How to Tell the Differences Between Healthy and Unhealthy Relationships

Written by on September 5, 2022

It is never too late to understand the difference between a healthy and an unhealthy relationship. Learning the differences benefits you, and you can teach your children the same. Because as parents, we set the example for our children; if we foster unhealthy relationships, we teach them to normalize unhealthy behaviors.

These relationships can pertain to family members, co-workers, friends, romantic partners, neighbors, and community members. Every person with whom we interact sets an example for our children. Understanding the nature of relationships starts with a desire to create a healthy mindset, put healthy boundaries in place, and be interested in building better self-esteem. The more effort we pour into ourselves, the more significant the outcomes.

Signs of Healthy Relationships

Respect: One of the most significant signs of a healthy relationship, regardless of who you are with, is respect. Without respect, you may not feel valued for who you are, your background, and your beliefs. While your views may be different than others, that does not discount the value that they bring. Without respect, no relationship can be considered healthy.

Trust: How can you have a healthy relationship without trust? Trust is knowing that you are supported and respected. Placing your trust in someone shows that you are confident that their actions, behaviors, and words all come from a place of caring for your best interests. 

Communication: Communication isn’t just about openly speaking with another person about your feelings and thoughts. Communication is also about listening to the other person from a place of respect. You value their opinions, perspective, and how they feel—speaking honestly from a place of care is a critical factor in communication.

Support: When we care about someone, we show them support throughout their life. We listen to what is happening in their lives and what matters to them and pick up on cues about how we can show up for them. For example, supporting another person may look like showing up at important events and celebrations, pitching in with chores without being asked, offering an ear if they are stressed or upset, or bringing food or medicine to their home if they are ill. 

Safety: If you are in a healthy relationship, you will feel emotionally, mentally, and physically safe with that person. Anyone who doesn’t make you feel safe is not providing you with a healthy relationship. You must recognize when someone is making an honest mistake and when they are intentionally trying to hurt you.

Signs of Unhealthy Relationships

Control: Anyone who desires to control who you are, what you wear, how you act, what you say, what you look like, your hobbies or interests, your job, or who you interact with is exhibiting unhealthy behaviors. Jealousy is a vital sign of someone who is trying to control you. If they trust and respect you, they have no reason to be jealous of who you interact with or what you do. 

Dependence: While it is understandable that you may depend on a partner’s help to uphold the household, it is different to rely on them for your source of happiness. It is essential to have relationships with others outside of your romantic relationship. When a partner exhibits hostility or control over whom you interact, they force you to become dependent on them for all your needs. Your needs can be met through developing friendships with others, having a family to support you, co-workers who encourage you to strive for excellence, and a community that enriches your life. No one person can serve as your sole source of happiness.

Dishonesty: If there are lies, there isn’t any respect. Anyone who is deceitful is showing you they do not respect you. Because they are lying, you have no reason to trust them. Every dishonest person shows you they are looking out for their interests and not the care and respect you deserve.

Humiliation: Previous generations practiced unhealthy behaviors by showing love through teasing. Over the years, our society has realized that anyone humiliating another isn’t a sign of respect. Years ago, girls learned that if a boy teased them at school, it was a sign that he liked her. That is no longer an acceptable form of flirting, as it teaches girls that put-downs, physical abuse, and embarrassment are healthy. As adults, we recognize humiliation as a sign of disrespect and borders on exhibiting sociopathic behavior.

Even though you may realize that some of your relationships are unhealthy, that doesn’t mean it’s too late to make changes. Setting healthy boundaries by communicating effectively, expressing your feelings, and working on improving your relationships are good starting points. If discussing unhealthy relationships with those around you doesn’t improve, it may be time to reevaluate whom you associate with. What examples are you providing your children? Are you showing them it’s okay to have unhealthy relationships? Or are you showing them what it truly means to love yourself, care for yourself, and surround yourself with those who respect and care for you?


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