Hot Topics!
College Students & Relationships

Maintaining Healthy Relationships

Relationships aren’t always easy to maintain…college opens the door for all kinds of new relationship challenges such as roommate issues, casual dating, serious dating, friendships, and sex. You may also be confronted by interpersonal issues when you play on an intramural team, become involved in a student organization, or decide to join Greek life. These various relationships can provide a great deal of comfort and support during your college years, but they can also be a source of confusion and stress at times. How do you keep the lines of communication open so that you can maintain strong, honest, and respectful relationships? Review the qualities of healthy relationships below:

Communication--both people in the relationship need to feel free to express positive and negative feelings, complaints, and affection

Active Listening Skills Handout
  • check out misunderstandings
  • do not make assumptions about the other person's feelings or motives
  • do not assume that the other person knows how YOU feel, talk directly with the other person about your needs
Expectations--both people need to be on the same page about what they want from the relationship

Basic Communication Skills Handout
  • agree on how much time together and how you will spend that time
  • be aware of the other person's needs and interests
Conflict--in all relationships, there are times when communication breaks down; healthy relationships are able to clear up conflicts and to emerge stronger as a result

Managing Conflict, Dealing with Confrontation, & Diffusing Anger Handout
  • negotiate a time to talk about difficult topics
  • use "I" statements to express your own feelings; avoid "you" statements
  • don't overgeneralize; avoid using the terms "always" and "never"
  • use respectful language and avoid name-calling
  • listen without interruption
  • focus on one problem at a time
  • brainstorm a range of possible solutions
  • be willing to compromise
  • show appreciation for the other person's contributions
  • admit when you are wrong
Boundaries--both people need to be clear about what is okay/not okay in the relationship

Limit-Setting Skills Handout


  • clearly state any limits which you have for the relationship
  • say no when you are asked to do something that makes you uncomfortable
  • don't take responsibility for the other person's destructive behavior (e.g., alcohol abuse, eating disorder, suicidal gestures)
  • set limits with the other person's behavior as needed using the steps described below

Five steps to limit setting:

  1. Choose to set limits. You will tolerate a difficult relationship situation just as long as you choose to tolerate it. To change the situation, you need to be the one to choose to set boundaries in place.
  2. Identify the source of your feelings. It often takes some real soul-searching on your part to figure out the source of your anger or resentment.
  3. Decide when, where, and how to set the limits. Think about the entire situation. Consider your time, emotions, and means. Remember that setting limits is about getting your needs met.
  4. Express the limits clearly. For example, you say to your friend, "I will loan you my car once per week for two hours."
  5. Stick to your limits. You are not responsible for making the other person obey the limits. You are only responsible for following the limits yourself and for reinforcing them.
  6. Print the handout above for more information on limit-setting.

Do you think that you might be in a relationship that is NOT healthy for you? 
Take a look at the handout "Are You in an Unhealthy Relationship?", review signs of verbal and emotional abuse in the guidelines for "Recognizing an Abusive Relationship", or visit web resources on Physical/Emotional Abuse.

Get More Information

Be Creative in Making Friends-- Use this guide for ideas about how to meet people during your first year of college and beyond.

The Friends and Friendships Web--This site is designed to assist with making and maintaining friendships; it covers topics such as building a friendship from casual friends and setting limits in friendships.

Healthy Romantic Relationships in College--This online brochure is specific to romantic relationships and contains information on building a healthy relationship, resolving conflict, and coping with outside pressures on the relationship.

Strategies for Avoiding and Resolving Roommate Conflicts--These great tips will help you to developing a mutual understanding, negotiating a compromise, and managing conflict.

Sexual Assault - Focus on Education (S.A.F.E.)--This section of our web site offers information, education, referrals, and resources for all types of sexual violence on the SUNY Geneseo campus.

Return to Hot Topics!