By Mira Postelnek
Whether you are currently dating, single or in a relationship, everyone can benefit from understanding what it means to have a healthy relationship. On Thursday night, March 3, 2022, the Students Against Sexual Assault Club (SASA) held an event at which Lisa Twerski, LCSW spoke to Yeshiva University students about how to have a healthy and stable relationship. Twerski explained that first and foremost, “the place to start is knowing who you are and what you need in a relationship.” Throughout the presentation she shared the importance of knowing yourself and how a deeper understanding of your personal conflict-resolution style can facilitate a more stable relationship.
The presentation began with describing the main underrated components of happy/successful relationships as opposed to unhappy/unsuccessful relationships. Twerski explained how research showed that the core issues that are often overlooked include conflict styles and how couples relate to feelings. When there is a conflict, unhappy couples are unable to negotiate and move forward; instead of utilizing predictive communication, such couples use contempt, criticism, stonewalling and resentment. The greater the negativity quotient present in their relationship, the greater the gridlock. Happy couples know how to speak with each other, use gentle startup (address issues calmly and respectfully), take responsibility, and appreciate each other. These skills allow couples to resolve conflict after a fight in a meaningful and sustainable way.
Although it is certainly possible, learning to adapt your conflict style is extremely difficult and can be a speed bump to any stable relationship. Twerski continued to explain how emotional compatibility is key in the context of dating. Twerski explained that oftentimes, emotional compatibility is overlooked since “emotional compatibility is less tangible and more difficult to conceptualize.” However, Twerski continued to say that emotional compatibility is a vital criteria in any stable relationship. To begin assessing emotional compatibility, you must first know YOU. Twerski gave a list of questions one can ask to better understand themselves, such as: am I more high strung or laid back? Happy go lucky or thoughtful and introspective? Expressive or more reserved? What makes me upset or angry and how do I handle anger or distress? Who do you go to for advice? What kind of people make you happy or calm? How do you handle conflict?
These are only a few suggestions from a whole list of questions one should be asking themselves. These are questions to ask and answer for yourself and then receive feedback from someone you trust. With these tools you can begin to build a complete picture answering: “What do I like and what do I need?”
Next, Twerski asked the audience to imagine our wedding dress or perfect wedding suit. She explained how when thinking about buying the dress or suit you don’t take one glance, decide it’s “the one,” and wait until the wedding day to try it on. To truly understand if it will fit the way you like and feel the way you expect, you need to try this dress/suit on. Relationships are the same way. You can’t expect to understand how you feel about your relationship if you don’t put it on. In a relationship you need to ask those hard questions and engage in deep conversations. One engaging in healthy relationship tactics knows how to address hard questions or concerns and recognize that avoiding such conversations due to fear of hurting the relationship is the true danger. SASA co-President Cayla Muschel shared with the YU Observer, “Twerski gave a meaningful and educational presentation on healthy relationships. I especially appreciated her multidimensional approach–she spoke about issues of practical compatibility, rather than binary good versus bad.” Twerski explained a healthy approach in how to confront concerns without putting the other person on the spot and without emphasizing your partner’s faults creates an equally-balanced relationship.
The last point Twerski brought in was a key component of healthy communication; listening to what the other person says and verbalizing what you need. She expressed, “There isn’t a responsibility for them to know, it’s a responsibility for them to listen when you communicate.” Once you have expressed your thoughts, needs, and feelings, the responsibility lies on your partner to continue these lines of communication.
Those in the audience of the event expressed that they felt Twerski was a skilled and engaging speaker. One SCW Junior commented, “Not only was Mrs.Twerski informative, but she was also a captivating speaker. Her delivery was great and her content was even better.” Many students felt her explanation of not only what a healthy relationship is, but how to properly form one was a necessary lesson. Twerski’s explanation on the foundational steps that build a healthy and stable relationship was a necessary and edifying presentation that many students benefited from.