While all relationships are different, fostering healthy communication is an important step to creating a healthy one, according University Health Services mental health experts at a student discussion Thursday.
The University of Wisconsin Multicultural Student Center hosted a group of 30 to discuss a variety of topics — ranging from communication, boundaries and consent — and examine what a healthy relationship looks like.
The discussion emphasized the importance of communication in both platonic and intimate relationships. Attendees and the UHS mental health experts advocated every relationship should maintain a level of communication which promotes comfort and safety.
The group discussed the idea of supporting one another as part of healthy communication in a relationship. Part of this communication is being able to give and receive praise.
For example, instead of expressing feelings with statements beginning with “you,” the group said using “I” can aid in communicating effectively in times of anger or disappointment.
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The discussion also highlighted setting boundaries in relationships.
Both parties should agree upon a defined set of boundaries, LeAnna Rice, a licensed professional counselor, said. Hookups should be treated the same as any other relationship, she added.
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Attendees also discussed consent and how to incorporate it into daily life.
Normalizing the idea of consent starts with simple changes in day-to-day life, like considering simple actions such as hugs consent-worthy, Danielle Gautt, a licensed clinical social worker at UHS, said.
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“It is important to know what no means,” UW student Erica Oberlander said.
Being clear and asserting what you need with the other person in non-sexual circumstances and day-to-day actions
Even in non-sexual circumstances, it’s important to be clear and assertive with others, Gautt said. This allows for consent to become a more established concept.
To dispel myths and correct misbeliefs, UHS mental health experts said it is important to talk continue the discussion about the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships.