Healthy Relationships

What is a Healthy Relationship?

Healthy relationships should be fun and make you feel good about yourself. They should bring more happiness than stress into your life and should make you feel secure and comfortable.

A healthy relationship is made up of several different qualities.

Communication is key to building a successful relationship. This allows people in a relationship to make sure they have the same expectations and are on the same page.

Be honest and open about how you are feeling or if you are unsure about something.

Respect your partner's wishes and feelings. They have as much value as your own. Respect must be mutual for a healthy relationship; it's not a one way street! Let your partner know that you think their views are important and you value what they think. Respect includes respecting yourself; being aware of your boundaries and what behaviour you believe is acceptable.

Be supportive of your partner by offering reassurance and encouragement. Take an interest in what they like and what they do. Help them to weigh up difficult decisions. Equally, it's OK to let your partner know when you need their support.

Compromise when needed. It's normal in a relationship to not agree on everything, but it's important to find a way to compromise if you disagree on something. Even if the answer is that you agree to disagree!

Setting boundaries is a good way to build a healthy relationship. While it is important to spend time together in a relationship, it is also important to make sure you spend time with friends without your partner and continue to do activities and hobbies that you each enjoy. This ensures that you each maintain your individuality. Boundaries can also include not expecting to share social media or phone passwords.

Promoting a Healthy Relationship

Healthy Relationship Boosters

If you feel like things have become a little stale in a relationship or start to feel disconnected from your partner, there are a few things you can do to give yourselves a boost, such as finding an activity you both like to do together or that makes you laugh, and reminding each other why you enjoy being together. If you have lost the initial excitement of dating, why not set a date night to ensure you spend time together doing something special.

You can discuss each other's goals and future hopes. This may give you an indication of whether you are travelling along a similar path, and bring some excitement and anticipation into the relationship if you support each other to achieve your goals.

Make sure that you encourage your partner and acknowledge their achievements. Healthy relationships are about building each other up rather than bringing each other down.

Relationships do take time, energy and care so ensure that you make time to spend together.

All relationships have ups and downs, but if you feel there are more bad times than good times in a relationship and want some further support; talk to someone. Helplines, a trusted adult, teacher, parent or friend. Please see our Need Support? section for further information.

Domestic Abuse

What is Domestic Abuse?

Relationships based on control and power, rather than respect and equality are not healthy. Some unhealthy behaviours may be considered domestic abuse. Domestic abuse can show itself in many different ways; it can be physical, emotional, sexual, psychological or financial.

Domestic abuse is not as rare as you may think; one in four women and one in six men are affected by domestic abuse in their lifetime. That's right - there's not that big a difference in the numbers of male and female domestic abuse victims. Domestic abuse is often repetitive and tends to worsen over time.

There are behaviours you might notice early on in a relationship that might not seem like a big deal, but could be signs of an unhealthy relationship or domestic abuse, such as:

Possessiveness over a partner's time or relationships and contact with other people.

Monitoring phone calls, texts or emails, or constantly 'checking up' on a partner when they are spending time with friends. Demanding to know where is partner is going and with whom, or trying to isolate a partner from family and friends. Telling a partner what to do.

Insults, yelling, mocking, humiliation and accusing are types of verbal abuse. Saying things that make a partner feel small or stupid, or trying to manipulate them.

Pushing, hitting, biting, kicking or hair pulling are just a few types of physical abuse. Bullying can also occur either physically or verbally.

Pressure tactics are a type of psychological abuse, such as threatening to withhold money, taking away possessions, or threatening something bad if you don't do what they say. A partner may use intimidation, either verbally or using their physical size. This can relate to sexual abuse if pressure tactics or threats are used to coerce a partner to have sex.

These behaviours are all exertions of control and power, rather than an expression of love. Any of the above behaviours could be considered domestic abuse.

Who is Responsible for the Abuse?

The abuser is always responsible for the violence. It is never the victim's fault, although manipulation may be used by the abuser to make the victim feel as though it is their fault. It's easy for an abuser to blame the victim to excuse their behaviour: in their minds, this takes the responsibility. An abuser may also blame their behaviour on drugs or alcohol, or other problem's they're experiencing, to avoid taking personal responsibility.

If a close friend, family member or someone else you respect voices concerns about your partner's behaviour that you do not see yourself, try to consider that sometimes, the way we feel about a person can make us dismiss or ignore some questionable behaviours or pushing of boundaries.

I Think I'm in an Unhealthy Relationship: What Can I Do?

A person can only change if they want to; despite how much someone else might beg and plead or try to reason. You can't force someone to change their behaviour if they don't believe they are in the wrong or don't think they are responsible for the behaviour.

You must first consider your safety and your own needs. How is this relationship making you feel? Is staying with this partner allowing you to take care of yourself and promoting your wellbeing? How are your stress levels? Talk to friends, family member or other trusted adults about how you're feeling to make sure you're getting the emotional support you need.

If you think you relationship is fixable, and is characterised as unhealthy rather than abusive, you can try some of our Healthy Relationship Boosters on the previous page. If you decide that in fact, the relationship shows signs of being unhealthy beyond repair, or there are signs of abuse, you may wish to consider ending the relationship. Remember, you must consider your own safety and wellbeing first and foremost.

For further advice and information about domestic abuse agencies, please see the 'Need Help?' section.