By Olivia Lawnick, Student at Newberry College

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

College offers an atmosphere for growth both academically and emotionally.

Regardless of the number of boy toys or boyfriends you had before college, it is always important to ensure the relationship is healthy and safe for both involved. Healthy relationships are happier and definitely more enjoyable. So, what is a healthy relationship?

First of all, a truly healthy relationship is transcendent of settings. This means that you two treat each other the same in private as in public. You should not have to worry about being together behind closed doors. A great relationship is also built around respect and communication. Each partner is treated fairly and has equal value.

Also, respect for each other's opinions and decisions go beyond what you agree on. True respect is understanding and supporting your partner in their choices even if you disagree with them. However, these choices should not make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe. Having mutual respect also allows you to communicate honestly and openly with your partner if you do feel uncomfortable.

Besides respect, communication is vital to a secure and healthy relationship. In order to maximize the benefits of communicating with your partner, keep these tips in mind. If you need to discuss something serious, wait for the appropriate setting to have this serious discussion. For example, try to avoid interrupting your partner during an important assignment or work. They will be more attentive and receptive if you pick a relaxed time to talk versus showing up at their office. If the issue is pressing and important though, convey the urgency to talk and request time out in their day. Again, in order for them to listen well, make sure they are not distracted.

Talking in person is also more effective and engaging than texting or email. Please don't try and discuss a serious issue over Facebook wall posts. Also, when addressing your partner, remember to phrase your concerns nicely. Do not attack them with accusations. They will immediately become defensive, and resolving your conflict will become even harder.

If you are truly angry about something, try to calm down before you speak. When you recognize that you are becoming upset, stop. Take yourself out of the moment and just breathe. Is the action making you upset or hurting you? Is your partner intentionally doing this or is it an accident? Use this time to evaluate the cause and intent behind what is making you upset. From there, you can take a better approach at resolving the issue. When you have calmed down, try talking to your partner. Remember, if you want to talk, you must also be willing to listen to their concerns and feelings. A healthy relationship is mutual.

Healthy relationships are a lot easier to maintain when both partners agree to sharing that responsibility. Together, they focus on building each other up and encouragement.

However, unhealthy relationships are harder to recognize by those in them. They are even harder to admit to. These unhealthy relationships have a higher risk of becoming abusive. Some warning signs of a relationship going sour can be spotted, but only if you are aware and honest. A relationship will not last with a partner who is extremely jealous and possessive or has an explosive temper and mood swings. If you find that they are constantly putting you down or telling you what to do, realize that you are better off without them.

Abusive relationships are about power and control. An abusive partner will try to break you down and isolate you from friends, family and other sources of support. They will also try to insult you or humiliate you, which are definitely not signs of respect. Abusive relationships are not strictly defined by being physical. Many unhealthy relationships begin with emotional and verbal abuse that evolve into physical and sexual abuse.

Before an unhappy relationship escalates, be confident to communicate your dissatisfaction. In the end, remember that no matter how many times you talk with your partner, you cannot change them. Instead, focus on the behaviors or actions that YOU can do to make yourself happy as well as safe.

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