Healthy relationships

When we first meet someone everything can seem perfect but there are often early signs that the relationship is unhealthy. 

Woman whispering on phone while partner watches over her shoulder

What are the signs of a healthy relationship?

A healthy relationship is one in which both partners respect each other and each other’s wishes, feelings, beliefs and privacy.

One of the best ways of describing a healthy relationship is describing the way someone feels in that relationship:

They will feel:

  • safe
  • trusted
  • comfortable
  • valued
  • listened to
  • understood
  • accepted
  • an equal
  • supported

In addition, another good way of determining if a relationship is healthy is to look at what occurs when there is a lack of agreement. When relationships are very new there may be few signs of conflict as both partners are trying to please each other. However, eventually there will be occasions when partners cannot agree on an issue. This is completely normal and actually a sign of a healthy relationship. How a partner responds to this lack of agreement is what is important.

A partner should accept there is a difference in opinion and not try and convince the other person that they are wrong or should change their mind/belief. They should be respectful of their partner’s opinion and make an attempt to understand their point of view, even if it means they are still not in agreement.

Good communication is a key part of a healthy relationship. Women need to feel they can share their true feelings, including if they are unhappy, without feeling they will be blamed or made to feel guilty about these feelings. They should feel like they are being listened to and that what they are saying is not being dismissed or belittled. In addition, if the woman’s partner makes a mistake, they should be able to accept it and not blame her for it instead.

What are the signs of an unhealthy relationship?

There are often early warning signs that a relationship is not a healthy one or is at risk of becoming unhealthy. These early signs are often not physical abuse such as pushing or hitting but rather emotional and/or social abuse such as name calling or isolation from family or friends.  

Many women don’t recognise the more subtle early warning signs or initially confuse them for deep feelings of affection. For example, if a partner wants to go everywhere with them, a woman might feel that this is because they just don’t want to be apart. However, this could also be a sign that their new partner wants to know where they are all the time and control who else they see.

The following checklist of early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship is not exhaustive; there may be other signs as well. A partner’s behaviour does not have to correspond to all the signs for it to be an unhealthy relationship. Similarly, it is common for partners in an unhealthy relationship to be very charming, attentive and complimentary at times, often when they are trying to keep the woman from leaving the relationship. 

Checklist of early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship

  • Does your partner not like it when you spend time with other people such as family, friends or work colleagues, preferring that you spend time with only them?

  • Has your partner checked your mobile phone logs or emails without your permission?

  • Does your partner repeatedly call or text you or drop by your house or work unexpectedly?

  • Does your partner like you to wear particular clothes or your hair and make-up a certain way?

  • Does your partner not want you to pursue your own hobbies or interests?

  • Does your partner get jealous easily, accusing you of looking at other people or not being faithful?

  • Does your partner get angry over minor things?

  • Does your partner admit when they are wrong about something?

  • Are you afraid to disagree about something because of how your partner will react?

  • Has your partner ever destroyed your belongings or harmed or threatened to harm your pets?

If you or someone you know is impacted by domestic and family violence, call DVConnect Womensline on 1800 811 811 or Mensline on 1800 600 636. In an emergency, call triple zero (000). She can also utilise one of the many apps about healthy relationships and/or family violence. 

The iMatter app has been developed to help young women understand the warning signs of abusive and controlling behaviour in relationships as well as promote healthy self-esteem. The aim is to build resilience, to educate about disrespect and intimate partner violence and to promote conversations among young people about healthy relationship behaviour. This app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
Cost: Free 

Daisy is an app developed by 1800RESPECT, the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling helpline. It connects women around Australia to services providing support for the impacts of sexual assault, family violence and domestic violence. Family members and friends can also use Daisy to gather information and support women’s decision making. The app has some unique features such as the ability to search the Internet for more information without leaving a history in your browser. This app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices.
Cost: Free

Before downloading these apps, firstly consider your safety. If a device is not private, it may not be safe to download or share these apps. 

Women’s Health also has a series of short videos on healthy and respectful relationships on our YouTube channel:

Last updated: May 2018

Women's Health Queensland Wide Inc. This article was written by Kirsten Braun and reviewed by the Women's Health Queensland Wide editorial committee. It was published in Health Journey 2016 Issue 1.


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