Healthy relationships are an important part of maintaining your wellness. Whether your relationship is one of friendship, family, work, sex or romance, this page will help you learn how to maintain healthy relationships, differentiate between healthy and unhealthy behaviors and understand how your relationship may be affecting your mental health and wellness. Find information and resources that fit your needs in each category below.
A healthy relationship is...
Safe and equal. You feel free to express how you feel and you respect one another. Whether the relationship is one of friendship, family, work, sex or romance – generally, you both feel good being in the relationship and trust one another. Maintaining healthy relationships is important for your own wellness and the wellness of others.
How do healthy relationships contribute to wellness?
- You take better care of yourself – physically and mentally. Having someone who cares about you and will encourage and help you to practice positive health behaviors creates an environment that prioritizes wellness.
- Relieve stress. Being in the presence of someone who listens to you with positive regard and care can lower your stress levels.
- Purpose and meaning. You want to be there for your friends and loved ones – this can create a powerful effect on your spiritual wellness.
- Increased energy. Spending time with people you enjoy and desire being around helps release tension and keep your energy high.
- Provide a strong support system. Forming and maintaining healthy relationships with the people in your life helps you achieve your goals and try new things. No matter how much time passes between seeing friends, coworkers and family – healthy relationships with these individuals will foster constant support and reassurance despite what experiences you face.
Find tips for maintaining healthy relationships here.
Note that in order to have healthy relationships with others, it is important to prioritize your wellness – no matter what you are experiencing. Visit Self Care and the Eight Dimensions of Wellness to practice maintaining a healthy relationship with yourself through wellness.
A healthy sexual relationship is...
About respecting yourself and your partner’s boundaries. Taking the steps to ensure you are both comfortable with the experience and protected from sexually transmitted infections will ensure that you are maintaining a healthy sexual relationship. By practicing consent and safe sex, you and your partner can have a fun and secure experience while supporting your physical and psychological wellness needs.
How to practice safe sex? Learn about the ways to practice safe sex here.
To get access to safe sex tools and services: visit your doctor, a clinic or find your nearest planned parenthood here.
Find information on what consent looks like and how you can practice consent here.
Learn more about the legal role of consent here.
A healthy relationship is not...
Unequal and disrespectful. An unhealthy relationship is characterized by a lack of trust and a lack of communication. A relationship is not healthy if you or the other person(s) begin to cross boundaries and are dishonest with one another.
How unhealthy relationships affect your wellness?
- Decreased positive health behaviors. When you are in an unhealthy relationship, you sacrifice your wellness to keep up with the strains of the relationship.
- Stress. You may question how your relationship got to where it is or if you are doing something wrong, and although it is not your fault, an unhealthy relationship can disrupt your emotional wellness.
- Substance use. Unhealthy relationships can lead to feelings of resentment, conflict and anger toward someone you care about; increased use of alcohol or other substances may serve as coping mechanisms as a result.
- Poor self-worth. Whether because the other person is putting you down or you are placing blame on yourself, an unhealthy relationship can hinder your self-confidence and self-esteem.
- No support system. Lack of communication and care in a relationship can make you feel isolated and alone. When you do not feel supported by the people in your life, or when the people in your life do not feel supported by you, no one will be able to achieve their goals. Healthy relationships with your friends, family and loved ones are critical for cultivating new experiences and learning.
For a guide to ending an unhealthy relationship and tips for maintaining wellness during a break-up, click here.
An abusive relationship is…
One-sided and controlling. No one deserves a relationship which compromises their emotional, physical and/or psychological well-being; it is important to recognize if your wellness is being sacrificed for the benefit of another person.
An abusive relationship may result in coping mechanisms or patterns of behavior that may keep you safe from your abuser, but ultimately disrupt your ability to be well and maintain mental health.
A helpful visual to assist you in identifying where your relationship currently stands is provided here: http://www.loveisrespect.org/dating-basics/relationship-spectrum/
What is abuse?
Abuse can be any behaviors that physically harm, create fear, prevent someone from doing what they wish or using force to make someone behave in ways they do not want. Abuse can include: physical and sexual violence, threats, intimidation, emotional abuse and economic deprivation.
What is manipulation?
Manipulation is a form of abuse and a form of control. Manipulation is when one person is used for the benefit of another. The manipulator deliberately creates an imbalance of power, exploiting the victim’s emotions in order to serve his or her agenda.
Abuse and manipulation can occur within friendships, families, work relationships, sexual relationships, romantic relationships and any other type of relationship. No matter what relationship you or someone you know may be in, abuse of any kind is not the victim’s fault. Everyone deserves respect.
Correlation between Abuse and Mental Health
Being in an abusive relationship can have long term effects on your mental health and wellness. When an abuser constantly puts someone down and blames them for the abuse, it can be easy for the victim to believe those statements and think that the abuse is their fault.
As a result, the victim of abuse may be experiencing:
- A loss of self-worth (they may see themselves through the eyes of their abuser)
- Feelings of shame
- Feelings of isolation
- Emotional stress and trauma
These factors can all influence the victim’s wellness. As a result, victims of abuse may be at increased risk for several mental health challenges, including:
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Substance Abuse
- Suicidal Ideation and Self-Harm
Abusive relationships also inflict fear on the victim of abuse; this can lead to feelings of anxiety and hyper-vigilance. Living in a constant state of fear can affect your current and long term wellness and disrupt your everyday activity.
Short term effects of fear:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Excessive sweating
- Loss of appetite
- Muscles tension or weakness
- Fast heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
Long term effects of fear:
For some, the short-term effects of fear can take over their lives; concentration, diet, and sleep can all become inconsistent. Fear can manifest itself in a number of ways for different people, yet overwhelmingly, it results in a disruption to one’s wellness.
Visit Self Care for tips to maintain your wellness. Find more information on unhealthy, abusive and manipulative relationships in our Q&A section.