The Center for Empowerment and Education

Healthy, Unhealthy & Abusive Relationships

Relationships can exist on a continuum from healthy to abusive. It is important to pay attention to the characteristics present in our family, friend, and dating relationships to be able to determine whether they are healthy, unhealthy, or abusive. Relationships that are abusive are rooted in power and control, and they are likely to make us feel insecure, scared, stressed out, and like we are walking on eggshells. Healthy relationships are rooted in equality and respect, and they allow us to feel safe, happy, and secure with ourselves and with our partner.

It is possible for unhealthy behaviors to exist in a healthy relationship at times i.e., a conflict that escalated to hurtful words. While arguing is normal, healthy conflict resolution can exist through empathy and open communication. Relationships become abusive when those unhealthy behaviors are used intentionally to exert power and control. Unhealthy behaviors should not happen often. If you are noticing a pattern of these behaviors or they feel like they are escalating, these are red flags (warning signs) that can lead to abuse.

Everyone has the right to feel valued, respected, and safe in their relationships no matter what.

Check out the lists below to learn a little bit more about what healthy and unhealthy relationships can look like. 

What makes a relationship healthy? (Green Flags)

Does your partner… 

  • View/treat you as an equal? 
  • Respect your boundaries?
  • Make you feel emotionally and physically safe? 
  • Listen to your feelings? 
  • Support your goals? 
  • Trust you? 
  • Allow the relationship to go at a pace that feels comfortable? 
  • Communicate openly and honestly? 
  • Treat you fairly? 
  • Respect your opinions and values? 
  • Encourage time with your friends/family outside of the relationship? 

What makes a relationship unhealthy? (Red Flags)

Does your partner… 

  • Try to control you? 
  • Get jealous or accuse you of flirting/cheating?
  • Expect you to check-in all the time?
  • Tell you what you can wear or who you can talk to?
  • Embarrass or put you down?
  • Threaten to hurt you or themselves? 
  • Make you feel like you can’t say no? 
  • Isolate you from your friends/family? 
  • Emotionally or physically hurt you? 
  • Threaten, pressure, or force unwanted sexual activity? 
  • Scare you by acting violently, driving dangerously, restraining you, yelling, or throwing things?


If you think you might be experiencing red flags in your relationship, CEE is here to support you.