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Healthy vs. Unhealthy

Healthy relationships can play a prominent role in a teen’s life. Everyone wants to love and feel loved.

How do we determine if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy? If we are in an unhealthy relationship — how do we get out?

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Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship

Open communication

Both parties can convey their feelings and opinions. Being able to openly communicate means understanding that different opinions are ok, being able to vocalize issues or problems, and working towards mutually satisfying solutions.


The relationship is built on truth, not playing games. Both parties are open with their feelings.


Both parties take responsibility for their actions and do not create excuses for their behavior. This includes being able to admit when you are wrong.

Shared responsibility and Equal Power

Making decisions together and being aware of each other’s needs. Each partner has an equal say in the relationship. No one person makes all the decisions.


Treating your partner like she/he has value. You recognize your partner for the person that they are. You acknowledge each other’s differences and are able to listen to each other with understanding.

Support and Trust

Being supportive and wanting what is best for your partner. You and your partner know that you can rely on each other. You offer encouragement to each other, and acknowledge that it is okay to have other friends outside of your relationship. You open up and share your vulnerabilities with one another, without fear of negative reactions.

Negotiation and Fairness

Negotiation and Fairness – Seeking mutually satisfying conclusions to conflict. You and you partner are able to find solutions that are agreeable to you both. You acknowledge each other’s wants and needs, and when conflict arises, you try to consider it from your partner’s point of view. “Winning the argument” is not important.

Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship

Physical Abuse

Any unwanted physical contact on you or your person. Physical abuse does not have to hurt or leave a mark. It can include:

  • Scratching, biting, kicking, punching, or strangling
  • Throwing things
  • Pulling hair
  • Grabbing on clothing
  • Pushing or pulling
  • Using a weapon
  • Grabbing your face to make you look at them
  • Grabbing you to prevent you from leaving or to force you to go somewhere
  • Physically forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act
Emotional/Verbal Abuse

Physically forcing you to have sex or perform a sexual act

Any non-physical behaviors such as threats, insults, ignoring, constant monitoring or “checking in”, excessive texting, intimidation, isolation, humiliation, or stalking. It can include:

  • Isolation or Exclusion – Controlling what a partner can do, who he/she talks to or interacts with, where he/she goes, etc. Limiting a partner’s access to the outside world (such as restricting time with friends or family). Using jealousy to justify these actions.
  • Dishonesty – Being deceitful in one’s behavior; lying.
  • Dependence – Being unable to maintain friendships outside of the dating relationship. Being overly clingy or needy towards a dating partner.
  • Disrespect – Putting a partner down. Making him/her feel bad about him/herself. Name-calling. Making a partner think they are “crazy”. Making a partner feel guilty or humiliating a partner.
  • Intimidation – Making a partner afraid by looks, words, or actions. Destruction of property, harming of pets, or displaying weapons.
  • Hostility or Threatening – Carrying out threats against a partner. Threatening to leave, commit suicide, or call the police if you do not comply with your partner’s wishes. Making a partner drop criminal charges or commit illegal acts for fear of the repercussions.
  • Minimization/Denial/Blame – Making light of the abuse and not taking your concerns seriously. Denying that the abuse happened. Saying that you caused the abuse.
  • Using Social Status – Making one partner like a servant. Making all the decisions. One partner defines the gender roles.
  • Peer Pressure – Telling malicious lies about you to your peers. Threatening to expose your weaknesses or spread rumors.
Sexual Abuse

Any action that pressures or coerces someone to do something sexually they don’t want to do, and behavior that impacts a person’s ability to control their sexual activity or the circumstances in which sexual activity occurs, including oral sex, rape, or restricting access to birth control and condoms. Sexual abuse can include:

  • Unwanted kissing/touching
  • Unwanted violent or rough sexual activity
  • Repeatedly using sexual insults towards someone
  • Repeatedly pressuring of threatening someone into unwanted sexual activity
  • Refusing to use condoms or restricting someone’s access to birth control
  • Sexual contact during which a person can’t consent due to drunkenness, being drugged, or otherwise being unable to give a clear “yes” or “no”
  • Rape or attempted rape
Financial Abuse

Any attempt to control a person’s money, what they can and cannot buy, or requiring access to someone’s bank account. Financial abuse can include:

  • Giving you an allowance and closely watching what you buy
  • Refusing to let you see bank statements
  • Placing your paycheck in their bank account and denying you access to it
  • Refusing to give you money for rent, clothing, food, medicine, etc.
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
  • Getting you fired by harassing you, your employer or coworkers on the job.
  • Giving you presents and/or paying for things like dinner and expecting you to somehow return the favor.
  • Using their money to overpower you because they know you are not in the same financial situation as they are.
Digital Abuse

the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner. Digital abuse can include:

  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
  • Steals or insists to be given your passwords.
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return.
  • Pressures you to send explicit video.
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So how do we find healthy relationships?

The Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalition created a “Relationship Bill of Rights” which accurately explains everything you should expect in a relationship:

  • To be treated with dignity and respect
  • To follow my own values and standards
  • To say no and not feel guilty
  • To experience and express my feelings
  • To feel safe
  • To take time for myself
  • To change my mind
  • To ask for what I want
  • To ask for information
  • To make mistakes
  • To do less than I am humanly capable of doing
  • To be me and feel good about myself
  • To leave conversations with people who make me feel put down or humiliated
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  • To act only in ways that will promote my dignity and self-respect
  • To feel scared and say “I’m afraid”
  • To end the relationship
  • To not be responsible for others’ behavior, actions, feelings, or problems
  • To expect honesty from others
  • To all of my feelings
  • To make decisions based on my feelings, my judgments, or any reason that I choose
  • To change and grow
  • To be happy
  • To make friends and be myself around people
  • To be angry at someone I love
  • To both experience and let go of fear, guilt, and shame
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Getting out of an Unhealthy Relationship

Breaking up can be hard. However, if you are in a relationship that is harmful to your physical or psychological health, you need to get help! If you are in an unhealthy relationship:

  • Tell someone. Talk to a trusted adult or close friend about your situation.
  • Plan your break up. If you decide to break up with this person, make sure you feel safe doing so. If you don’t feel safe breaking up in person, do it over the phone. If you do break up in person, do so in a public place. Bring family or friends along as back up.
  • Do not try and explain your reasons for breaking up more than once. No answer is going to make your ex happy.
  • Understand that it’s normal to miss your ex. Even if your ex was abusive, you still probably spent a lot of time with them. It is totally normal to miss this person. If you are struggling with this, create a list of reasons of why you broke up and review it.
  • If your partner was controlling and jealous, it is likely that they made the majority of your decisions. It can be overwhelming to choose again. If you are feeling stressed out, talk to people in your support network such as your family and friends.
  • Let the people that care about you know about your break up. They can find ways to help you feel safer.
  • Save any threatening or harassing messages your ex sends. Set your profile to private on social networking sites and ask friends to do the same.
  • If your ex shows up at your home, school or workplace and tries to confront you, do not answer the door. Seek safety immediately.
  • Trust your instincts. If you feel afraid, you probably have a good reason.
  • If you feel like you are in immediate danger, call 911.
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For further information

Check out for 24 hour online, text and phone support.

You can also call Centerstone at 1-888-291-4357 (HELP)
to schedule an appointment with a therapist.

If you feel like you need immediate help, please call 1-800-681-7444 for 24-hour Crisis Services.

We are located in Nashville, Tennessee

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