Maybe you’ve signed up for a new gym membership, cleaned out all the junk food from your cabinets and replaced it with healthy snacks, or have a 5-day streak going of setting your alarm and getting up earlier. Whether you’re quitting smoking or taking up yoga, the start of a new year is a great time to decide to make positive changes in our lives and weed out unhealthy practices. While our physical health is important, our emotional health and health in relationships is sometimes overlooked as we make our list of resolutions. What can we do in 2014 to build a healthier community around us and promote healthy relationships in our lives?
1. Healthy Relationship Audit: One of the things we can do is examine our own relationships and take stock of how we demonstrate trust and respect. Sometimes it seems like unhealthy relationships are all around us. It’s difficult to find popular TV shows or songs that encourage healthy behaviors in relationships, so we have to stop and think about what we want from our own relationships and not just absorb these media messages. Healthy relationships are based on trust, respect and communication. We demonstrate trust when we encourage and support one another to try new things, meet new people, and feel safe to make mistakes. Respect means supporting our partners’ values and interests. In any relationship there will be challenging times. In healthy relationships, partners are able to listen to one another, disagree respectfully, and compromise. In relationships that are built on trust, respect and communication, partners feel affirmed and understood. This model of healthy relationships is not limited to dating or married couples. We can model emotional health in relationships with neighbors, family members, friends and coworkers. The effects and experiences of individual relationships can ripple out and make an impression on the larger community.
2. Encourage Healthy Relationships in the Next Generation: Conversations with kids about healthy relationships can and should start at a very young age. With younger children, we can explain the difference between surprises and secrets, and let them know that it’s okay for them to say no in situations where they feel uncomfortable or unsafe. As they get older, encourage them to think about what they want in their relationships and define their personal boundaries and expectations for how they want to be treated. With teenagers, be willing to listen and don’t let awkwardness stop you from having conversations about dating. Remind them that dating should be fun and that violence within a relationship is never acceptable. Make sure they know of other ‘safe’ people they can talk to.
3. Work for a Healthier Community: In a healthy community, people know one another by name and feel safe reaching out for support. There are opportunities to have fun together and instances when we come together in times of difficulty. Domestic violence thrives in isolation and stigma. If you don’t know your neighbors by name, take some time to get to know them. Residents in Waltham will be doing this in March during “Say Hi to Your Neighbors Week,” but you don’t have to live in Waltham to be part of building healthier communities. Contact us for information on how to organize in your own community. Talk about domestic violence in your workplace or in your place of worship. Don’t wait for a tragedy to demonstrate how your community can come together, but be proactive about breaking down those walls of isolation and pulling back the shroud of stigma around relationship abuse.
What resolutions are you making in your own life to promote healthy relationships and communities? Leave a comment below and let us know.