Leaving Societal Norms Behind

Healthy Relationship Vocabulary

Healthy Relationship Vocabulary

There are many words I like – some for silly reasons, like if they sound interesting; but most of them I like because they mean something to me. They hold some significant importance. Below I am sharing with you some words that I find important. All of these words represent an vital part of any relationship, but especially for those in polyamorous dynamics. Not all these words will apply to every situation, but if you cover every situation in your relationship(s) then all of these words will be applied. Many people overlook some very simple and important techniques for loving themselves and others. I’ve made this list to remind you, or inform you (perhaps for the first time), of the things that are at the base level of making any sort of relationship work…as well as guaranteeing you a deeper sense of happiness and fulfillment in life.


Vocab List:

  • Altruistic – unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others; of or relating to behavior by an animal that may be to its disadvantage but that benefits others, often its close relatives.


Being altruistic is important in any relationship, but especially in relationships where there are more complicated dynamics (such as polyamory). It’s important to not always just think about yourself. Though it’s important to make sure your own needs are met, beyond that you shouldn’t focus solely on yourself and your own wants. Being in a relationship means that you’re working together with someone else. You should both be invested in the other’s affairs. Whether helping out puts you at a disadvantage sometimes, or it’s just something you don’t want to do, it can really benefit your relationship to look at things from an unselfish point of view. It can also just help stop the act of score keeping in a relationship. Things aren’t always about you and what you’re getting. Don’t think about what you’re losing in order to do something good for someone else. Just think about how great it’ll be for the other person.


  • Compassion – sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.


If you care about someone, then you should be able to be compassionate. Even if you don’t care about that particular person, you should still be able to use compassion when dealing with tricky situations. However, this is particularly important in romantic relationships. Things can get heated, and again that selfish streak comes out. What helps you look beyond yourself? Compassion. The feeling that other people’s feelings matter too. If they’re aching, you care enough to notice and do something about it. You don’t just blow them off because it’s inconvenient, or even because they aren’t very compassionate towards you very often. Holding back compassion for someone isn’t going to make them more compassionate towards you.


  • Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.


This is a lot like compassion, but it takes it one step farther. You don’t just see someone’s pain and care about the fact that they have that pain. You try hard to truly, deep down in your core, understand it. And you feel it right along with them. I’m not saying if someone is bawling their eyes out you have to start crying too. I’m not saying that if someone gets punched or cut or falls that then you must also take your turn at going through that physical suffering just so you can relate. But it’s important to be able to reach down inside yourself and find something that made you feel the way they are feeling, so you can truly feel/remember, and then you’ll be better able to relate to their pain, and ultimately help them get through it.


  • Humility – the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others; lack of pride.


By this I’m not insinuating that you should think you are worthless. I’m not saying you have to see yourself negatively (that’s not ever healthy). And, yes, everyone is special in their own way. All I’m saying by adding this word into this list is that you need to think of others on an equal plain as yourself. You aren’t more important than your partner (or anybody else). If something bad happens that delays you, it’s okay. You aren’t the only person trying to get somewhere today. You aren’t the only person who has needs, or the only person who matters. Everyone matters. When it comes to your romantic relationships, this means that you need to see your partner(s) as equals. No, they don’t have to be seen as the same as you. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, and everyone has their own things that make them unique and make them their own individual. But you do have to see their needs as important and their feelings as valid, just the same as yours. You do need to take into account their perspectives and beliefs. Your opinions and thoughts are not more important than theirs just because they come from your head – you don’t have to take on their values, or start believing their religion, or whatever else; but you do need to accept those things as valid and important (even if they aren’t important to you).


  • Responsibility – the state or fact of being accountable.


