The Center for Equity and Inclusion teamed up with Student Counseling Center Psychologists, Dr. Crystal Gonsalves, Dr. Paolo Larano and Dr. C.J Swanlund, to give a presentation about healthy romantic relationships on Feb. 6. The Student Counseling Center’s mission is to help students build coping skills to help manage their health and well-being, offering short-term and problem focused sessions for UW Tacoma students
While the event was originally planned to be a presentation, it quickly turned into an open-ended discussion about what a healthy or unhealthy relationship might look like.
The psychologists started the conversation by asking the attendees to describe what they thought of as a “healthy relationship,” guiding the conversation to help find the different ideals of what a healthy romantic relationship entails. The topics discussed included respecting one another, having your values and needs met, and how communication is a vital part to having a healthy relationship — not only in the romantic sense, but with anyone that we have a relationship with, such as friends, family members and the most important relationship of all, ourselves.
“It is a learning process while you’re getting to know someone,” Swanlund stated during the presentation.
The PowerPoint slide titles pointed out the general milestones that people in relationships go through. The beginning phase, meaning you’ve known someone for awhile, includes conversations about conflicts — the key to maintaining a healthy relationship. This also includes having gratitude, openness and humility with your partner and others. The discussion also noted the importance of understanding how an individual communicates with their partner while in a relationship.
“Be clear of expectations,” was a major key point of the presentation. Problems may arise because of past relationships and situations like this are looked at as a red flag. This can lead to unrealistic expectations. To successfully steer away from that, it is important to respect changes and accept differences. The psychologists suggested that it’s vital to express the wants and needs of the relationship, but also respect the partner’s rights. They also suggested to be prepared to fight fair in order to maintain the relationship. This includes accepting different cultures, traditions and family values within the partnership. Having a conversation about family expectations helps to create a deeper understanding of a relationship.
In spite of the title of the event, the discussion also focused on self-love and the different relationship dynamics in our lives. The psychologists suggested that a great way to maintaining a healthy and satisfying relationship is by having realistic expectations — making sure to check in with your partner, friends or family members often to see if they are able to add value to your life and if they’re able to meet your needs and vice versa.
Dr. Swanlund shared an analogy to best describe how to make a relationship last.
“It can be helpful to think about our relationships like cars,” Swanlund said. “In order for cars to function properly, they need ongoing attention like fuel, oil changes and regular maintenance. If we don’t give our cars the attention they need, like not filling up the gas tank or ignoring the “check engine” light for too long, then we may end up with serious consequences, like breakdowns, damage, and big expenses! Checking in with our partners every once in a while about needs, wants, things to improve AND things that are going well may prevent some issues down the road.”