Relationships can be defined in many ways. Whether they are serious, casual, a friendship, or family, all relationships deserve to be healthy. But how do you know if your relationship is healthy?
The Relationship Spectrum
A helpful place to start is by thinking about relationships existing on a spectrum – with healthy on one end, abusive on the other end, and unhealthy somewhere in the middle. Think of specific examples within your relationship and where you would put them on a spectrum. Do you feel like you and your partner value each other’s opinions equally when making decisions? Do you make your partner feel guilty for spending time with their friends? Does your partner make you feel like you have to do things you aren’t comfortable with to prove you love them? While some examples may be pretty easy to place on the spectrum, like feeling like your boundaries are being respected (healthy) or hitting your partner when you’re angry (abusive), other behaviors may exist somewhere in the middle depending on what else is happening in your relationship.
Healthy relationships are built on mutual equality and respect. You make decisions together and can openly discuss whatever issues you’re dealing with, like relationship problems and sexual choices. You enjoy spending time together, but can be
Unhealthy relationships are based on attempts to control the other person. One person tries to make most decisions. He or she may pressure their partner about sex or refuse to see how their actions can hurt. In an unhealthy relationship, you feel like you should only spend time with
Abusive relationships are based on an imbalance of power and control. One person is making all of the decisions — about sexual choices, friend groups, boundaries, even what’s true and what’s not. You spend all your time together and feel like you can’t talk to other people, especially about what’s really happening in your relationship.
So What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?
While no two relationships are the same, there are a few things important to have in all relationships!
- Healthy Boundaries: It’s important to know each other’s wants, goals, fears, and limits. You should be able to communicate your boundaries (physical, emotional, sexual, and technology) without being afraid of how your partner will respond, and know that your boundaries will be respected.
- Equality: Both partners should feel that they are equal, and their thoughts and feelings have value.
- Compromise: Decisions are made together while leaving room for compromise when disagreements happen.
- Respecting Each Other’s Privacy: You should feel able to share things with your partner, but also know that it is ok to keep some things private.
- Support: You support and encourage each other, and feel like you are able to ask your partner for support when you need it.
- Healthy Communication: In order to get what you want in need in any relationship, you have to be able to communicate. Both people should feel able to communicate openly and honestly in a way that makes them safe and heard.
Relationship Red Flags
Even healthy relationships have ups and downs, but your relationship shouldn’t make you feel scared, minimized, pressured, or controlled. If your relationship makes you feel this way, it could be a red flag that something needs to change. A red flag is any behavior that attempts to gain power and control in a relationship. Red flags don’t always lead to abuse, but they are a sign that something can be changed or improved, or that the relationship could become more unhealthy or abusive overtime. Although there a number of signs to look out for, here are a few common red flags for unhealthy or abusive relationships:
- Extreme jealousy or insecurity
- Lack of trust or frequent accusations
- Checking cell phones or social media without permission
- Constant texting or calling to a point that makes someone feel uncomfortable
- Repeatedly pressuring someone to do something they don’t want to do or isn’t ready for (ex: sending pictures or having sex)
- Limiting time with friends, family, or activities someone enjoys separately from their partner
- Telling someone what they can and cannot do – including what to wear, how to act, or who to spend time with
- Threatening to hurt themselves or someone else
Even though no relationship is perfect, your relationships should make you feel good – building you up instead of tearing you down. It should make you feel happy, safe, and supported, and abuse should never be a part of it. If you or someone you know is in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and is seeking help or support, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or chat with an advocate through Love is Respect by texting LOVEIS to 22522. If you are in the Hays/Caldwell county area, call HCWC at 512-396-HELP(4357)
Still unsure if your relationship is healthy? Take our Healthy Relationships quiz!