Healthy Relationships: Know the Signs

University life has many opportunities and experience for students; one being the relationships we get involved in.

Qualities of a Healthy Relationship

Typically, healthy relationships share at least five qualities that can easily be remembered as SHARE. These qualities should be present in all your relationships, including friendships.

S – Safe

  • You should feel completely free to be yourself without worrying about being harmed or ridiculed in any way.

H – Honest

  • This one goes hand in hand with trust because it is tough to trust someone if they are not being honest. Have you ever caught your partner in a lie that you were never meant to find out?

A – Acceptance

  • Your partner should be accepting and supportive of the decisions you make and any imperfections you have. Maybe you laugh loudly or snore. A healthy relationship lets you be your own person without needing to change.

R – Respect

  • Respect means that each person respects the other’s comfort zones and boundaries and would never try to push past them. Does your partner understand why you are such an awesome person? Do they care about you for who you are, not who they would like you to be? Do they listen to you when you are not comfortable doing something?

E – Enjoyment

  • A good relationship is not just about how two people treat each other – it also has to be enjoyable (why bother otherwise). You feel energized and alive in your partner’s presence. You can play and laugh together and even enjoy their corny jokes.

SHARE – It just works!

Beyond the concepts of SHARE, there are a few more qualities a healthy relationship can benefit from.

  • Equality - letting the other person pick the movie you’re going to watch so each person feels they’re valued.
  • Separate identities - you should never have to change who you are and your hobbies in order to please another person.
  • Good communication - a lot of fights start from misunderstandings. Never keep a feeling bottled up because you’re afraid of what your partner will think!

Fighting Fair

Fighting does not mean the relationship is unhealthy, but it can be a sign if it is abusive or it is unresolved. Here are tips to help maintain a healthy relationship by improving the quality and outcome of your disagreements or arguments.

  • Be calm. Take time to settle down. Clarify what you are angry about and what you hope to get out of the discussion (e.g., have a professor explain why you received a lower mark than you expected). If possible, have the discussion when you and the other person have privacy and time to talk.

  • Accept responsibility for your part in the conflict (e.g., yelling back).

  • Avoid “losing it.” Do not say things that are hurtful or that you might feel in the moment, but not in the long run (e.g., “I hate you!” or “I can’t stand living with you!”).

  • Stick to the point and stay in the present. Do not raise past issues.

  • Respect feeling. Avoid the temptation to tell the other person that what they feel or think does not make sense or is not justified. We all have the right to feel the way we do.

  • Listen. As difficult as it is, often the most helpful thing you can do in a disagreement is work to really listen to what the other person has to say. Communicating that you understand (without necessarily agreeing) often diffuses anger and helps people work toward a shared resolution.

  • Agree to disagree. In many circumstances it is reasonable to express an opinion without needing the other person to agree or change their position.

  • Recognize that there might not have to be a winner or a loser. The outcome could be a compromise or it could involve both parties admitting some fault. If you get your way, do not gloat or rub it in. Respect the strength it took for the other person to concede.

  • Allow the discussion to end. When the discussion is finished, resist the temptation to add comments or have the last word. Know when to put it to rest.

Saying You Are Sorry

Sometimes the situation calls for an apology on your part. Do it. Say you are sorry and mean it. Here are some tips:

  • Acknowledge that you have done something wrong and say what you did. Do not make excuses. Accept responsibility.

  • Express your regret. Apologies have little meaning when they are offered without an expression of sincere remorse. Telling someone you have wronged (“I’m sorry you feel hurt”) removes blame from you and leaves the other person feeling even more offended. Say, “I’m really sorry for my hurtful actions. I shouldn’t have done that and I won’t do it again.”

  • Make amends. Once you have apologized ask, “What else can I do?” When an injured party feels listened to and valued, you have gone a long way toward repairing relationship damage.

Offering a sincere apology should help you feel better about yourself because you have been honest and committed to making a relationship work. You have also shown a willingness to accept your own imperfections and a desire to do better next time. Forgive yourself and move on. Remember, though, that no matter how real the apology, the person who has been wronged always retains the right to forgive or not.

Six Red Flags of an Unhealthy Relationship

Controlling Behavior Video
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If your partner, friend, prof, or family member behaves in any of the following ways, you may be in an unhealthy relationship.

J – Jealousy

  • Calls you repeatedly
  • Gets angry when you spend time with other people

A – Abuse (physical and sexual)

  • Grabs or pushes you
  • Throws or breaks objects
  • Forces you to have sex or do sexual things

I – Isolation

  • Makes you “pay” for spending time with others
  • Persuades you to give up activities you enjoy
  • Makes all the decisions in the relationship

C – Coercion

  • Ignores your wishes and needs
  • Manipulates or forces you to do something against your will

E – Emotional abuse (victim blaming)

  • Uses derogatory language to describe you
  • Constantly points out your faults
  • Makes you feel bad about yourself

S – Stalking

  • Harasses you to the point of fear
  • Repeatedly follows you, uninvited
  • Frequently sends you unwanted messages, either directly or through a friend

JAICES – Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

These are just examples of red flag behaviours and not a comprehensive list. Anything that makes you feel uncomfortable might be a red flag.

