If your idea of #RelationshipGoals is based on 50 Shades of Grey, you’re not alone. TBH most people assume that the relationships we see in movies, on TV shows, or on social media are the ideal, but that’s most likely not the case. With pop culture romanticizing unhealthy, possessive behavior, it can be hard to tell the difference between a relationship that’s toxic and one that’s good for you.
The One Love Foundation works to educate young people about these differences so that anyone in a bad relationship can recognize the warning signs and get help before things escalate to abuse. When it comes to relationships there are a few key differences that distinguish the good from the bad, and we’re here to tell you about them!
5 key differences between healthy + unhealthy relationships:
1. In a healthy relationship, both partners set the pace of the relationship together. In an unhealthy relationship, one partner will move more quickly than the other is comfortable with and the relationship will feel very intense.
In a healthy relationship, both people set the pace together and feel equally satisfied with how quickly the relationship is progressing. You feel like you and your partner are on the same page about things and you don’t feel like you’re rushing into something serious or moving too quickly. The relationship feels mutually passionate, respectful, and uplifting. That’s because healthy passionate people balance their strong emotions with strong respect for what the other person is feeling, too.
Unhealthy passion in a relationship, or intensity, feels chaotic and overwhelming. If a relationship starts out really strong or feels like too much too soon, that’s a warning sign of an unhealthy relationship. Your partner should be respectful and thoughtful about how you feel and should never pressure you to do anything you’re not comfortable with. Requests for exclusivity early on, lavish gifts or extravagant displays of affection could also be warning signs. Basically, if they’re going from zero to 100 real quick – it might be time to reconsider.
2. In a healthy relationship, you and your partner will trust one another completely. In an unhealthy relationship, your partner might do certain things like demand to know where you are or get upset with you for texting other people.
Trusting your partner means knowing that they are reliable, having confidence in their loyalty, and feeling safe with them physically and emotionally. All healthy relationships require mutual and unguarded trust between partners.
A partner who is easily jealous or possessive of you is not acting that way because they care – it is because they are trying to control you. Your partner should never try to control you or limit your freedom, like telling you not to hang out with certain people or requiring you to share passwords. If your partner is controlling or possessive of you, it’s time to rethink that relationship!
Also, if your partner is using their lack of trust or past experiences as an excuse to control you, question you or otherwise make you feel as though you need to go out of your way earn their trust, that is not a good relationship. Regardless of what either partner has experienced in the past, like a cheating ex or divorced parents, in a healthy relationship your partner will trust you completely and vice versa.
3. Healthy relationships allow for open, honest communication between partners. If you feel like you can’t talk to your partner about how you’re feeling or something that is bothering you, that’s a big red flag that your relationship may be unhealthy.
You’ve definitely heard the very cliché “communication is key.” But here’s the thing – it’s a cliché for a reason. Good communication is one of the most important aspects to having a healthy relationship. It's important to be able to talk about what you both want and expect. Sometimes this means being honest and having uncomfortable conversations, but if you’re in a healthy relationship your partner will be receptive and listen (and you should do the same). Being on the same page as your partner goes a long way and opening-up to your partner about what’s bothering you, compromising over your disagreements and providing positive feedback are all just as important.
While communication is important, you and your partner should both be comfortable with how often you talk to one another. If your partner demands that you always answer right away and text them all day long, that’s a warning sign of relationship abuse. No one can make demands about how quickly you respond or require you to always be accessible (unless they’re your parents). On the flip side, if your partner is always ignoring your texts and it doesn’t make you feel good, that’s not healthy either. Finding a communication balance that you’re both comfortable with is super important. Also, if you’re worried that your partner will overreact or retaliate if you try to talk to them about something, that’s another sign that your relationship is not healthy.
4. In a healthy relationship, your partner will respect personal boundaries. If your partner is pressuring you to hang out with them over other people and activities, that’s a big red flag.
It’s important to find a balance between spending time with your partner and spending time with other people. In healthy relationships, your partner will try to get to know the important people in your life like friends and family. They’ll be supportive of your hobbies and interests and encourage you to have a life outside of your relationship. Supportive partners will always want what’s best for you and they won’t hold you back from achieving your dreams or pursuing your goals. In a healthy relationship, you’ll feel like yourself and not like you should change things about yourself or make huge sacrifices so that the relationship can thrive. Also, in a healthy relationship, you should feel 100% comfortable setting personal boundaries with your partner and know that they will be respected (and vice versa for your partner).
In an unhealthy relationship, one partner pressures another to cut ties with friends, family and other people. It crosses the line from “we’re excited to spend time together” to “I need you to spend all of your time with me.” An abusive partner will often use isolation as a tactic to separate a person from support networks like friends and family to gain power over that person. If you feel like your partner is making excuses to separate you from your friends and family, like saying that they don’t get along with certain people or that your relationship should be the priority, that’s a big red flag of relationship abuse!
5. Healthy relationships are built on respect. If your partner is violating that and criticizing you or making you feel not-so-great, that’s a sign of an abusive relationship!
Has anyone ever told you, “No one will ever love you more than I do.” Or maybe you’ve heard, “That food will make you fat.” Criticism is a major sign of an unhealthy relationship. Insulting your partner is never okay, not even during arguments or while under the influence. Making degrading remarks or sarcastic jokes at your expense can really affect a person’s self-esteem. This type of behavior is known as emotional abuse and it has serious consequences – not only because it breaks down a person’s confidence, but also because some people start to believe that the things being said about them are actually true.
In a healthy relationship, both partners will have respect for one another. Your partner won’t say things that make you feel bad about yourself or make you feel guilty. Also, just because you don’t always see eye to eye, it doesn’t mean that one person needs to change their mind for your relationship to work. A key way to establish respect in a relationship is to be considerate of your partner’s privacy and boundaries. Being respectful also means being mindful of your partner’s feelings and not doing things that might really hurt them, like keeping things that are supposed to be private just between you two.
Ultimately, an unhealthy relationship is based on power and control and a healthy one is based on love and respect. If you are experiencing any of these unhealthy behaviors in your relationship, or if you feel like your partner is using tactics to control you, that is a big red flag and you should talk to someone that can help. Your partner doesn't have to physically harm you for your relationship to be abusive. If your relationship is great most of the time, but unhealthy sometimes, that's not good enough. Everyone deserves to be in a healthy relationship and there is never an excuse for abuse. Even if there is a history of mental illness, cheating or other hardships either in or outside of your current relationship, those are not excuses for abusive behavior. It's important to know that you can't change your partner. If you are in an abusive relationship, you should seek help immediately — don't wait for your partner to change!
Communicate with your partner, and speak up if something doesn't feel right. If you end up having to walk away, trust us, you're better off single (and eventually with someone new) than you are with someone who doesn't treat you with the love and respect you deserve!
This basic is powered by our incredible friends at The One Love Foundation. Founded in 2010 to honor Yeardley Love, One Love works with young people across the country to raise awareness about the warning signs of abuse.