This one I find particularly important! You need to take responsibility for your own thoughts and actions. It is no one else’s responsibility – no ones. This covers a lot of things, from the fact that you waking up late isn’t someone else’s fault (if you didn’t want to go out drinking last night because you had a big meeting in the morning, then that is on you), to the fact that if you’re jealous of what your partner is doing with another person that is your own burden to bear and work on. Your thoughts and emotions (though they may be in reaction to other people’s actions) are your own. You are responsible for keeping your brain in check, and keeping your own reactions/actions in check. If you do something that you later regret, don’t try to pawn it off on how drunk you were or how someone made you upset, etc. Be an adult. Own up to it. Admit it. Take responsibility for it.


  • Considerate – showing kindly awareness or regard for another’s feelings, circumstances, etc.


Obviously there is a lot of overlap here, but I really want to get it into your head that caring about another person’s emotions is important. Stay aware of what your partner is feeling about things. If you know that she will be upset if dishes get left out all night, then just put them away. And this can go the other direction to things like if you know she’s tired in the mornings and she loves coffee then go grab her a cup and bring it back to her so she’ll have a good morning. The things you do to be considerate don’t have to make you go out of your way, unless you’re willing to. Mainly it’s important to use common sense and have common decency to care about what will affect other people and their situations. Like, if you saw a lady holding two kids and trying to drag her heavy bag down the street and into a store; 1) if you’re in the store then maybe hold the door open for her or 2) if you’re driving by her pay attention to the fact that there’s a puddle near the curb and don’t drive in it and splash her. Be aware of your surroundings. Be kind to others because you don’t have any clue what they’re going through. Care enough about whether you’re inconveniencing someone else to change your own actions (even just in little ways). Traits often associated with chivalry are often just people being considerate of others. Care about people, it isn’t that friggin’ hard.


  • Kindness – loving, affectionate, gentle, helpful, generous, etc.


In case you don’t know what the hell it even means to be kind, there ya go. Be gentle when you’re lifting an old lady up onto her bed. Be loving towards your children. Be affectionate when you’re with your spouse. Be helpful whenever you can. Give more than you get. Care about other people. Obviously there are any number of ways to be kind, and it spans over all relationship types whether it’s your relationship with a pet, your kid, your partner, or your employer, etc. Smiling at others is kind as well (in case you didn’t know that).


  • Respect – esteem for or a sense of the worth of excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability.


Some people seem to think respect is a negative thing. I know my husband has an issue with the word because he’s mainly heard it used when someone is trying to demand respect. Thing is, respect isn’t something you can take from people. It is something other people lay upon you, but only if they feel you are worthy of it. If someone tries to kick your ass, or steal your car, or whatever else seems shitty, you may feel like you have no respect for that person. If someone is abusive to you – you may be scared, but you definitely do not feel any respect for them. When you respect somebody it means you think highly of them. People you respect you tend to be more considerate of. You want the best for them, you see the best in them, etc. Respecting someone means that you admire who they are. You should both look to be with people who you feel you can respect, and who you feel in turn respect you. However, never expect something in return for your own actions. Just because you hold respect for someone doesn’t mean they will hold respect for you (unfortunately). You’re gonna have to feel this one out. Sometimes it’s easy to navigate and sometimes it’s difficult. Just try your best.


  • Equity – the quality of being fair or impartial; something that is fair and just.


Equity is important in any society. Especially in the criminal justice system, but also very much so in romantic relationships (as well as other kinds of relationships). Things don’t always have to be equal, but they should always be equitable. If you are 7 and your brother is only 2, then obviously you won’t be able to eat the same amount of food. The food given to you doesn’t need to be equal, but it does need to be the right amount of food for each of you. You should get enough for you, and he should get enough for him. It isn’t equitable if you only get as much as your brother gets, because that wouldn’t be enough for you. As far as romantic relationships go, this means that everyone has different needs. Giving everyone the same amount of time, same amount of attention, same amount of love, etc. does make it equal, but it does not make it equitable. You need to be aware of the differences of people’s needs. And this goes also for your own needs opposed to someone else’s. Maybe you want to spend tons of time with someone (you don’t need a whole lot of alone time in order to feel sane), but your partner needs a lot of alone time. Their need matters. They are allowed to have what they need in order to take care of themself emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Take the concept of equity into every situation with you, and make sure you’re considering what is fair (opposed to equal) for everyone you’re involved with.


