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Relationships exist on a spectrum and can range from healthy to abusive, with unhealthy existing somewhere in between. Relationships look different depending on the partners, friends or family members within them. No matter the relationship, it should build you up, rather than break you down.
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Healthy relationships are based on mutual trust, respect and kind communication. They allow you to feel supported and respected within the relationship, while still maintaining your independence. Healthy relationships don’t mean that conflict never arises, it just means that whenever it does it can be navigated through compromise and understanding. Within a healthy relationship, equality and respect are the norm.
Unhealthy relationships involve disrespect and distrust. Sometimes this can manifest as stonewalling (refusing to speak with you or answer your questions) and/or defensiveness. In an unhealthy relationship you may not feel equal to your partner or like your goals are being supported.
Abusive relationships exhibit patterns of destructive behaviors that are used to exert power or control over their partner. Abusive partners can make you feel fearful, they may make threats to harm themselves, you, your loved ones or your property. Blame is unequally shared; abusive partners don’t take responsibility for their own actions. You may feel unsafe, as perpetrators will often isolate you from your support system and exhibit various forms of physical, emotional and/or sexual violence.
Review some of the aspects of healthy relationships that build you up, as well as some of the behaviors that can be used to break you down. It is helpful to be aware of these red flags, so that we can take action earlier on in the spectrum before the relationship becomes abusive. To explore even more great content on healthy relationships visit wellness.asu.edu.
Healthy partners trust you and the decisions you make. Unhealthy or abusive partners may require you to prove where you were or control who you can talk to.
Healthy partners exhibit kind communication, even when a concern arises. Unhealthy or abusive partners may guilt-trip or give ultimatums.
Healthy partners respect your boundaries. Yes, this means all of them: sexual, physical, spiritual, and emotional. Everyone goes at their own pace in relationships and everyone’s pace must be respected.
Healthy partners support you in reaching your goals and care about what matters to you. Unhealthy or abusive partners limit or control you in a way that is not conducive to your goals.
You may begin to notice some of these red flags in your own relationship, or a friend’s, but feel unsure about what to do next. It is normal to want to talk to someone to formulate a plan:
Here are some tips for intervening based on our “Healthy Relationships” poster series.