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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.
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. Explore more about relationships on healthy relationships on wellness.asu.edu.
Any relationship can be healthy, unhealthy or abusive. Unfortunately, these red flags do not just apply to our significant others, romantic or dating relationships. They apply to everyone in our life including our family and friends. All our relationships should help us thrive.
Conflict will arise in all relationships, but in an unhealthy relationship conflict may involve belittling and deflecting of responsibility. In an abusive relationship conflict may involve violence.
If you are concerned about a friend or concerned that you may be experiencing an unhealthy or abusive relationship, trust yourself and listen to your instincts. There are resources and support available to you or your friend.
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: