Our lives are made up of relationships. Whether it be with friends, family members, peers, acquaintances, teammates, partners, co-workers, professors, supervisors, roommates – the list goes on and on – we navigate the joys, complexities, and challenges of relationships every day and in various forms.
The importance of connection is ultimately rooted in our biology as humans. Human beings are evolutionally built to seek out and cultivate meaningful connections with each other. Throughout our history, our ability to foster relationships with other human beings was often a matter of survival. This is true even today, as research shows that our experiences in relationships can have significant impacts on our overall mental and emotional well-being, as well as our physical health and life expectancy.
Even for the shiest and introverted among us, while we may often need time alone or prefer groups of a few people to large crowds, we are social creatures. We tend to suffer when we have experiences of isolation or chronic disconnection. The centrality of relationships to our overall health and well-being means that we’ll spend most of our lives growing relationally and learning how to better cultivate relationships that are healthy and affirming. This doesn’t mean these relationships ever become conflict-free. In fact, relationships tend to deepen and become more meaningful when we learn to address conflict openly and navigate it in respectful and caring ways.
The sections below will help you learn more about important aspects of relationships in our lives, and how to cultivate meaningful connections with the people around us. This website is developed in conjunction with the Counseling Center’s 2023-2024 Public Health Campaign focused on Healthy and Affirming Relationships. Feel free to explore other areas of our website devoted specifically to romantic relationships or family relationships/conflict. Please also keep an eye out around campus for our campaign signage as well as our Instagram (@loyolamd_counselingcenter) for content on this topic! The Counseling Center would like to thank the students in the Spring 2023 Digital Media Capstone course for their help with developing various aspects of this campaign!
An important aspect of cultivating healthy and affirming relationships is learning how to reflect on, identify, articulate, negotiate, and navigate boundaries. Boundaries are often misunderstood as “rules” that any one person unilaterally decides upon and attempts to enact in a relationship. In fact, boundaries are about mutual respect and care, and they often require collaboration and communication. Check out the video below featuring members of the Counseling Center staff, as well as campus partners from the Women’s Center, Title IX, ALANA Services, Student Engagement, the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ), and Residence Life and Housing to learn more!
Relationships, Identity, and Intersectionality
We exist in relationships with our identities and the unique intersections of those identities. This means that our identities shape and impact the way we enter and navigate the complexities of relationships. Taking time to continuously reflect on who we are and our identity-related experiences, including the pain of oppression and trauma, as well as implicit biases or unexamined assumptions, is a crucial part of what it means to build healthier and more affirming relationships. A sense of trust and safety is critical to any healthy and affirming relationship. But these are never guaranteed, and they require ongoing self-reflection, attempts at repair when harm has been caused, and a commitment to growth. Learn more in the video below on relationships, identity, intersectionality, and allyship, featuring many of our campus partners from CCSJ, Residence Life and Housing, ALANA Services, and Student Engagement.
Living With Others
For most students, living on a college campus is the first time living full-time with others who are not immediate family members. As a result, we are often not well-practiced when it comes to navigating life with roommates. The sections above (setting healthy boundaries, awareness around our own and others’ identities) are both important elements of learning how to build healthy and affirming relationships with roommates. Feel free to learn more about navigating conflict in roommate relationships here. In addition, learn more by watching the video below featuring members of the Counseling Center staff, as well as campus partners from the Women’s Center, Title IX, ALANA Services, Student Engagement, the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ), and Residence Life and Housing.
Campus Resources and Other Resources
This website is not intended to be comprehensive or all-encompassing when it comes to all that goes into building and maintaining healthy and affirming relationships. Instead, it is meant to be a starting point to help you learn more about yourself, your current and past experiences in relationships, and ways in which you can continue to grow. You can learn more about on-campus resources to support you in this journey by watching the video below, featuring members of the Counseling Center staff, as well as campus partners from the Athletic Department, the Women’s Center, Title IX, ALANA Services, Student Engagement, the Center for Community Service and Justice (CCSJ), and Residence Life and Housing. We’ve also included several off-campus resources, locally and nationally, for additional exploration and learning.
Campus Resources are available when it comes to accessing support around various types of relationships during college.
- Residence Life and Housing aims to foster inclusion and community within campus housing. Residence Life Staff is trained to respond to challenges that may arise as part of community living. However, if you feel unsafe in your living environment, contact campus safety at (410) 617 5911.
- Campus Ministry offers resources to students of many different faith backgrounds, regardless of where you are in your journey or relationship with faith and spirituality.
- Spectrum is an all-inclusive group on campus for LGBTQ+ students and allies.
- The LGBTQ+ Experience is an organization which uses its platform to amplify the voices of LGBTQ+ students on campus through advocacy, visibility, and support.
- The Counseling Center provides short-term individual therapy and group support that can help students navigate relationships by exploring personal boundaries, increasing self-awareness and identity development, learning healthy communication, and more! Groups can be particularly helpful in practicing healthy relationship skills. Check out the many small group offerings in the Counseling Center.
- The Women's Center empowers students to learn about issues related to gender and relationships and provides support to students who have experienced dating and domestic violence, stalking, and/or sexual violence.
- Title IX provides education, training, and services to encourage healthy and respectful relationships.
- Love Is Respect is a national resource that empowers young people to engage in healthy intimate partner relationships.
- One Love is a national non-profit providing young people with tools and resources to know the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.
- Turnaround is a local resource that provides counseling and support for those affected by sexual violence and intimate partner violence.
- Nedra Tawwab is an expert on healthy relationships and boundaries.
- Dr. Marisa Franco is an expert in human connection and writes extensively about forming and maintaining friendship in adulthood.
- Kristin Neff shares resources about self-compassion to help you with the most important relationship of all – your relationship with yourself.
- Polysecure: Attachment, Trauma, and Consensual Non-monogamy by Jessica Fern is a book that explores attachment theory as it relates to polyamory and non-monogamy.
- The Trevor Project shares resources about healthy relationships in the LGBTQ+ community.
- It's Time To Talk shares and discusses healthy relationships when living with a disability.