Love and romantic relationships are an important part of our lives. Study Melbourne Ambassador and family violence specialist Daria Li, explains what a healthy relationship looks like and what you can do if something doesn’t feel right.
Communication and boundaries
A healthy relationship allows people in it to feel connected but still be ‘their own person’. The key to that is communication and boundaries.
In a healthy relationship, both people are able to communicate openly, agree to disagree, compromise and treat each other with respect. They should also feel supported to pursue their interests and celebrate each other’s successes.
Some people may think that love comes with possessiveness and jealously. But in a healthy relationship, people should be allowed to have their own time and space. It is someone’s right to enjoy their friends and family’s company even when they are in a relationship.
If you feel you are unheard when you are expressing feelings or you are constantly criticising each other, you might need to reflect on your communication. But if you are afraid to speak out and fear what could happen if you just ‘be yourself’, you are experiencing violence in your relationship or ‘family violence’. Other signs of family violence include your partner constantly needing to know where you are, accusing you of cheating, or pressuring you to do something you don’t want to do.
Melbourne is a melting pot of culture. It gathers people from all backgrounds with a unique culture and beliefs. Whether choosing friends or falling in love, people are sometimes attracted to those whose traits are different from their own.
No matter the cultural or social differences in a relationship, consent should never be breached. Consent means voluntarily agreeing to a request. It allows both people in a relationship to express what they want to experience.
Consent should be freely given. It is reversible, informed, enthusiastic and specific. The relationship status does not imply consent. It is also not consent if one person is being manipulated, pressured, or threatened to say yes. For example, some cultures still practice ‘arranged marriage’. But if one party won’t give consent to the relationship, arranged marriage turns into a forced marriage, which is illegal.
What to do if you’re worried about your relationship
Family violence follows a certain pattern. If you suspect that you are experiencing family violence, the Power and Control Wheel can help you understand your situation better.
Where to seek help
If you are experiencing family violence, including sexual assault, there are several useful numbers for advice and support:
- 1800 RESPECT – 1800 737 732
National sexual assault, domestic and family violence information and support line, 24 hours. Also provides information for family and friends, and workers and professionals on supporting women and children experiencing violence.
- Safe Steps Family Violence Response Centre – 1800 015 188 (support line) or 03 9322 3555
24-hour family violence response line provides access to professional support and referral to local family violence services.
- Sexual Assault Crisis Line – 1800 806 292
After-hours, telephone crisis counselling service for victim/survivors of both past and recent sexual assault. The crisis line operates between 5pm weeknights through to 9am the next day and throughout weekends and public holidays.