Healthy or Unhealthy?

Recognizing Unhealthy Relationships

Recognizing Healthy Relationships

One way to tell whether a relationship is healthy is to look at the LGBTQ Equality Wheel.

Another way is to check it against these characteristics of a healthy relationship:

  • Each person in the relationship has a separate identity.  If there is not enough separateness, one person gives up a sense of their own identity, devoting much effort to becoming what the other person expects.
  • Although each person desires the other, each can survive without the other.  If one partner says, “I simply cannot live without you,” it can spell out trouble for the relationship.  Another person’s dependency should not be interpreted as love but as seeking an object to make them feel complete.
  • Each person is able to talk openly with the other about matters of significance in the relationship.  Each person can safely and openly express grievances and let the other know the changes they desire in their relationship.
  • Each person assumes responsibility for their own level of happiness and refrains from blaming their partner if they are unhappy.  Of course, in a close relationship or friendship the unhappiness of a partner is bound to affect a person, but they should not expect another person to make them happy, fulfilled, or excited.  Ultimately, a person is responsible for defining their own goals and they can take actions to change what they are doing if they are unhappy with a situation.
  • Each person is willing to work at keeping their relationship alive.  This means that one person cannot be doing all the work!
  • Both people are able to have fun and to play together, and they enjoy doing this with each other.  It is easy to become so serious that people forget to take time to enjoy those they love.
  • Each person is growing, changing, and opening up to new experiences.  When a person relies on others for their personal fulfillment and confirmation as a person, they are in trouble.  The best way to build solid relationships with others is for each person in a relationship to work on building their own personality.
  • The two people are equal in the relationship.  People who feel that they are typically the “givers” and that their partners are usually unavailable when they need them might question the balance in their relationships.  In some relationships one person may feel compelled to assume a superior position relative to the other.  For example, one partner might be very willing to listen and give advice yet unwilling to go to the other person and show vulnerability and need.  Both partners need to be willing to look at aspects of inequality and demonstrate a willingness to negotiate changes.
  • Each person actively demonstrates concern for the other.  In a vital relationship each person does more than just talk about how much they value each other.  Their actions show their care and concern more than any words.  Both partners have a desire to give to the other.  They have an interest in each other’s welfare.
  • Each person finds meaning and sources of nourishment outside the relationship.  Sometimes people become very possessive in their friendships.  A sign of a healthy relationship is that both partners avoid assuming an attitude of ownership toward each other.  Although each may experience jealousy at times, neither person demands that their partner deaden their feelings for others.  Their lives did not begin when they met each other, nor would their lives end if they should part.
  • Each person is moving in a direction that is personally meaningful.  They are both excited about the quality of their lives and projects.  Applied to couples, this guideline implies that both individuals feel a sense of engagement in their work, play, and relationships with other friends and family members.
  • If they are in a committed relationship, they maintain this relationship by choice, not simply for the sake of the children involved, out of duty, or because of convenience.  They choose to keep ties with each other even if things get rough or if they sometimes experience emptiness in the relationship.  Because they share common purposes and values, they are willing to look at what is lacking in their relationship and work on changing undesirable situations.
  • They are able to cope with anger in their relationship.  Couples often seek relationship counseling with the expectation that they will learn to stop fighting and that conflict will end.  This is not a realistic goal.  More important than the absence of fighting is learning how to fight cleanly and constructively, which entails an ongoing process of expressing anger and frustrations in healthy ways.
  • Each person recognizes the need for solitude and is willing to create the time in which to be alone.  Each allows the other a sense of privacy.  Because they recognize each other’s individual integrity, they avoid prying into every thought or manipulating the other to disclose what they want to keep private.  Each person needs to realize that their partner is a separate person with their own needs.  That may include needing time alone when a partner wants to talk.
  • They do not expect the other to do for them what they are capable of doing for themselves.  They do not expect the other person to make them feel alive, take away their boredom, assume their risks, or make them feel valued and important.  Each is working towards creating their autonomous identity.  Consequently, neither person depends on the other for confirmation of their personal worth; nor does one walk in the shadow of the other.
  • They encourage each other to become all that they are capable of becoming.  Unfortunately, people often have an investment in keeping those with whom they are intimately involved from changing.  Their expectations and needs may lead them to resist changes in their partner and thus make it difficult for their partner to grow.  If they recognize their fears, however, they can change their need to block their partner’s progress.
  • Each has a commitment to the other.  Commitment is a vital part of an intimate relationship.  It means that people involved have an investment in their future together and that they are willing to stay with each other in times of crisis and conflict.  Although many people express an aversion to any long-term commitment in a relationship, how deeply will they allow themselves to be loved if they believe the relationship can be dissolved on a whim when things look bleak?  Perhaps, for some people, a fear of intimacy gets in the way of developing a sense of commitment.  Loving and being loved is both exciting and frightening, and some people may have to struggle with the issue of how much anxiety they want to tolerate.  Commitment to another person involves risks and carries a price, but it is an essential part of an intimate relationship.

Characteristics Adapted From

Kathy Flores