  • Equality – the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.


Here, I did add in equality. But remember I don’t mean that everything needs to be equal, a lot of the time it just needs to be equitable. However, when you’re thinking about a person your perspectives need to be equal. You need to see people (all people in general really) as being equal. All just as valid, all just as important. People should be able to have the same opportunities (even if they don’t choose to take advantage of them), and they should definitely all have the same rights. When you’re trying to figure out whether this is a situation where you need to use equality or equity, think of this: use equality in the way you see people, use equity in the way you treat people.


  • Honest – free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.


It is incredibly important to be honest in a romantic relationship (especially a polyamorous one). You need to be honest about your STI status, and honest about your actions and feelings. If you don’t care about someone anymore, say that. Don’t string people along. If you are feeling uncomfortable about something, then say it. Don’t let it get to the point where you’re just freaking out. Address things before they get out of hand. And regularly check-in with people to make sure you know where everyone is at with things. No matter what you think of the rest of this list, honesty is damned important. If your not being honest with your spouse about the fact that you’d like to be polyamorous and you’re just sleeping with people behind their back, then you are cheating. Always be 100% honest. This doesn’t mean you have to tell people everything you’ve ever done, or everything you’ve ever thought. You’re allowed to have privacy within yourself and within your relationships. It isn’t okay for someone to force you to tell them all the details, or to demand to read all the texts on your phone. But if you’re not wanting them to look into your stuff because you’re hiding who you’ve been talking to, or what you’ve been doing…then you need to fess up. Be honest. Don’t go around telling people they look hideous if you don’t like how they look (that shit is so unnecessary). But make sure you are telling people what they need to know.


  • Communication – the imparting or exchanging of information or news; means of connection between people.


Obviously this is an oversimplification. Communication is complex and takes on many forms (audio, visual, etc.). But I just want to say one simple thing about this one – without it, there is nothing else of importance going on in your relationship. You can’t treat people with equity, or be considerate, or compassionate, or honest, or whatever, if you aren’t communicating with them. If there is no communication happening then you aren’t aware of their true feelings about things, you don’t know their needs, and you have no idea what they’re dealing with. You have nothing to work with without communication. Yes, you can be kind to someone without full-blown communication. But you can’t truly care about them or what’s going on with them, because you have no fricken clue. And in turn, if you aren’t communicating, then they don’t know anything about you and your emotions or needs either. Communication is key. Communicate, and communicate a lot.


  • Consent – permission for something to happen or agreement to do something; give permission for something to happen.


This is extremely important as well! If someone does not consent to having sex with you, then guess what? You just raped that person. Yeah, big fucking deal! Of course, consent doesn’t always come in this extreme of a circumstance. Sometimes it’s something small, like whether or not someone is consenting to let you come inside their house, or whether or not they consent to share food with you, or whether or not they consent to go somewhere with you. If they do not agree to do something, or agree to let you do something, then it isn’t okay for you to do it. And bugging them until they agree, or coercing them into it, is not the same as acquiring their true consent. If you feel like it’s time for someone to meet your parents but the other person is not ready, then just drop it. If they don’t want to they don’t have to. And in reverse, if someone asks you out on a date somewhere and you feel uncomfortable about it and you don’t want to go, then don’t give your consent. Don’t let someone take a bite of your muffin if you don’t want them to. And don’t take someone’s shirt if they aren’t okay with you taking it. Whatever the hell the situation is – big or small, it doesn’t matter – unless consent has been received, then you/they have no authorization to do/or make you do it. There is absolutely no flexibility in this. If they say no, then you do not have consent. No means no. (And if they are intoxicated, or otherwise unable to give their consent, then they are not consenting. You can’t make that decision for them.)


  • Patience – the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.


