The Millennial’s Guide to Healthy Relationships
Written by Camille Chuaquico
Monday, 17 August 2015 00:00

By Camille Chuaquico

Who are the millennials? We are a generation of young people who are educated, career-oriented, and sexually-empowered. We have professional opportunities and life choices not available to generations before. We have witnessed that divorce rate is at its all-time high and have considered to put off married life until we are ready and more “matured”—somewhere between our late 20s and early 30s.

In the meantime, technology has become supplemental to instantly gratify our physical and emotional needs amid our busy work schedule. Tinder, OKCupid, Zoosk, Coffee Meets Bagel—name it, we have it! Our dating relationships are often described as fleeting, polyamorous, and non-committal. We have grown accustomed to accepting relationships along the lines of hook-ups, casual sex, and friends with benefits.

The irony is that our generation,  which puts greater weight in building careers over relationships,  is the same generation which believes in Disney fairytale endings and #relationshipgoals. Through swiping right or left, we feel that tinge of hope that hook-up sites would eventually find us our very own Prince Charming. Our favorite Disney movies led us to believe that there is such thing as a perfect relationship—an impossible expectation that frustrates us every single time and which is why we tend to not settle, constantly hopping from one date to another until… well, until we get tired of it.

At the rate that we are going—unable to grasp the idea of staying in a relationship, let alone being in a relationship because of ultra-fast dating turnover—we are confronted with a confusion of what really means to be in a healthy relationship. Regardless if you are exploring the world of dating or in a committed relationship, keep in mind the 5 C’s of a healthy relationship:

Communication is vital in keeping any relationship in tip-top shape. A healthy relationship provides a safe environment for couples to freely communicate their thoughts without the fear of being judged. Arguments are natural and unavoidable, but couples need to develop a level of communication in which problems are solved and no feelings are repressed.

COMMUNICATION

Partners should know each other’s wants, goals, fears and limits. Do you and your partner know each other’s physical and emotional boundaries? Are you even comfortable discussing these with your partner? Here are our a few tips to improve your communication skills:

  1. Set the right place and time. Talk privately, away from distractions and public interruptions. Make time for face-to-face interactions.

  2. Listen. Communication is a two-way street. Make sure that you don’t only get your message across, but you also take what your partner has to say. Use acknowledging responses like “I see”, “Uh-huh”, “Okay”. Do not interrupt but take mental notes of questions that may arise from your partner’s exposition.

  3. Speak from the heart. Be honest. Do not sugarcoat things. Use “I” phrases like “I think”, “I feel”, “I need”. Focus on your feelings instead of making accusatory statements.

Consent is highly important especially in terms of sexual relationships. It involves clear, sober, conscious agreement to participate in sexual activities. Consent is invalid when it is coerced, intimidated, threatened, forced, or when given by a mentally or physically incapacitated persons.

Consent is never implied and cannot be assumed. Check in with yourself and your partner often to make sure that both of you are comfortable with what is happening, and respect the feelings that each of you have. Just because your partner gave consent to oral sex, it doesn’t mean they want to go all the way (and vice versa).  Just because you had sex the first time does not mean your partner can force you into having sex next time. You always have the right to say NO, and anytime either you or your partner says no, the other person must respect that decision.

CONSENT

Here are some helpful tips to practice healthy consent given by the National Domestic Violence Hotline:

  1. Talk about it! Communication is one of the most important aspects of a healthy relationship. Establish boundaries by explaining what things you and your partner are comfortable with and what things you may not feel comfortable with. Always ask first. Try phrases like:
    “Are you OK with this?”
    “If you’re into it, I could…”
    “Are you comfortable with this?”

  2. Be aware of the physical and nonverbal signs of consent as well. If your partner seems uncomfortable, talk about it and discuss it. Don’t assume that silence is them saying yes.

