By Saoirse Higgins
Ideas on what constitutes a healthy relationship have evolved greatly over the past few centuries. During the middle ages in the Western world, arranged, loveless and abusive marriages were considered the norm. However, in the 21st century we have moved far from this concept.
Today, according to the Hall Health Centre, a healthy relationship is made up of several factors. Mutual respect, trust, equality and support all play a key role in a healthy relationship. Yet, even though these components may seem obvious to most of us, many of us fall into unhealthy relationships all the time.
All of us have that friend who breaks up with their boyfriend or girlfriend 3 times a month, they fight with them on every drunken night out and then turn to you for advice on what they should do, to only turn around the next day and say how in love they are. These ups and downs may just be young people navigating through the difficulties and emotions of relationships, but these signs can often turn much more sinister.
Women’s Aid revealed that 1 in 5 women in Ireland have been abused by a current or former partner. This statistic does not inspire confidence that our ideas of healthy relationships have truly evolved. Despite this, there is still hope. When speaking with The Journal, Sean Cooke, CEO of Men Development Network Service ‘Mend’ said that more men are seeking help to stop and prevent their abusive behaviours – especially younger men. According to Cooke, men between the ages of 25 to 35 have been the most common users of the service. He believes that “there’s a ‘cultural swing’ around domestic abuse and younger generations are willing to confront it”.
There is a lot of truth to this statement. With the rise of the internet there’s a huge surge in the amount of information our generation receives compared to the previous generations. We have an onslaught of news every day and our culture is changing because of it. Although unhealthy ideas can spread, healthy ideas can spread just as easily. The internet means that people everywhere have access to these ideas and the idea of a healthy relationship is more accessible to everyone. Even for this article, I was able to simply search ‘what is a healthy relationship’ and thousands of results popped up.
The change in our education system may be another factor as to why the younger generation have better ideas on what makes a healthy relationship. As Ireland moves away from education run by the Church, there is more room in secondary and primary schools to have discussions about gender, sexuality and relationships. Sean Cooke says the Network are hoping to create a programme in the next year that runs in primary schools. He believes educating boys and girls as early as six years old is crucial.
Our awareness of what constitutes a healthy relationship has grown due to the internet and better education. This does not mean that younger people have cracked the code to healthy relationships. The statistic from Women’s Aid shows there is still a lot of work to be done in spreading awareness. Men and women both still have a long way to go in recognising abusive behaviour in others and in themselves. Yet, with networks like ‘Mend’ developing programmes for kids as young as six, there’s a lot of hope for our younger generations.