Sometimes it is really hard to deal with things without get anxious about them, or getting upset about them. When you’re driving and you hit a traffic jam you want to honk your horn and yell at people. But just take some deep breaths, calm down, and take it slow. Have some patience. If your partner doesn’t want to take things as fast as you want to in a relationship, then just be patient. Remember, you can’t do anything without their consent. If someone is being mind-numbingly slow getting ready, try to relax and have patience. Whether you truly accept the way things are or not, try to tolerate them as best as you can. Use patience whenever you feel like you’re getting antsy. Patience is a virtue, afterall. (But, also, don’t put yourself through any kind of suffering or trouble if it doesn’t seem worth it to you. That’s where it’s totally up to you to make that choice. Anywhere it does seem worth it, though, please try to use patience. And sometimes, maybe, even if it doesn’t.)


  • Tolerance – the ability or willingness to tolerate something, in particular the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.


To clarify what you may need to be patient about, let’s look at what tolerance truly is. If you have different beliefs than someone, or you disagree in any way about anything…you do not have to agree with it (or even understand it, really), but you should definitely (at least under most circumstances) tolerate it. I’m not saying if someone thinks you’re a wicked witch and wants to burn you at the stake that you should just go along with it. But in that case, have some patience, get through the interaction without murdering anybody, and move yourself into a position/place where you feel more comfortable and safe. Tolerate people’s faults. Don’t try to change them, even if they annoy you, or you strongly disagree with them, their thoughts or beliefs, or the way they go about doing something. If you fold your clothes different than they do, who cares? Use some tolerance (and patience) and get through it. If the socks are rolled up into balls instead of folded neatly, it isn’t that big of a deal anyway. (And if it is, then don’t have other people doing your laundry.)


  • Acceptance – the action or process of being received as adequate or suitable; agreement with or belief in an idea.


Accepting people for who they are is important. And accepting circumstances for what they are is equally important. Work on whatever you feel needs to be worked on, but leave the things alone that you can’t actually change. Some things just need to be accepted the way they are, especially people. Don’t date someone if you think they’re a “fixer-upper” and you plan to use them as a project. People don’t deserve that. Unless you have someone’s consent to help them work on their goals of change, then just drop it. Accept people 100% with all their faults. Accept people’s gender, accept their sexual orientation, accept their feelings, accept their body, accept their lives, etc. Accept them! You don’t have to love them, you don’t have to date them, but accept them. And if you are dating them, then you better accept them 100x more.


  • Understanding – the ability to understand something; comprehension; sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving.


Sometimes a situation just takes a little patience and understanding. It can be tough working through issues with a partner. But be patient, and try your best to understand them. Try to be aware of their feelings. Care about their feelings. Allow yourself time to try and understand why they feel that way, or why they do something a certain way. Try to delve down deeper into an issue – don’t just rest on the surface of it. Be tolerant, and try to comprehend them. And when all is said and done, sometimes the best thing to do is just to forgive them. If someone does something that pisses you off, or hurts you (say someone cheats on you)…don’t just jump to conclusions. Don’t write them off as selfish and just storm out. Hear them out. Let them explain themselves. Truly listen to them. Try your best to understand their reasoning, and their feelings. If, after you’ve done all of that, you just can’t handle it and you don’t want to work on it – then fine, dump them if you must. But many, many, many issues can be solved, or resolved, by using a little understanding, and by forgiving someone’s actions. (Unless it is an abusive relationship. Don’t fall for their fake apologies. Don’t let yourself go through that bullshit. Seek help and get out of that shitty situation.)


  • Appreciate – recognize the full worth of.


A lot of times in long-term relationships we begin to take people for granted. They’re always there, and we just think they always will be there, and we don’t think much about the things they do for us, or the things they say to us. It’s become so regular, so natural. It’s just the usual for us. But that is where the problem begins. No matter how long you’ve been with someone, or how used to them you are, you always need to show your appreciation. Look at all that they do for you. Look at all the ways they enrich your life. Look at how beautifully unique and amazing they are. Appreciate all of that in them. Appreciate all their faults. Recognize their worth, their full worth. Love them for being them. Love them for loving you. And show your appreciation for the things that they do (no matter how small). A little appreciation goes a long way to resolving issues between people.


