Peers Building Justice: Defining Healthy Relationships through a Social Justice Lens
With Healthy Relationships we also have to take into consideration how our social locations and the identities that we hold can reflect healthy/unhealthy relationships. This is a list of some key elements of what a healthy relationship looks like with an anti-oppressive lens.
- Communication: Understanding your partner(s) social location can change the way they communicate (how and where they grew up, how they were raised, personality, family etc). Being honest and open about your views, feelings, thoughts, etc are really important. We also understand how society has put pressure on certain genders to hold back emotions. Communication is key to a healthy relationship so work with your partner(s) and start talking about what’s going on.
- Active listening: Listening is one thing, but active listening is completely different. Listening is when someone is saying something and you are hearing their voice/words or body movements, but not their message. Active listening is fully focusing, concentrating, understanding, and responding what the other person told you.
- “All-way street”: All people need to treat each other with a “love ethic” (similar to the Golden Rule). Bell Hooks explains a “love ethic” as:
“To live our lives based on the principles of a love ethic – showing care, respect, knowledge, integrity, and the will to cooperate – we have to be courageous.Learning how to face our fears is one way we embrace love. Our fear may not go away, but it will not stand in the way. Those of us who have already chosen to embrace a love ethic, allowing it to govern and inform how we think and act, know that when we let our light shine, we draw to us and are drawn to other bearers of light. We are not alone.”
- Empathy: It is truly important to feel WITH someone. Sympathy and Empathy can be mistaken as similar, but they are not. Sympathy is when you feel sorrow, pity, sadness, etc for the troubles or hardships that another person faces, but empathy is truly feeling for them, putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
- Respect each other: Respecting each other means we are respecting our boundaries and that of our partner(s). It means that we are taking into consideration all of our privileges and where we are not privileged. Making sure we respect where they are coming from. Respecting their decisions, respecting their being, respecting their passions — and that can look different for everyone. Check in with your partner(s).
- Love: Love yourself. Love is all the factors we have listed and more. Love is defined by the beholder and love is everything healthy. You define love.
- Trust: It is important to trust your partner(s). When you trust them, you feel confident. You feel sure about what they are saying or doing. We can feel trust in our bodies and know when we are being lied to. When you lie to your partner(s) that can create an unhealthy relationship. If you can’t trust your partner(s) ask yourself why? And communicate your thoughts/feelings to them. Be honest with yourself.
- Be Supportive: Supporting your partner(s) is supporting their process. Its being there for them. When all partner(s) encourage each other to be the best person they can be! Support is given and received.
- Being able to share ideas and feelings in an open way: It is a great feeling when you know you can share your feelings and ideas with your partner(s) and know that they are going to respond with a love ethic. We know that human beings don’t agree all the time, and that’s fine, as long as you don’t judge or put your partner(s) down.
- Being able to communicate and resolve problems together: To be able to collect your thoughts, describe your feelings, and letting your partner(s) know when you don’t feel comfortable with a situation or a personal matter. Allowing their to be space to actively listen, ask questions, and empathize. If there needs to be space before resolving an issue communicate that need. Acting on violence is abuse and will never be accepted.
- Relationships are a roller coaster of emotions, and it is okay: People will have emotions with any and every relationship: (will feel sad, angry, jealous, etc) and how you react to your emotions can be either healthy or unhealthy. The key element in any relationship is to feel happy most of the time with your partner(s) and with yourself.
Today we are going to talk a bit about how to be a good friend to someone who is experiencing abuse within a relationship. Feel free to use the following list as a guideline on how to support your friend(s).
1) Believe your friend
Listen and believe your friend’s story. It takes a lot of courage to tell someone about experiencing violence. Make sure that your friend knows that you believe them and are there for them.
2) Let them know that they do not deserve to be abused
Many times the person using abuse makes the person being abused believe that the violence is their fault. Let your friend know that the violence is not their fault and that they never, under any circumstance, deserve to be abused.
3) Present resources
Compile a list of local and national resources for your friend to reach out to, when they are ready. For Boulder, we have already mentioned the SPAN (303) 444-2424 and MESA (303) 443-7300 hotlines as local resources.
National Domestic Violence Hotline 1(800) 799-7233
4) Help them create a Safety Plan
Help your friend compile a list of resources, of trusted adults, and emergency services that they can reach out to in a time of need. Help them think of ideas that have kept them safe. Make sure they have a safe place to seek refuge in and that they interact with their partner in public spaces.
5) Let them make their own decisions
Telling your friend what to do, will only further perpetuate the lack of control that they may be feeling in their life. It is important that they make their own decisions. Provide a list of resources and talk about who can help. They will make the choice to seek help when they feel safe and ready. They are the experts in their own life and experience.
6) Keep it to yourself
Unless your friend is under immediate danger, make sure that you are respecting your friend’s privacy and allow them to make their own decisions. If you feel that your friend is in danger, speak to a trusted adult about how to seek help.
7) Take care of yourself
Remember that there is only so much that you can do. Once you have worked with your friend to compile a safety plan and have listened empathically, it is up to them to decide how to proceed in their relationship. It is important that throughout this experience you also take care of yourself. It is important to process your own feelings with someone you trust. When doing this, make sure you are sharing the plot and not the characters. That is, unless your friend is in immediate danger, you share the story without breaking your friend’s request for confidentiality. You can also reach out to the SPAN (303) 444-2424 and/or MESA (303) 443-7300 hotlines to speak confidentially to someone that can provide support 24/7.
If at any point you have questions and/or need to speak to someone about a friend’s relationship, please call either the SPAN (303) 444-2424 or MESA (303) 443-7300 hotlines. MESA and SPAN have specially trained counselors who are available 24/7/365. The hotlines are free, and they also have Spanish-speaking counselors.
You don’t need to be in crisis to call the phone numbers. You can call anytime, even if just to say, ‘I saw something happen between two friends of mine and I didn’t know what to think,’ or ‘I’m just looking for some information.’
Anyone can call these numbers. You can call about a friend, a family member, or about yourself. The call is totally confidential and you don’t need to give the counselor personal information about yourself such as your name and phone number. You can use a fake name or no name if you want.