Fulfilling Relationships

Relationships are an integral part of our well-being. Our connections with friends, romantic partners, roommates, coworkers, family, and others can have a significant impact on our emotional well-being, our physical health, and even our academic performance. While relationships may vary in closeness and dynamics, finding a sense of belonging and building connections that are fulfilling and empowering is important for your personal growth and overall satisfaction. 

What is a fulfilling relationship?

A fulfilling relationship is one based on trust, respect, and equity, where each person is valued, where boundaries are set and respected, and where each person feels safe to be authentic and vulnerable. Equity does not mean "sameness." Even in the most fulfilling relationships, differences and power dynamics exist. However, power should be divided in equitable ways, and differences met with tolerance and respect. The Equity Wheel below outlines some of the key elements of fulfilling relationships.

While everyone may have different needs and wants for their relationships, the most fulfilling ones are built on the foundations of respect, honesty, and support. This is the standard we should strive towards; however, the reality is relationships are complicated, and it can take work to move toward a fulfilling and empowered relationship. In particular, building equity, like the wheel above describes, requires an awareness of and attention to the power dynamics that may be present. Whether those imbalanced powers are formal (such as one’s position within an institution) or informal (such as one’s gender identity), conscientiously working to navigate those power dynamics in equitable ways is essential to move the relationship toward one that is fulfilling and empowering.

What are the characteristics of fulfilling relationships?

Fulfilling relationships look different for different people and can vary based on your identities, lived experiences, and culture. It can be helpful, to begin with some personal reflection on your individual values and how those connect to what you are looking for in your relationships. What are some characteristics, in addition to the ones outlined in the Equity Wheel above, that make up a fulfilling relationship for you? Consider using these worksheets (PDF iconFulfilling Relationships Worksheets.pdf) to help you define what fulfilling relationships look like.

How do I establish fulfilling relationships?

In order to build and maintain fulfilling relationships, it’s important to engage in self-reflection to understand what it is that you’re looking for and what you need out of a connection. You will then be better able to communicate that with others and find a balance between your needs and others’ needs. 

Here are some communication skills that contribute to building and maintaining a fulfilling relationship:

  1. Engaged Listening - This skill is all about being an active participant in conversations and showing that you understand what the other person is sharing.
  2. Setting Boundaries - Boundary setting is a loving practice that invites deeper connection and protects us from emotional and physical fatigue. Different relationship dynamics call for different boundaries. These can be physical, time, mental, financial, emotional, material, sexual, or digital.
  3. “I” Statements - This is a useful skill for communicating difficult things. “I” statements affirm our own feelings without seeking to place blame or judgment on others. (ex: “I feel overwhelmed when the house is cluttered because I find it distracting. I’d like for us to work together to keep our shared spaces clean.”)
  4. Conflict Management - Conflict is a natural part of any relationship but should not include guilting, blaming, insulting, or shaming others. Learning how to communicate respectfully through conflict is essential.
  5. Taking Accountability - There are times when you will cause harm, whether intended or unintended, and being able to accept responsibility can allow you to develop trust and care within the relationship. Be willing to listen and reflect on the situation without becoming defensive. 
  6. Checking In - It can be helpful to set aside time to check in on your relationships. Ask reflective questions to understand what is going well in your relationships and what could be improved.

If you’re interested in engaging in some personal reflection and practicing some of these skills, request a Fulfilling Relationships Workshop here or request a Fulfilling Relationships Workbook through BWell By Mail.

Signs of unhealthy/abusive relationships

Relationships are not perfect, and challenges and disagreements are normal. However, it is important to be able to recognize when a relationship crosses the line and becomes unhealthy or abusive. These abusive and harmful relationships are centered around power and control rather than equity and respect. 

For more information about abusive relationships, including local and national support resources, visit the BWell Dating Violence page.