If you see a red flag in your own or your friend’s relationship, do something, say something!

Cycle of Abuse

A relationship cycle that is typical of many abusive relationships. This includes:

  • Honeymoon stage: the loving and romantic part of the relationship. The abuser will act sweet and kind, express a lot of love and make their partner feel special and loved.

  • Tension building stage: tension begins to build in the relationship. There are many arguments, emotional abuse, or physical abuse like grabbing or pushing.

  • Explosive stage: this is when the abuse is at its worst and may include extreme verbal, emotional, physical, or sexual violence.

  • Back to honeymoon stage: after exploding, the abuser may apologize, become very loving and kind again, and promise that it will not happen again.

The longer you stay with an abusive person, the harder it is to leave.


  • Destroys self esteem
  • Damages the ability to trust self and others
  • Impairs one’s ability to be assertive
  • Increases feelings of anxiety, fearfulness, and contributes to feelings of depression
  • Shatters one’s beliefs that the world is a good and safe place
  • Leads to social withdrawal, isolation and loneliness
  • Decreases one’s ability to take care of oneself
  • Impairs one’s ability to maintain satisfying relationships with others
  • Leaves one vulnerable to further abuse
  • Leaves one more vulnerable to becoming abusive

How to Help a Survivor of an Unhealthy or Abusive Relationship

  • Believe them
  • Emphasize that they are not to blame
  • Be there to listen to their feelings and respect their space when they want to be alone
  • Offer encouragement, support, and respect
  • Emphasize their strengths
  • Use the term “survivor,” a word that conveys strength, instead of “victim”

Take Care of Yourself and Your Own Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Self

  • Download the USAFE App
  • Exercise, eat healthy foods, get enough sleep, and avoid drugs and alcohol
  • Express your feelings with those you have a trusting relationship with
  • Reach out for help when you need it
  • Practice positive self talk
  • Meditate, read positive affirmations, and explore your spiritual self
  • Work to maintain a healthy balance in all aspects of your life
  • Be a good partner (follow SHARE yourself)

Living with Roomates

Shared Spaces

Living in close quarters with a stranger or even a friend will always have its difficulties. Often there are stressors including chores, school/work schedules, significant others, visitors, and general hygiene.

Making House Rules

  • Your roommate should work with you to set and revise rules

  • Write them down so that both of you do not forget and so that you can refer to it as a rule is being violated

  • Get an impartial person to look over your house rules and act as an impartial judge for your disputes in living in residence

Share the Space

  • Keep your space clean and organized

  • Do not leave your belongings in communal areas (e.g., living room or kitchen)

  • Ask permission before entering your roommate’s space

  • Wear headphones when listening to music, watching videos, or listening to lectures

  • Take out the trash/recycling when it gets full. Do not wait for your roommate to do it

Dividing Up Chores

  • Set up a schedule that accommodates both of your lifestyles

  • Avoid scheduling chores on lab days, exam days, and workdays - any other day is fair game

  • Don't use university as an excuse to slack off on your share of the chores, you are an adult preparing for the real world and your roommate may see this as a reason to not do their share in return

  • If you notice your roommate is having a busy week offer to do their share of the work temporarily but request them to return the favor later on


  • Always give your roommate enough notice before a visitor arrives. It gives your roommate time to clean their space and dress appropriately

  • Tell your roommate who the visitor is, how long the visitor will stay, and what they might expect

  • Check out if your residence or lease has policies about overnight visitors

Food and Cooking

  • If cooking meals in the household, decide who will cook what and when and if these meals will be communal or individual. Find out if a communal cooking schedule would be viable

  • Work together to make a grocery list, share staple items like milk, bread, and eggs unless dietary restrictions require you to have separate food

Emotional and Physical Boundaries

  • There are no set rules for these boundaries as they can vary from person to person

  • Consider cultural differences between you and your roommate

  • Are you comfortable discussing things that are bothering you with your roommate (e.g., work or school problems)?

  • Would you hug your roommate to console them after a bad day?

  • Does your roommate feel comfortable talking about your personal life with them?

  • Do you feel comfortable letting your roommate see you in your pyjamas or underwear?

Advice from Students on Living with Roommates

  • Wear clothes or a robe in all common living spaces

  • Always wash your dishes before going to bed

  • Living with a roommate never feels like it is 50/50

  • Clean your hair out of the sink or shower. Nothing is worse than hairballs

  • Understand that cleaning should be done at least once a month, not once a term

  • Do not be distracting when your roommate is trying to study

Need to Talk?

Student Wellness Centre: 306-966-5768

Protective Services: 306-966-5555

USSU Women’s Centre: 306-966-6980

Sexual Assault Center 24hr crisis line: 306-244-2224

Saskatoon City Police: 306-975-8300

Hospital Emergency Rooms:

  • RUH: 306-655-1362
  • City Hospital: 306-655-8230
  • St. Pauls: 306-655-5113

Emergency: 911


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