  • Unconditional – not subject to any conditions.


This one is a tricky one for relationships. There are always going to be conditions that can make or break a relationship (whether you think there are or not). So, in this instance, I do not mean to tell you that you should give someone an unconditional chance at being with you. But, if you choose to give them your love, give it unconditionally. Don’t only love them if they spend 100% of their time with you. Don’t only love them if they remember your birthday, or buy you lots of presents. Don’t only love them if they’ve got amazing hair, or big tits, or whatever. Don’t be conditional about how/when you show them you love them. By all means, you are allowed to be upset with them. But don’t get to a point where your love is withdrawn simply because a mistake has been made. Withholding love will not fix anything. And, in another meaning, don’t allow there to be conditions (or rules) that hold back your relationships. Don’t try to control who people date, or what they can do with the people they date. Let people live their own lives. You do not own them. Let their choices be unconditional. Let them be free to choose their own boundaries, don’t enact any upon them.


  • Wholehearted – showing or characterized by complete sincerity and commitment.


Don’t go into a relationship for the long-haul if you aren’t 100% committed to it. Don’t agree to things if you don’t truly want to. Do whatever the hell you want to in life, but when you choose to do something – do it wholeheartedly. Don’t half-ass your way through life, through emotions, or through relationships. People don’t deserve that. You don’t deserve that. If you choose to do something, then give it your all. If you aren’t 100% in, then you might as well be out.


  • Support – bear all or part of the weight; hold up; give assistance to; enable to function or act.


We need to give support to the people in our lives. Especially those we care deeply about (i.e. those in our romantic relationships). Whether this means giving physical or emotional, or even spiritual, support…it doesn’t matter. The point is, sometimes people need some support. Sometimes things are just too hard on someone, and they need someone to help them feel worthwhile again. Sometimes people feel lost in their spirituality, and they need someone to help raise them back up. Sometimes people just need help watching their kids, or moving a couch, etc. If someone needs help – then help them, in whatever way you can. It doesn’t just have to be when people are needing help, either. Support them in their endeavors too. Give them your support in words of encouragement. Maybe, sometimes people need financial support. Whatever it is – if you can help, then help. Don’t go out on a plank trying to help others while you are drowning…but if you truly care about someone, then you should make an effort to support them in their times on need, and support them through the things they care about. Sometimes supporting someone simply means going to their dance performance. Whatever it is – try your best to show your support.


  • Encourage – give support, confidence, or hope to.


Yes, this is an extension of supporting someone. Sometimes all they need is some encouragement to push them in the right direction, or to help them feel confident enough to get up and do whatever it is they need to do (apply for a loan, give a speech, take care of themselves). Feed hope and confidence into the people you love, and into their lives. Help them reach their full potential (if they want to). Be there for support.


  • Humanity – humaneness; benevolence.


See things through eyes of love. Act through arms of kindness. Live through days of compassion. Treat people well, and do what you think is best. Always choose your humanity over your rage, ignorance, and impulse. Walk through love gently.


  • Diversity – a range of different things.


The definition for this one is very simplistic. However, it is important to take on “a range of different things” in life and in love. Allow there to be diversity. Diversity strengthens life. It strengthens love. Learn multiple different techniques for dealing with your anger and jealousy. Learn multiple different ways to show your love. Allow people to express themselves in a range of ways, and to act in a range of ways. Go out and do a variety of different things, and interact with a variety of different kinds of people. See diversity within actions, within words, and within people. Accept and appreciate it. Strive to understand it. Allow its strength to strengthen you. There are a trillion differences in everything that we see, hear, taste, feel, and smell in life; not to mention the fact that those things are all completely different when we take into consideration different perspectives on those senses. So, keep that in mind. Be aware of the diversity around you. Live within it, learn from it, and try your best to love it.


