Six tips for building healthy relationships

Monday, February 5, 2024 Six tips for building healthy relationships

Heart painted on wall

Updated February 2024. A different version was originally published in 2022.

Meaningful relationships are an essential part of maintaining your mental health. Here are a few key tips to support you with building and sustaining your connections with other people.

Learn about yourself.

You may feel that when building a relationship with another individual means the main task is getting to know them, yet getting to know yourself is just as important.

  • What do you value in relationships?
  • What kind of relationships do you want?
  • How do you give and receive love?
  • What are you feeling and how can you express that in a clear and effective manner?
  • The more you appreciate yourself, are in touch with your feelings, and learn to express emotions in a regulated way, then the stronger the relationship with someone else can become.

    Give the relationship time and energy.

    Healthy relationships are not something you simply find fully formed out in the world. Rather, it takes a process of willingness to learn about each other, and a commitment to trying to understand each other’s needs. Relationships are living things that require a continual investment of time, energy, and care to develop and flourish.

    Develop and honor boundaries.

    Boundaries are the distance at which you can care for both you and another person simultaneously. Boundaries are necessary for relationships to proceed with respect and comfort.

    It is important to think about what your own boundaries are and to express them clearly – what you actively want in your relationships; what you can just tolerate; and what is totally unacceptable to you. Setting boundaries can be as much about expressing what you want and need in a relationship as what you don’t want or don’t like.

    Expressing what you appreciate is just as important for developing boundaries as indicating what bothers you. Examples of boundaries you might wish to set are asking for personal space when you need it; expecting mature and respectful communication during disagreements, cultivating your own independent identity while also maintaining connection in relationships; feeling that you can safely voice any relational concerns you might have; and feeling empowered to leave a relationship that is not working for you.

    Talk and listen with respect.

    It is normal for people to have disagreements and arguments within close relationships. This does not mean that your relationship is bad or that it needs to end. What matters is how you navigate conflict while still staying connected, how you work to talk and listen to each other with care.

    Practice listening to really understand what the other person is saying, rather than listening to respond or rebut. At the same time, don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and express how you are feeling in relationships with people you trust.

    Let go of what you can’t control.

    You are in control of yourself only. Life will throw many different kinds of experiences your way as well as encounters with other people, which are all outside of your scope of control.

    The part you do have control over is how you react and respond. You cannot control what anyone else does, so focus on yourself and what it is in your power to manage. This will save you time and energy and relieve stress.

    Take time to reflect and grow.

    Recognizing your own feelings helps you be able to understand and connect to other people’s feelings. For example, feelings of anger often come from a place of feeling hurt or upset.

    If you can recognize your deepest feelings and their origins, you will be able to communicate and connect better with other people. Which relationships in your life seem to be working the best? Can you pinpoint why? What good qualities of those relationships could you bring into the other relationships in your life?


    Want more support for building healthy relationships?

    Connect and discuss with a trusted professional at UNL. Campus resources that can assist you include the Center for Advocacy, Response and Education (CARE) and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS).

    Content adapted from resources by and Mental Health Foundation.

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