Reporter: Katrina Owens
You feel like you’re walking on thin glass. Your anxiety skyrockets and your stomach starts to develop this God-awful pit in it. Thoughts start developing in your head like, “Just keep your mouth shut” and “It’s my fault I’m the one who always starts it.”
Then, just when you feel an ounce of relaxation, it begins. The daily screaming match that was caused by something you did. You didn’t say hello properly, you wore the wrong outfit, you didn’t cook the right dinner, and you were 10 minutes later than expected. After all, you’re the reason you two always fight, right?
Every couple is bound to get into a disagreement. But, once these “disagreements” become regular and you start to feel unsafe, it’s time to reassess your relationship. According to the Canadian Women’s Foundation, every year there are more than 40,000 arrests that result from domestic violence.
Collectively that’s approximately 12 per cent of all violent crimes in Canada. Even more off-putting, only a mere 22 per cent of all domestic violence incidents are reported.
What exactly is a healthy relationship anyway? It varies for every couple, depending on what the people involved consider normal.
Generally, being isolated from loved ones, feeling controlled and being frightened of your partner is not healthy. It goes without saying, of course, that physical aggression is also a key indicator of an unhealthy relationship.
Barb Bryan, director of Outreach Services at Durham College and UOIT, said there are five key elements for any healthy relationship: communication, trust, equality, independence, respect and fun. Trust and respect play a major role in building a positive and healthy foundation for relationships.
Respecting each other’s privacy and not crossing the line by snooping through Facebook or cellphones shouldn’t have to be an issue.
This shouldn’t be an issue because it displays distrust and a lack of respect for each other’s privacy.
Many people probably wonder why couples stay in unhealthy relationships. “There’s plenty of reasons,” said Bryan. It’s different for every individual. They could be avoiding the stigma attached with unhealthy relationships or simply can’t accept that their relationship is unhealthy.
“They might think they have fixed it or that the things one partner does isn’t unhealthy, just annoying or selfish. When in reality it is annoying and selfish but also possibly contributes to an unhealthy dynamic,” she said.
Unfortunately, for many young adults they or their partners confuse being protective with being controlling.
“It has to deal with insecurities,” said Bryan. Someone being controlling usually stems from insecurities that lead back to lack of trust.
Examples of controlling behaviour include not allowing your partner to go out, choosing what attire they wear and even telling them who they can associate with.
On the shared campus of Durham College and UOIT, there are an abundance of services available to anyone who has or is in an unhealthy relationship. “The help we offer can look different for different clients depending on their needs,” said Bryan.
Outreach services are client directed so students decide on which services they will be utilizing. Safety plans and talking about steps to move forward are examples of what is offered.
Anything discussed with a counsellor is completely confidential. For those students afraid of getting police involved, they will not be contacted unless the counsellor feels you are in imminent harm.
Outreach services advise students to report any abuse but will not force students to do so. “Ultimately we would like everyone to be in healthy relationships but we recognize that getting there takes time and we will support students through that time,” said Bryan.
Relationships are supposed to be about support, love, trust and empowering one another.
If any of these are lost somewhere along the way, the relationship is no longer based on healthy fundamentals.
Once this happens it should indicate it’s time to ask for help. Of course, this is easier said than done but there are people and services available.
Outreach services are located in the Health and Wellness Centre on the second floor. The women’s centre is located in room 120, in the Student Services Building in the North Campus.