Laying the Foundation

Everyone deserves to be in relationships that are healthy and positive. Here are some things to consider when embarking on a relationship with someone else to help you lay the groundwork for a healthy partnership:

Relationship Readiness
Communication and Boundaries 
Maintaining Your Relationship

  • Relationship readiness: Whether or not you are “ready for a relationship” is a personal judgment, and there is no one way to decide. It can help to consider where you and your partner/potential partner are coming from before you begin any kind of relationship--casual, serious, romantic, sexual, etc--and if your wants and needs will be compatible with theirs. Ultimately, the best way to be sure you are ready for a relationship is to check in with yourself to make sure that the relationship you are about to begin feels safe, comfortable, and fun!

    Your life doesn’t need to be perfect and problem-free before you can be a good partner to someone. However, unreasonable expectations that being in a relationship will “fix” personal problems, or that your partner should be completely responsible for helping you work through them, can easily create pressure and unhealthy dynamics in your relationship.

  • Communication and boundaries: One of the most important aspects of maintaining any kind of relationship is practicing healthy, honest communication. Communication is crucial in setting boundaries early on that will keep your relationship healthy. Here are some points to think about, and consider talking over with your partner. More in-depth tips about communicating can be found here

    • Emotional boundaries: Are you looking for a serious partnership or something more casual? Do you expect monogamy from your partner? What kind of terminology will you use for the relationship? Do you want your partner to meet your friends or parents? At what point in the relationship or in what contexts are you comfortable expressing sentiments like “I love you”? How will you maintain independence and navigate spending time apart?

    • Physical boundaries: Are you comfortable displaying physical affection in public? What kinds of sex acts do you feel ready for, and at what pace? What is your or your partner’s STI status? What kinds of protection (if any) will you use if you have sex? For more help with physical boundaries, check out this section about sexual relationships, and remember: enthusiastic, affirmative consent is always required for any kind of sex.

    • Digital boundaries: Will your “relationship status” be posted online? Is it okay to post pictures together or to post online about relationship? Remember that you are entitled to your digital privacy--passwords can stay private.

  • Maintaining your relationship: As time goes on, your relationship will grow and change as you and your partner do. Your feelings may deepen, change, or become more complicated--and that’s okay. Every now and then, even healthy relationships need a small boost!

    • Make time for activities you both love that allow you to spend quality time together, like cooking a meal or exploring a new neighborhood.

    • Acknowledge that there will be disagreements. Individuals have different desires, opinions, and ideas, and partners need to respect each others’ unique perspectives. Demonstrate your care for each other by working through conflicts together in a respectful way.

    • Be honest and expect the same from your partner, especially if your feelings, needs, or desires have changed.

    • Help your partner feel good about themselves and expect the same in return. Healthy relationships are about building each other up, not putting each other down; partners need to acknowledge each others’ efforts and accomplishments.

    • It’s OK to spend time apart. Spending time alone or with different people is healthy; being in a relationship doesn’t mean you and your partner should spend all your time together.

    • Check in with yourself and each other. People don’t stay the same forever, and neither will your relationship--communicate and make sure you are still growing together, instead of apart.