Skip to main content

Healthy relationships

We recognise how important making friends and developing relationships is to your overall wellbeing. As well as support from a Social Worker or Personal Adviser, we may be able to offer you additional practical and emotional support, such as:

  • Providing you with a mentor/peer mentor
  • Where appropriate, continuing to support contact with the ‘Independent Visitor’ you had while you were in care;
  • Helping to maintain or regain contact with people special to you or who cared for you in the past, like former foster carers or keyworkers
  • Providing you with information about regular groups that take place within the service, where you can meet and mix with other care leavers (please see participation for further details)

Relationships are a necessary part of healthy living, but there is no such thing as a perfect relationship. Relationships, from friends to romances, have the potential to enrich our lives and add to our enjoyment of life. However, these same relationships can cause discomfort, and sometimes even cause harm. Take a few minutes to learn more about how to protect yourself from developing unhealthy relationships.

What makes a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship is when two people develop a connection based on:

  • Mutual respect
  • Trust
  • Honesty
  • Support
  • Fairness/equality
  • Separate identities
  • Good communication
  • A sense of playfulness/fondness

All of these things take work. Each relationship is most likely a combination of both healthy and unhealthy characteristics. Relationships need to be maintained and healthy relationships take work. This applies to all relationships; work relationships, friendships, family, and romantic relationships.

What are signs of a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship should bring more happiness than stress into your life. Every relationship will have stress at times, but you want to prevent prolonged mental stress on either member of the relationship.

Below are some characteristics that may be present in your healthy relationships.

While in a healthy relationship you:

Take care of yourself and have good self-esteem independent of your relationship

Maintain and respect each other’s individuality

Maintain relationships with friends and family

Have activities apart from one another

Are able to express yourselves to one another without fear of consequences

Are able to feel secure and comfortable

Allow and encourage other relationships

Take interest in one another’s activities

Do not worry about violence in the relationship

Trust each other and be honest with each other

Have the option of privacy

Have respect for sexual boundaries

Are honest about sexual activity if it is a sexual relationship

Accept influence. Relationships are give and take; allowing your partner to influence you is important; this can be especially difficult for some men.

Resolve conflict fairly: Fighting is part of even healthy relationships, the difference is how the conflict is handled. Fighting fairly is an important skill you help you have healthier relationships.

What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship?

At times, all relationships will have some of the characteristics listed below. However, unhealthy relationships will exhibit these characteristics more frequently and cause you stress and pressure that is hard to avoid. This tension is unhealthy for both members of the relationship and may lead to problems in other areas of your life.

While in an unhealthy relationship you:

Put one person before the other by neglecting yourself or your partner

Feel pressure to change who you are for the other person

Feel worried when you disagree with the other person

Feel pressure to quit activities you usually/used to enjoy

Pressure the other person into agreeing with you or changing to suit you better

Notice one of you has to justify your actions (e.g., where you go, who you see)

Notice one partner feels obligated to have sex or has been forced

Have a lack of privacy, and may be forced to share everything with the other person

You or your partner refuse to use safer sex methods

Notice arguments are not settled fairly

Experience yelling or physical violence during an argument

Attempt to control or manipulate each other

Notice your partner attempts to controls how you dress and criticizes your behaviors

Do not make time to spend with one another

Have no common friends, or have a lack of respect for each others’ friends and family

Notice an unequal control of resources (e.g., food, money, home, car, etc.)

Experience a lack of fairness and equality

If some of your relationships have some of these characteristics, it does not necessarily mean the end of that relationship. By recognizing how these characteristics affect you, you can begin to work on improving the negative aspect of your relationships to benefit both of you.

When should I seek professional help for my relationship?

If a partner ever tries to harm you physically or force you to do something sexually that should be a clear sign for you that it is an unhealthy relationship. In that situation, you should consider getting help, or ending the relationship. Even if you believe the person loves you, it does not make up for the harm they are doing to you.

Other circumstances include:

When you are unhappy in a relationship, but cannot decide if you should accept your unhappiness, try to improve the relationship, or end the relationship.

When you have decided to leave a relationship, but find yourself still in the relationship.

When you think you are staying in the relationship for the wrong reasons, such as fear of being alone or guilt.

If you have a history of staying in unhealthy relationships.

Having a counsellor or mental health provider to talk to can help you work out challenges in your relationships and find a solution that is healthy for both partners.  

If you are worried about whether your relationship is healthy or not, or want to find out how healthy your relationship is, you can use the tool on ‘The Mix’ website: Is my relationship healthy?

You can also call:

The 24hr National Domestic Violence helpline on 0808 2000247, for support and advice including refuge accommodation

The Samaritans, who provide 24 hour emotional support and can be contacted on 116123.

In an emergency, call 999.

Call 101 for police non-emergency assistance.