We each have the right to feel safe, valued and respected in our relationships. Spending time with someone you like should be fun, enjoyable and something that makes you feel good. However it is important to know that not all relationships you experience will necessarily be healthy ones.
People in relationships do not always agree with each other and sometimes they argue. As you learn about one another, you may come across things that you do not agree on, or things that frustrate you about the other person. How you handle conflict in your relationship is what’s important; whether the issue is something that you can resolve, or if it’s ongoing and causes problems in your relationship. For information about how to resolve conflict see Respectful relationships.
You may find yourself in a relationship with someone who says they care for you but they actually make you feel weak, anxious, afraid or upset. You may have strong feelings for them, but their behaviour may be unhealthy. You may make excuses or misinterpret violence, controlling behavior or anger as an expression of love, but even if they do love you, this behaviour can be harmful to your emotional and physical health, and can often get worse the longer you stay in the relationship.
Being able to identify the warning signs of an unhealthy relationship can help you to keep safe. This information can also be helpful if you have a friend experiencing an unhealthy relationship.
Some of the warning signs may include when your partner:
- Checks up on you all the time – where you are and who you’re with
- Gets jealous easily and tries to control what you do
- Doesn’t like you seeing your family and friends
- Blames you when things go wrong, puts you down or calls you names
- Harms you physically or emotionally
- Says things like ‘if you loved me, you would …’ and tries to guilt you into doing things you don’t want to do
- Makes you feel that you should avoid doing things that would make them angry, and makes you feel nervous about their response to things
We each have the right to feel safe, valued and accepted in our relationships.
Many people assume that unhealthy behaviour in a relationship would be obvious to the people in the relationship and those around them, as it’s often thought to only be physical violence. However unhealthy behaviour can be present in a number of ways, and can have harmful effects on your health and wellbeing.
Examples of unhealthy behaviour in relationships:
- Constant teasing, bullying, insulting, humiliating
- Threats, intimidation, put downs, lying, manipulating
- Obsessive jealousy
- Isolating you from friends / family
- Making you feel responsible for their anger
- Physically harming you, such as hitting, pushing, pulling hair, or threatening to harm you
- Injuring you or threatening to injure you with objects/weapons
- Throwing objects or punching the wall
- Reckless driving
- Denying you access to medical care, including contraception
- Name calling
- Harassing phone calls
- Shouting, swearing
- Checking up on you constantly to know where you are – including checking your emails, phone and social networking sites
- Controlling who you see, where you go and what you do
- Preventing you from seeing friends and/or family
- Stalking – repeated call or texts, watching / following you
- ANY forced or unwanted sexual behavior, including kissing, touching or having sex
- Pressuring you to send sexual texts and images of yourself
- Sharing any sexual text and images of you to others
- Forcing you to watch pornography
- Pressuring you to not use contraception, or lying to you about using contraception
- Taking your money or always asking for money
- Forcing you to buy them things
- Pressuring or forcing you to work or not to work
It can be very scary if you are in a relationship with someone who is hurting you, or if your friend is in a harmful relationship, and it can be hard to know what to do. We all have a right to feel safe and respected in our relationships; it’s important to remember that you have a choice to be in any relationship, and the right to leave. Your happiness and safety comes first, and staying with someone because you’re afraid to be alone, or you’re worried about the possible consequences of leaving them, is never a good reason to be with someone. It can take time to get over a break up and to regain your confidence, but in time you will be ready to meet new people and find someone who treats you the way you deserve.
If you, or someone you know, are experiencing unhealthy behaviour or abuse there are people who can help you.