  • Awareness – concern about and well-informed interest in a particular situation or development.


Honestly, I don’t particularly like this definition. But it’s the one I found. To me, awareness is deeper. I suppose all these words have a deeper meaning to me than any other words could possibly explain. It’s about my experiences and my personality and my understanding of this world, all bundled together, to create the way I see things (the way I see words and their definitions). Awareness definitely does have to do with having concern for something, for caring about it. If you didn’t care at all, then you wouldn’t pay enough attention to be able to truly call yourself aware. Well-informed interest is a tough one to explain. Yes, to fully be aware of different world issues and stuff you need to do some detailed research into them. You need to take on trying to understand all sides and perspectives. But when it comes to relationships, and your general awareness, I think it’s a little simpler than that. You need to pay attention. Otherwise you’ll miss what is important. If you want to pick up on the little things (and little things are what come together to create bigger things), then you need to be aware. Pay attention to how people are feeling and acting. Pay attention to how your feelings and actions are affecting other people. Pay attention to your internal monologue, and make note of the reasons behind the things you think. Dive as deep as you can. That’s what it means to be aware. Be aware of yourself, and aware of others. Then again…sometimes being aware just means not setting your book too close to the fire.


  • Benevolent – well meaning and kindly.


This has been address a lot already. I just love this word. Be kind and do things with the best intentions. There could be any number of things I could write here for the definition, but I think you’ve heard it all already. Mainly what I’m trying to get across here is…Don’t be a dick.


  • Validation – the action of making or declaring something legally or officially acceptable; recognition or affirmation that a person or their feelings or opinions are valid and worthwhile.


On a large scale validation is about equality. Gay people wanted to feel validated in their choice of life-partner, so they worked hard to get a law passed that allowed gay marriage to be legal and seen as acceptable. Deep down, on a more personal level, though, the fight behind this action was simply each person’s need to feel like who they are is okay. Even if someone accepts themself, it can be really hard if the people are them don’t accept them. In your relationships you need to make sure the people you care about feel accepted, feel validated, feel worthwhile. They need to know what they are feeling is okay (even if it’s difficult to deal with). They need to know who they are is acceptable (even if you can’t understand it). If someone cries because their dog died, you need to show them you care by validating that emotion. Telling them it is sad. That it doesn’t even matter what the reason is, but that their emotion is real. Their emotion is real. That’s all that really matters. You don’t have to understand anything other than that.


  • Open-Minded – willingness to consider new ideas; unprejudiced.


Sometimes when we are in a long-term relationship, or when we’ve been raised a certain way, or we’ve just been living one way for so long, it is hard to get outside ourselves long enough to open up to the possibilities of life. We say “this is how it is” or “this is what works/doesn’t work for me” and we don’t allow any leeway with that. You need to be flexible in a relationship. I’m not telling you to compromise who you are. But you need to open up enough to see another person, their thoughts, and their ways, as valid. Try new things sometimes, even if you don’t think you’ll like them. Don’t judge people based on preconceived assumptions, or past experiences. Allow each moment to be new. Allow every opportunity to be a new thread in your life. Consciousness has a vast depth of ideas, concepts, beliefs, realities. No one else’s reality is the same as your reality. Point blank. That’s the truth. Accept that. Allow yourself to learn from others. Even if you don’t change your mind, allow yourself to listen (truly listen) to others. Let your mind and your actions be flexible. Allow yourself to change with the flow of your thoughts and ideas and opinions. Nothing ever stays 100% the same. Stay open to life, to love, and to the possibilities. You never know what might happen if you do.

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I am a pansexual, demisexual, greysexual, homoromantic, non-binary, transmasculine, genderfluid, solo-polyamorous relationship anarchist; as well as a plant-based Wiccan mama. I'm also neurodivergent, and overall identify as Queer. I love writing, photography, dancing, travel, hiking, cooking, gaming, planning, and motherhood.

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