Healthy Romantic Relationships

Foundation of Healthy Relationships

Humans are social and emotional beings with the ability to develop and form interpersonal connections. However, not every relationship is healthy and some may even be abusive. Being able to identify the type of relationship, specifically romantic ones, can be difficult. Parents do not typically teach their children about what a healthy and unhealthy relationship looks like. The definition of a healthy relationship can slightly differ as well depending on the individuals and their relationship. AACI identifies foundational behaviors and characteristics for a healthy romantic relationship in the chart below.

Foundation of Healthy Relationships infographic

When establishing these key components in your relationship it’s important to define each component. Defining foundations and characteristics of the relationship may involve:

  • Communication– communicate openly and honestly in person, respect each other’s opinions, give your partner your full attention, listen first before responding, take accountability, be receptive to constructive criticism, and ask clarifying questions when confused or unsure.
  • Safety & Trust– create a physically and emotionally safe environment to make a comfortable environment for expressing opinions and concerns. Be reliable, give the benefit of the doubt, respect boundaries, be honest, and align your actions with your words.
  • Consent & Boundaries– have active communication and acknowledge that both parties have the right to withdraw consent at any time in regards to sexual activity. Identify and establish your physical, emotional, sexual, material, spiritual, interpersonal and online boundaries.
  • Mutual Support– work together with shared goals, act as a team, be aware of and take interest in partner’s needs, support each other’s choices, offer encouragement, listen non-judgmentally, value opinions, and engage in activities that facilitate connection.
  • Personal Freedom– encourage independence in your relationship, give each other the freedom to be yourself.
  • Respect & Equality– respect privacy and space and value each other’s opinions, feelings and needs. Make mutual choices and decisions.

Unhealthy & Abusive Relationships

It’s easier to identify healthy relationship behaviors and dynamics rather than identify unhealthy or abusive behaviors. Unhealthy behaviors in a relationship may include lying, cheating, jealousy, being disrespectful, and controlling a partner. Controlling a partner includes keeping track of your partner’s location and who they hang out with, going through their phone or online accounts without permission, isolating your partner from their friends or family, and preventing your partner from doing certain activities or having money.

There are different behaviors and signs that indicate that a relationship is abusive rather than unhealthy. The chart below describes the different types of abuse including physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, financial, digital, stalking.

PhysicalIntentional, unwanted physical contact or behaviors that cause or have the intention of causing injury, disability or death-Scratching
-Throwing items at you
-Preventing you from leaving or forcing you to go somewhere
-Threatening to use a weapon against you
Emotional/VerbalIncludes threats, insults, constant monitoring or “checking in”, excessive texting, humiliation, intimidation, isolation or stalking-Putting you down
-Controlling your actions
-Yelling/screaming at you
-Intentionally humiliating you in front of others
-Isolating you from others
-Damaging your property
-Threatening to harm themselves to keep you -from ending the relationship
SexualPressuring or coercing someone to do a sexual activity that they don’t want to do or controlling sexual activity and circumstances or controlling reproductive methods and choices-Unwanted touching, kissing, rough or violent sexual activity
-Refusing to use condoms
-Preventing someone from using protection against STIs
-Restricting someone’s access to birth control
-Engaging in sexual contact with someone -intoxicated from drugs or alcohol, unconscious, asleep or unable to give clear and informed consent
-Threatening, pressuring, or forcing someone to engage in sexual activity
FinancialControlling a person’s ability to acquire, use, and maintain financial resources in order to gain power and control of the person and relationship-Giving you an allowance or monitoring what you buy
-Withholding your money
-Preventing you from seeing shared bank accounts or records
-Getting you fired
-Refusing to provide you with necessities (food, money, rent, medicine or clothes)
-Giving you presents or paying for things with the expectation of something in return
-Using financial circumstances to control you
DigitalUsing technologies to bully, harass, stalk, or intimidate a partner-Controlling your social media
-Insulting or humiliating you in online posts
-Stealing or pressuring you to share your account passwords
-Sending, requesting, or pressuring you to send unwanted explicit photos or videos, sexts, or compromising messages
-Using social media to track your activities
-Sending you negative, insulting, or threatening messages or emails
-Looking through your phone or checking up on your pictures, texts, and phone records
-Using technology to monitor your activities
StalkingMaking someone feel afraid or unsafe by watching, following, or harassing them repeatedly-Showing up at your home or workplace unannounced or united
-Sending you unwanted texts, messages, letters, emails, or voicemails
-Leaving you unwanted items, gifts, or flowers
-Repeatedly making unwanted phone calls to you or your social circle
-Tracking your activities on social media or other technology
-Spreading rumors about you online or in person
-Waiting around at places you spend time


CRS has various therapists that specialize and work with individuals in abusive romantic relationships or were in abusive relationships. If you find yourself in an abusive relationship I have also provided a list of resources below.