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We have different kinds of relationships with the people in our lives. We can have friendships, romantic relationships, or familial relationships (someone in our family or that we are related to). What is important in any type of relationship we have with someone is that it is healthy and makes us feel good.
What does a healthy relationship look like?
A healthy relationship involves:
- Feeling comfortable to be yourself
Let's break these key elements down.
Good communication in a relationship means that both you and the other person are good at talking and listening. It means you feel comfortable to talk to them about things that make you happy, or sad, scared or excited - and that they can talk to you about all of this too. It also means you feel like the other person really listens to and tries to understand you when you talk to them. You feel like your opinions and thoughts mean something, and aren't silly or stupid. And it also means you listen to the other person and give them your full attention. You feel comfortable to disagree with them on things and are able to talk about it.
This video from the Rosey Project offers lots useful tips on how to talk to your partner about sex. Remember: talking and communication is an important part of any relationship, whether sexual or not.
Respect is about caring about other people's feelings, beliefs and opinions even if they aren't the same as yours. It means caring and showing consideration about another persons life.
Trust means that you feel safe with another person, and that they wouldn't do anything to harm you on purpose. You believe what they say to be true, and they believe what you say too.
Honesty is when another person tells the truth. You can be honest with the other person, and they can be honest with you.
Equality is when you both feel equal - you can compromise on things together - and it doesn't feel like either of you have more power or control over the other person.
Feeling comfortable to be yourself
This means you feel like you can wear what you like, try new things, enjoy your hobbies, and express yourself however you want to. You can be yourself and not feel like you have to hide certain parts of your personality, or the things you like, from the other person.
Disagreements happen in relationships, and things won't always be perfect. What is important is that you feel safe and happy with the other person.
What does an unhealthy relationship look like?
An unhealthy relationship is one where someone is mean, controlling or abusive. People can be abused in a number of different ways, and people of any gender can either be abused or be the abusers.
An unhealthy relationship can involve:
- Physical abuse
- Emotional abuse
- Sexual abuse
- Lack of communication
This would be someone hurting you in a physical way such as being hit or slapped. Find out more about physical abuse.
This is when someone puts you down all the time, calling you horrible names (this is called verbal abuse) and trying to control everything you do (this could be controlling your finances or what is known as coercive control).
They make you do sexual things that you don’t want to do or have said no to. Find out more about sexual abuse.
The other person does things that make you afraid like sending frightening text messages or threatening to hit you. Find out more about coercive control.
This involves the other person using things like guilt or jealousy to try to control you or do things you don’t really want to do. It could involve them saying things like "If you really loved/liked me you would do this...". Find out more about coercive control.
The other person doesn't allow you to see other people, or controls who you talk to. Find out more about coercive control.
Lack of Communication
This could be the other person keeping secrets or lying to you, or just not being willing to talk about things that are going on. It might be tempting to explain away violence, anger or controlling behaviour as a way of them showing that they care about you. If it doesn't happen all the time then it might be easy to just put up with it.
Abuse like this is always wrong. You have the right to be safe and to be treated with respect and kindness.
What should I do if my relationship isn't healthy?
If you feel that you're in a situation where your relationship isn't a healthy one, or you experience or recognise any of the signs of an unhealthy relationship listed above, find out where to get support.
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Visit the That's Not OK campaign page for more information.