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Thursday, May 30, 2024
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‘Love, Actually’ — but like, actually

What to expect from a healthy relationship

<p>Credit: <a href="" title="User:PetarM">Petar Milošević</a>, Wikimedia Commons.</p>

Credit: Petar Milošević, Wikimedia Commons.

We’ve all grown up with love songs on the radio, rom-coms on TV and romance novels on library shelves — and yet, how many of us know what love is, actually?

With the overly simplistic happily-ever-after/heartbreak dichotomy as our guide, we’re thrown into the deep end and expected to figure it out as we go.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve missed some dropped hints, maybe dropped some of your own, and fallen so hard you’ll never experience relationships the same way again. You’ve also learned the things that are important to a successful, healthy relationship and the things that are important to you.

Here are a few important things I’ve discovered so far:


Everyone knows communication is important and really, really hard to do well. If it weren’t, the romance genre’s infamous “miscommunication trope” wouldn’t exist.

Part of the reason it’s so difficult is that everyone communicates differently; what works for one person won’t work for another.

But even if you have the same communication style, it’s still tricky. You have to express your needs honestly without feeling guilty. You have to be clear and direct without being harsh or hurting anyone’s feelings. You can never assume what your partner’s feeling or thinking in the moment.

The best thing you can do is be open to hearing how your actions impact your partner. Ask for what you want and for what you need. Be truthful and kind in expressing your capacity to meet your partner’s needs. Take responsibility and apologize if you’ve messed up.

Communication is a balancing act, but if done well, it clears up misunderstandings and can improve the foundation your relationship rests on.


Every relationship — romantic or not — needs two things: trust and respect.

A supportive partner will have your back no matter what, trust your decisions and respect your choices. If your partner doesn’t respect your choices, they can’t support you in making them.

But support needs boundaries. Any healthy relationship is built on them, and those boundaries should be mutually affirmed and maintained.

You should feel safe around your partner, like you can tell them anything and you’ll still be accepted wholly. You should feel truly loved and cared for.


You would think this is self-explanatory, but I’ve learned there are multiple kinds of attraction, all equally important. You can’t confuse any one of them alone for love.

We all know what physical attraction is. You see your partner across the room and you can’t stop staring because who knew someone could look that good. You think how cute they look with their hair all fluffy, how nice they look when they dress up, how lucky you are to have the person whose smile can give you butterflies.

But you also need to be attracted to their intellect and to their heart. Maybe your partner can tell a joke that makes you laugh for hours. Maybe they’re passionate about their classes or sports, and you could listen to them talk about it until their voice goes hoarse. Maybe they’re patient and kind, and they treat everyone just as well as they treat you.

When you’re attracted to all those aspects of a person, then there might be an opportunity for something more.

The Obvious

OK, so here’s the part where I say: please don’t fall for a murderer. Don’t be tricked by those dark romance novels with their saucy serial killer boyfriends. A huge portion of romance media romanticizes red flags and the “I can fix him” mentality. That’s bad.

Do your best to pick someone with as few red flags as possible — preferably none. Pick the person who doesn’t insult you because he doesn’t insult people in general, not the person who doesn’t insult you because you’re “special.” Pick the person who cares about your consent, your feelings and your thoughts. Pick the person who will treat you well unconditionally.

Lastly, don’t fall for less than you deserve.

You got this!

Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor and can be reached at 



Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor at The Spectrum. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy/romance novels, watching lighthearted movies and spending time with her friends and family. Xiola is a linguistics major, minoring in Spanish. 



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