Erikas who has taught me what a healthy relationship feels like, who has inspired me to be a better more mature self every single day
Every healthy relationship starts within ourselves. Before we start working on any other relationships, work on the one with ourselves first.
Do you know you? What makes you happy? How do you act when you’re stressed, lonely, sad, angry? What upsets you? What’s a bit mad and odd about you? What would you like to be appreciated for? What is your childhood like? What do you expect from a partner? What do you think love is supposed to feel like?
Once you know who you are, you are less dependent on your partner to show you what you’re worth and you’re less likely to do and fall for things that don’t serve you.
When we know ourselves, we don’t let others’ opinions decide who we are. We are secure and confident. We don’t feel the need to please or fix our partner. Healthy relationships are when both people support and love each other as they grow instead of suffering and trying to fix the other person.
I recommend that you read more on knowing oneself on this article from The School Of Life to have a better understanding on this matter.
Talk with each other
Be genuine, attentive, open and respectful when you communicate. Don’t forget to share your thoughts and ask questions.
I find exchanging ideas and thoughts with my partner extremely connecting and mind opening. We feel the closest to someone when we both exchange and accept our deepest, most alienating thoughts and fantasies.
You will learn lots of things about you, them and your relationship. Healthy relationships start with productive communication. I have seen so many relationships fail because both parties don’t talk with each other enough. Emotions and thoughts are not exchanged and understood. Hiding difficult feelings will just make you resent your partner, which makes it worse in the long run
Healthy relationships allow both people to feel free to express themselves, understood and listened to.
Spend time with each other
Communicating is important, but it’s not all. To build healthy relationships, you should spend quality time with your partner, have fun, go for a walk, eat together or if you’re lazy and broke like me, doing absolutely nothing and just being next to each other is fun enough.
It’s important to feel closed physically with someone as much as mentally. Even though it’s not mandatory (yes, long distance relationships can be healthy), physical touch is essential in healthy relationships.
You don’t have to do the same things over and over again with them, sometimes try something new like going on a road trip or make an effort to go out on a dinner date.
It means you let your partner in, show them your fears, worries and weaknesses. There are certain aspects in all of us that if we show them to some unsympathetic others would result in humiliation and mockery.
We live in a society where we worry all the time about how others view us, about our future, careers, and about all the important things we forgot to do in our life. Healthy relationships would be like a home for our inner idiots, where we are not embarrassed to show that we are somewhat not normal.
We might learn from a very young age that vulnerability is equal to weakness, that we should hide it and appear in public way more normal than we know we are. But vulnerability is the closest way to connection.
Healthy relationships allow us to sit down and let the other person know that we are afraid all the time, that sometimes we are bad and we have done many silly things. This is not for them to solve, but to feel at ease with their own inner idiots knowing at the end of the day, we are all indeed very weird in our own ways.
Teach and Explain with great patience
Sometimes it is easy to think that the person who loves us should understand us almost immediately. They should know what’s inside our heads and know us just like we know ourselves without any explanations.
I used to sulk all the time whenever I’m angry at someone I love. “I mean shouldn’t they know why I’m mad? They should if they are thoughtful enough”.
That is the lie that romanticism has been telling us. The truth is that we are all clueless and somehow ignorant. It would be unfair to expect the other to know what’s bothering us without explaining with great patience, that when we say “I’m fine” it means we’re not fine, that when we slam the door at them, we actually want them to hug us very tight.
The healthier way to look at this is to tolerate our partner’s ignorance and teach them how to love us because admit it or know, schools never taught us how to love someone and everybody is as clueless as we are.
Allow space, change and growth
I get it, you just want to be with your partner all the time because you love them so much. Well, same. But remember that we are young and still growing. Just like a plant, we need time and space to grow. Changes are inevitable, especially when we are young. Healthy relationships give us enough space and time alone to self-reflect and process our thoughts, so that when we get out there, we can be more ourselves.
Also, having some time apart will give us a chance to miss our partner and thus to appreciate them more.
I used to spend way too little time on my own because I wanted to be with my boyfriend all the time. My whole day revolved around us. Of course it feels good to be with someone you love, but after a while I realized even though I’m in a relationship, I am still an individual with my own goals. My individuality fades once I don’t spend time with myself. The me becomes the us and that’s how we lose ourselves.
Acknowledge and Validate
Validation is one single best thing we can give to others. We all need validation from people that are important to us in order to feel seen and heard. We don’t really need others to agree with what we feel, but we need them to see and acknowledge our emotions.
Validation is when we
- Identify and acknowledge someone’s emotion
- Give justification for feeling that emotion
For example, when our partner is telling us about their day with a story of an unpleasant co-worker in her new part-time job “Ugh she takes advantage of the fact that I’m new to make me wash dishes all my shift. I wish I didn’t have to work with her again”.
The invalidating answer would be “You’re gonna get used to it, it’ll be fine” or “that’s just how it is everywhere else, you’d better get used to it”
The validating answer would be “I would be so angry too if I were you, that is so annoying” or “That is so unfair and I can see why you are upset, I would feel the same”. We acknowledge that they are feeling upset and justify that it would be understandable to feel so.
With that one single validation, the unpleasant feeling would somehow disappear faster and unlikely to escalate. And this would be useful to any relationship, not just romantic one. You can have a look at this video of The School of Life where they explain really well why we need to feel heard.
Know that arguments happen
Arguments in a relationship are often so bitter and resentful as we obviously both love each other but at the same time, we can’t bear something they do.
It is desirable that we for once overcome our childishness and end the arguments for good. However, given our young, human nature, it might be naive to hope that we won’t argue. A wiser way to look this is we can learn how to argue better and more effectively, so that at the end of the argument, both can learn something new about the relationship and understand the other person a bit more.
Here is another video from The School of Life on how to argue with your partner that I found extremely interesting and helpful.
Everything here is what I have learned and still learning. It’s the long process. Healthy relationships can mean different to different people, but in general it should make you happy and grow. There are various way which you can build healthy relationships with other people either friends or partner, but these are my personal ways. Please understand that here is what I have learned from my experience and I hope this can help someone.