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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Healthy Communities & Relationships

< new feature from Healthy Communities and Relationships. HCR ( is Carleton’s new initiative to promote positive relationships on campus.

As someone who cares about healthy relationships, I’m often disturbed by the portrayal of “healthy” in movies and television. Many of the moments we’re supposed to swoon over involve one partner completely ignoring the other’s wishes in the name of love.

“Say Anything”’s Lloyd Dobler standing in front of Diane Court’s house with a boom box after she told him they couldn’t date any more. “The Notebook”’s Noah threatening to jump from a ferris wheel unless Allie will go on a date with him (after she has repeatedly rejected him). “10 Things I Hate About You”’s Patrick serenading Kat with “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You” after she’s turned him down. The message in all of these scenes? Ignore what the person you care about says they want – they really want the same thing as you! If you keep persevering, you can break down their fake resistance!

None of this is at all in line with what actual healthy relationships look like. When asked, almost everyone at the recent Healthy Communities and Relationship dinner emphasized communication as a cornerstone of healthy relationships. What’s the good of communication if it’s ignored?

All of this is why I was so overjoyed to finally – finally! – see a portrayal of really healthy communication in a popular TV show. I recently started watching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (I know, ten years too late) and have been really impressed by its handling of relationships. In the particular episode I’m thinking of (3×9), the character of Willow has done something to upset her boyfriend, Oz, and he’s asked for a time-out on their relationship. In an attempt to fix their issues, Willow approaches Oz and asks to have a conversation about her mistake.

He responds, “Look, I’m sorry this is hard for you. But I told you what I need, so I can’t help feeling like the reason you want to talk is so you can feel better about yourself.”

I was so floored by this response – in my view of healthy relationships, this is perfect! He told her what he needs. She asked him for the opposite, and he (very gently) reminds her that by asking to talk, she’s not actually listening to him or trying to help him. Willow’s insistence that they remain in contact isn’t romantic; it’s misguided (and possibly selfish).

That interaction, to me, is what a healthy relationship looks like. Know your own needs. Listen to your partner. Trust them to know what’s best for them. Even when it might seem like what they’re asking for is going against your view of healthy relationships (after all, taking a break means you’re not communicating), respect your partner enough to let them decide what’s best for them. Ask what’s best for them.

The next time there’s conflict in a relationship of mine, I know that I’ll let Buffy be my guide – well, unless I happen to be in a relationship with a vampire.

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