  3. Remember that giving and receiving consent is an ongoing process.

The 3rd “C” in a healthy relationship, confidentiality, might be tricky in today’s digital age. At what level do you want your relationship to be present in social media? Is sharing of passwords necessary to show a degree of trust? How comfortable are you about sexting and sending nude photos to your partners? These are some of the things you may consider discussing with your partner.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Loveisrespect.org gives a few helpful reminders on dating in the digital age:

  • Your partner should respect your relationship boundaries.

  • It is ok to turn off your phone. You have the right to be alone and spend time with friends and family without your partner getting angry.

  • You do not have to text any pictures or statements that you are uncomfortable sending, especially nude or partially nude photos, known as "sexting".

  • You lose control of any electronic message once your partner receives it. They may forward it, so don’t send anything you fear could be seen by others.

  • You do not have to share your passwords with anyone.

  • Know your privacy settings. Social networks such as Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These are often customizable and are found in the privacy section of the site. Remember, registering for some applications (apps) requires you to change your privacy settings.

  • Be mindful when using check-ins like Facebook Places and foursquare. Letting an abusive partner know where you are could be dangerous. Also, always ask your friends if it’s ok for you to check them in. You never know if they are trying to keep their location secret.

The fourth “C” in healthy relationships is care. We all want to feel loved and cared for, don’t we? Caring is integral part of nurturing healthy relationships as it re-affirms your feelings for your partner.

CARE

People express that they care for one another in so many different ways. Gary Chapman, in his book The Five Love Languages, enumerates five ways to express and experience love:

  1. Gifts—e.g. giving presents that symbolize something special in your relationship, your partner’s favorite book, tickets to a concert, personalized scrapbooks and mementos, etc.

  2. Quality Time—e.g. a walk in the park, a Netflix binge-watch weekend

  3. Words of Affirmation—e.g. sending a simple text message complimenting your partner’s look or saying words of encouragement

  4. Acts of Service—e.g. taking out the trash, walking the dog, cooking your partner’s favorite food

  5. Physical Touch—e.g. physical intimacy, holding hands, kissing

Which of these languages do you speak? Take the quiz to find out.

While care is often used to better relationships, take note that an abusive partner may express any of the love languages in order to win a person’s heart.  Jealousy and lack of trust may be misconstrued as caring and some people find control as endearing.

Social media facilitates a culture of constant ‘checking-in’, where monitoring a partner’s movements can be done at the click of a button. This can further cloud our judgements into thinking that a certain level of control and surveillance is acceptable and a sign of caring. Keep in mind that caring can be either an instrument to express affection or a tool to control a partner’s behavior. It is important that you re-examine your relationship and recognize the subtle signs of abusive behavior.

Also, realize that the love language you speak may not be something your partner would be able to understand and give. Say, you like being given words of affirmation. But if your partner speaks a different love language--say, spending quality time--your partner might not be able to reciprocate the love language you would want to receive, and vice versa.

This brings us to the last “C” of healthy relationships--Compromise. Striking a balance between you and your partner’s needs and wants is key to a successful relationship. In the case of love language, it is important that both of you know each other’s love language and try to learn them in order to better communicate your care and appreciation for each other. Realize that it’s ok if your partner is not able to meet all of your needs at times your want them to, and vice versa.

COMPROMISE

Conflicts and disagreements may arise which is natural in every relationship. When differences come up, try to see the situation from your partner’s point of view and try to work through them together. Find a middle ground that can allow both of you to feel satisfied with the outcome. But be careful not to give up too much of what is important to you for the sake of a relationship. There are some non-negotiables such as your safety, independence, and values that you have to keep in mind when dealing with conflict resolution.

We often find ourselves clueless about a lot of things, including love and relationships. With all the ideas that social media, movies, and books feed our minds about relationships, we should be able to filter what is healthy from what is not. The key ingredients to a good healthy relationship are Communication, Compromise, Consent, Confidentiality, and Care. As part of the generation that allows young people access to information, support, and opportunities that previous generations didn’t get to enjoy before, we—more  than ever—are empowered to take control of our choices and engaging in healthy relationships.