Many people experience their first serious relationships as young adults.

In college you are continuing the exploration, originally started in adolescence, of who you are but are now continuing this exploration with more independence. You have a large say in who your dating partners are, and what your relationships will be like. These dating relationships are important because they shape your experiences and, thus, your expectations of romantic relationships for the rest of your life. Dating can be great fun and a wonderful way to get to know potential romantic partners. The best way to get to establish healthy dating behaviors that you can use for the rest of your life is to start from the beginning and maintain those behaviors. The following tips may give you some ideas about how you can start to establish healthy dating behaviors.

Building healthy dating relationships

Many people in college may not be sure how to build healthy relationships. Maybe you are just starting to date people, or maybe you haven't had a good relationship modeled for you; no matter what your personal experience is, you could probably benefit from the following tips on building healthy relationships.

Keep expectations realistic.

No one can be everything we might want them to be. Healthy relationships mean accepting people as they are and not trying to change them.

Talk with each other.

It can't be said enough: communication is essential in healthy relationships!

Be flexible.

It's natural to feel uneasy about changes. Healthy relationships mean change and growth are allowed- for both people!

Pay attention to you too.

Healthy relationships are reciprocal! Make sure you know what you need and communicate that to your partner.

Be dependable.

If you make plans with someone, follow through. If you take on a responsibility, complete it. This builds trust in each other.

Fight fair.

Most relationships have some conflict. It only means you disagree about something, so you can use a conflict as a way to get to your partner better.

Show your interest.

Relationships thrive through sharing and knowing each other! Don't play games with someone you care about.

Keep your life balanced.

Other people help make our lives satisfying but they can't meet every need. Find what interests you and become involved.

Sometimes it takes time.

Just as with any new habit or behavior, it takes time to learn and feel comfortable. Dating is a great way to try new relationship behaviors and learn about yourself and other people.

Be you!

Don't try to relate to others by acting like you think they would want/expect you to.

Maintaining healthy relationships

Healthy relationships take continued attention to make sure they stay healthy. It's important to know when things are going well, so you can keep doing what you're doing. It's also very important to know when relationships are not going well, so you can address the issues holding the relationship back.

Signs your relationship is going well

  • You think of your partner when big or small things happen to you during the day.
  • You trust your partner and are not suspicious of them.
  • You often look forward to speaking with your partner.
  • Your partner is usually a source of comfort.
  • You make sacrifices for your partner because you want to, not because you feel obligated or pressured to do so.
  • The relationship seems well-balanced, with each partner giving and taking equal parts of emotional energy.
  • You've been able to establish your own life and identity in college and are excited to share this with your partner.
  • Both partners are equally committed to the relationship.

Signs that your relationship has some issues that should be addressed

  • Your thoughts are consumed by the other person.
  • One or both of you do not seem interested in the relationship.
  • Feeling closed in or trapped in the relationship (i.e., beginning to give up things you enjoy in order to keep the relationship together).
  • Difficulty connecting with one another because values or interests have changed (i.e., having fewer meaningful conversations).
  • The relationship is more parental than friendly.
  • One person makes the rules that govern the entire relationship.
  • More time is spent arguing then not.
  • One person is overly critical of the other.
  • One or both of you are thinking about ending the relationship.
If you would like some help in addressing some of these issues, the staff at the Counseling Center is also available to help you identify and work through concerns. The Counseling Center is located on the first floor of O'Boyle Hall and appointments can be scheduled by calling 202-319-5765. Another resource that may be useful is the Dating section of the For Your Marriage, a website initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops that focuses on romantic relationships for Catholics.