Campus, Confidential Resources: 

Counseling and Psychological Services 401.863-3476
Clinicians provide confidential crisis support, follow-up appointments, and 24-hour on-call services for any Brown student dealing with violence in a relationship.  Located on the First Floor of the Health & Wellness Center at 450 Brook Street. The on-call counselor is also available to accompany a victim to the hospital.

BWell SHARE Advocates, 401-863-2794, [email protected]
The SHARE (Sexual Harm Acute Response & Empowerment) Advocates in BWell Health Promotion are confidential resources at Brown that can provide support to any student from any part of the University (undergraduate, graduate, and medical students) affected by issues or experiences related to: Sexual Assault, Sexual and/or Gender-based Harassment, Domestic/Dating Violence, Relational Abuse, or Stalking, that has taken place at any time in their lives.  Confidential services include acute responses or ongoing empowerment-based support for a survivor or the friends of a survivor, including help filing a complaint (if that is the student's choice) and/or navigating resources at Brown and in the community. *This is a survivor-centered resource for people who have experienced sexual harm.  The SHARE Advocates in BWell are located on the Ground Level of Health & Wellness Center at 450 Brook Street.

Chaplains Office 401.863-2344 
The Chaplains are available for personal counseling and support.  Call to make an appointment. Located in Page-Robinson Hall, Room 410.

Brown Emergency Medical Services (EMS) 401.863-4111
Emergency response available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Campus, NOT Confidential Resources: 

Brown Department of Public Safety 401.863-4111 (emergency response)
Emergency response is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You may also direct any complaints to Public Safety's administrative number, 863-3322.

Office of Student Life/Administrator-on-Call 401.863-3800
Provides a crisis response system which includes administrators-on-call.

Title IX Office (401) 863-2026, [email protected]
Information and support resources for the Brown University community around issues of sexual misconduct and Title IX. 

*Campus Resources that are possible places to find opportunities to connect with others or to find relationship support

Brown Center for Students of Color
Provides a place and space for students of color at Brown University to explore their identity, develop their leadership skills, and build a sense of community in a welcoming and supportive environment.

BWell Health Promotion
Open to all students and has workshops as well as peer education programs. 

Community Dialogue Project
Provides educational programs and resources that build relationships and advance open inquiry across differences in identities, histories, backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. 

Global Brown Center 
Located in Room 310 in Page-Robinson Hall, the GBC coordinates International Orientation, advises international student organizations, assists with advocacy initiatives on campus.

LGBTQ Center
Offers support to LGBTQ students and also has peer counselors available. 

Sarah Doyle Women’s Center
Provides a comfortable and engaging place for the campus community to explore the multiple dimensions of gender.

Student Activities Office
Supports the initiatives of 450+ active, recognized student organizations. Whether you're looking to join existing student organizations, launch your own group or explore leadership opportunities, SAO provides assistance 

Student Support Services 
Seeks to understand the unique experiences of each student, keeping in mind the context of their identities and how identity may impact how they navigate academic challenges. 

Undocumented First Generation and Low-Income Student Center (UFLi):
Communal, learning, and advocacy center for members of the Brown community who identify with the undocumented, first-generation college and/or low-income student experience. They have peer counselors available.  

Related Links


One Love
One Love Foundation is a national non-profit organization with the goal of ending relationship abuse. They empower young people with the tools and resources they need to see the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships.

Love Is Respect
Provides information about fostering healthy dating attitudes and relationships to prevent teen dating violence.

Sexual Health Includes Pleasure (SHIP)
A nonprofit organization dedicated to providing culturally inclusive, medically accurate, and pleasure-guided sexuality education, therapy, and professional training to adults.

Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective (BATJC) Pod Mapping
BATJC created a resource for Pod mapping to think about the people in our lives we can call on for support.

  • 401.863-2794
    Health Promotion
  • 401.863-3953
    Health Services
  • 401.863-6000
    Sexual Assault Response Line
  • 401.863-4111
  • 401.863-3476
    Counseling & Psychological Services
  • 401.863-4111