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Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships

Katherine Williams, Elizabeth Friedl
  • Author
    Katherine Williams

    Katherine Williams has an Mth in Theological Ethics and Philosophy from The University of Aberdeen and a BA in Theatre Arts from Oral Roberts University. Katherine has 10+ years of experience teaching literacy, essay composition, philosophy, and world languages. Katherine is also a TEFL-Certified ESL teacher. She has 3 years of experience teaching and developing curriculum for ESL students.

  • Instructor
    Elizabeth Friedl

    Elizabeth, a Licensed Massage Therapist, has a Master's in Zoology from North Carolina State, one in GIS from Florida State University, and a Bachelor's in Biology from Eastern Michigan University. She has taught college level Physical Science and Biology.

Understand the characteristics of an unhealthy relationship and the characteristics of a healthy relationship. Discover the types of unhealthy relationships, healthy vs unhealthy relationship activities for adults, examples, and a comparison of both. Updated: 01/24/2022

Table of Contents


Healthy Relationship: Definition

A healthy relationship is a relationship in which both people are able to maintain their individuality while still being committed to each other.

A healthy relationship is important for the emotional, mental, and physical well-being of both partners. They are characterized by mutual respect, trust, honesty, commitment, and empathy. A healthy relationship should be rooted in the belief that both parties deserve to be treated with kindness, dignity, and respect.

The following are some of the characteristics of a healthy relationship:

  • Trust: Trust in each other and in themselves.
  • Respect: Respect for their partner's feelings, thoughts, and opinions.
  • Loyalty: Loyal to their partner when they are together and when they are apart.
  • Honesty: Honest with each other about what they want, need, feel, etc.
  • Communication: Open communication about what's going on in their lives - not just surface-level talk but deep conversations where they share their fears and dreams with each other.

There are many types of relationships that could be considered "healthy." Each type of healthy relationship has different characteristics that make it unique. For example, a healthy romantic couple would have a strong sense of intimacy and communication with one another, while platonic friends would have an understanding of boundaries and respect for one another's personal space.

Characteristics of a Healthy Relationship

A healthy relationship is one that is mutually beneficial. It consists of two people who are both willing to compromise, communicate, and work together. There should be an understanding that the relationship will not always be perfect and that there will be disagreements.

A healthy relationship also relies on trust and communication. It is important that both parties feel like they can bring up any concerns or problems they may have without fear of being judged or ignored.

A healthy relationship thrives on mutual respect and love for one another.

characteristics of a healthy relationship healthy vs unhealthy relationships activities for adults

Important characteristics for platonic and romantic relationships include:

  • Mutual respect
  • Trust
  • Respectful communication
  • Mutual understanding and empathy
  • The ability to give and receive constructive feedback
  • A sense of humor

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Unhealthy Relationship: Definition

In general, an unhealthy relationship is one where one person is more invested in the relationship than the other. It is a situation where there is more love and care from one side than the other.

The person who cares less will often be emotionally or physically abusive to their partner. They might make their partner feel guilty for simply talking to someone else, they might refuse to listen when their partner talks about how they feel, and they might refuse to do things that make their partner happy.

Relationships can become unhealthy if one person takes on a parental role and tries to control everything that the other does. This type of controlling behavior can lead to depression and anxiety in the victim of these behaviors.

Overall, if the relationship is not one of mutual honesty, communication, and respect, there is a good change it is an unhealthy relationship which either needs to be dealt with through therapy, communication, and change or the relationship needs to end.

The first step in healing or exiting an unhealthy relationship is to recognize that one or more behaviors that both parties are engaging in are unhealthy.

If an unhealthy relationship is one where there is a cycle of abuse, shame, or adultery, with no remorse from the offending party, it is a good time to seek help and end the relationship.

Characteristics of an Unhealthy Relationship

There are many types of unhealthy relationships: parent and child, romantic partners, and even toxic friends.

Below are some of the major red flags that occur in unhealthy or unsafe relationships.

  • One person or both persons in the relationship are not fully committed to each other.
  • One person or both persons in the relationship does not have a healthy self-image and is usually dependent on their partner for validation.
  • One person or both persons in the relationship have an addiction, such as alcoholism or drug abuse, and they are using it to cope with stressful situations.
  • One person or both persons in the relationship have a mental illness, such as depression or anxiety, and they do not have adequate support from their partner to deal with it.
  • One person or both persons in the relationship does not have a healthy lifestyle and they are putting it before the needs of their partner and children.
  • One person or both persons are physically or emotionally abusive.
  • One person or both persons refuse to communicate honestly with one another.
  • One person or both persons are being unfaithful.
  • One person or both persons are overly controlling.

Types of Unhealthy Relationships

The 5 types of unhealthy relationships are abusive, resentful, carefree, stagnant, and enabler.

An abusive relationship is one where one person physically or emotionally abuses the other person. Abusive relationships are characterized by the abuser being verbally, psychologically, sexually, financially, or physically violent. The victim is always subjected to the abuse and is usually in fear of their partner. The abuser might be a spouse or partner, but it could also be a friend or family member. The abuser might try to control the other person by making them feel bad about themselves and limiting their independence.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are 5 signs of an unhealthy relationship?

There are many signs of an unhealthy relationship and it's important to be aware of the early warning signs of an unhealthy relationship so they can either be addressed or the affected party can leave. These include, but are not limited to:

1) There is a lack of trust.

2) They are not communicating.

3) They are not having fun together.

4) They feel like they're in a competition with each other.

5) One person is always trying to control the other person and their decisions.

What is an unhealthy relationship?

An unhealthy relationship can be defined as one that is characterized by an ongoing pattern of behavior, such as lack of communication, power imbalances, lack of mutual respect, lack of boundaries, physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, etc.

In an unhealthy relationship, there is usually a power imbalance. One partner may have more control over the other partner and the relationship.

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