One of the most important parts of helping youth (and adults!) engage in safe and supportive relationships is to be able to recognize signs of healthy versus unhealthy relationships. In the first of this two-part series, we’ll discuss healthy signs, and in Part 2 we’ll delve into unhealthy signs.
It’s important to remember that no relationship is 100% perfect – there are going to be times of disagreement. What’s key is that good communication happens so you can get through difficult times with everyone being heard and safe.
10 signs of a healthy relationship
One Love offers the following 10 signs of a healthy relationship. There are certainly others, but these are a good starting point. Talk with your youth about what each sign means and have them think of examples from real life and pop culture.
1) Comfortable Pace: The relationship is moving at a pace that both partners feel good about. This includes touching and having sex as well as general emotional intensity. Each partner feels comfortable about their level of commitment and how they see the relationship. There is no pressure to become exclusive. For adults – for decisions like moving in together, having children, etc. – these decisions are made together and with open conversation. There is no pressure to talk or text constantly, and it is not a chore when you do. Both partners feel happy and are looking forward to the changes in the relationship – whether it be more physical intimacy or other factors.
2) Honesty: Each partner feels comfortable sharing their feelings and emotions with each other. There is no fear that the other person will respond aggressively or violently. Partners are able to communicate with each other honestly and talk through any difficult feelings that occur.
3) Respect: You and your partner respect each other as individuals. You honor and value each other’s goals, beliefs, and boundaries. Each partner supports the other and respects the differences as well as the similarities. This may be seen through compliments, pep talks, kindness, giving space when needed, and providing support to allow each person to develop their own interests and goals.
4) Kindness: Simply put, you are kind to each other equally. Kindness may be shown in a variety of ways, such as listening to your partner, being a shoulder to cry on, doing small favors (e.g., running an errand for them), giving them a card, being happy for them when good things happen, etc. – but it’s key that kindness is shown equally from both partners.
5) Healthy Conflict: A healthy relationship does not mean no conflict or disagreements. Every relationship has times when partners disagree with each other. During those times, in a healthy relationship, you will be able to talk to your partner about your point of view without any fear. Each partner gives the other time to express their feelings and opinions. Conflicts are worked through together; you are able to come to an agreement using words and without causing physical or emotional harm. Each partner feels safe to disagree with the other.
6) Trust: Each partner believes that nothing will be done to hurt the other. There are no negative repercussions if you spend time alone or with friends and family; rather, it’s supported. You can text, chat, and have private conversations with whomever you like and not be asked to limit them or show them to your partner. Passwords are not shared; you can maintain your privacy. Partners don’t use a previous experience of broken trust as an excuse for not trusting you; you believe each other.
7) Independence: The relationship allows each partner to maintain their individuality. Partners can spend time alone and with other friends and family without their partner. Each person can continue with their own interests, financial resources, extracurricular activities and/or job, and friends. While you do spend time together and enjoy each other, it is also normal and accepted to spend time apart.
8) Equality: Each partner has equal power in the relationship; no one person is the “boss.” When decisions about the relationship are made, you make them together. No one partner tries to control the other. You talk and decide together about your relationship and where it’s going. You put equal effort into the relationship, compromise the same amount, and both feel you are equally important parts of the relationship. The opinions, interests, and desires of both partners are equally respected by the other. Chores and finances are divided evenly; both partners contribute to the relationship. You decide together on physical intimacy, activities, and more!
9) Taking Responsibility: If one partner makes a mistake, they accept responsibility for their actions. Bad choices are not blamed on drugs or alcohol, a bad day at work, or on the other partner. Both partners apologize when wrong. You express your feelings and work to convey how you will remedy the mistake.
10) Fun: Every relationship should include fun! Both partners enjoy spending time together. You have common interests and frequently enjoy the time you spend together. You make each other happy! You want to be able to laugh together and appreciate each other’s sense of humor. Psychologist Dr. Margaret Paul says, “Laughter and fun play a huge role in a healthy relationship.”
Do you want to evaluate your relationship or check yourself as a partner? Love is Respect, a national domestic violence prevention resource, has these two tools: Is Your Relationship Healthy? and Am I a Good Partner?
Healthy relationship scenarios
Go through these scenarios and identify which of the above healthy signs they reflect (then see the answer key below)!
1) You had a hard day at school. Your partner buys you your favorite cookie with a feel better card and gives it to you.
2) A person you have been dating would like to date exclusively. You are not sure you are ready to commit to that. You tell them you enjoy being with them but feel you need more time before you become exclusive. They are disappointed but understand. They do not pressure you into being exclusive.
3) Your partner uses a name or pronoun you don’t like but stops using it once you correct them or ask them not to.
4) Your partner does not like soccer, but you love it! They encourage you to play on the team and to do the things you love.
5) You miss your partner when you go on vacation with your family, but you have a really good time anyway.
6) You had a really good day and can’t wait to tell your partner, because you know they will be excited to hear about it. When you talk with them, it turns out that they had a bad day. You each give the other time to tell what happened and how you feel. Your partner is very happy for you and expresses their joy. You commiserate with your partner on their bad day. You decide to go get ice cream to celebrate your joy and commiserate your partner’s bad day.
7) You and your partner feel like you can share things with each other, but you also feel like you can keep some things private. You do not share your email, bank account, or social media passwords.
8) You and your partner are having a disagreement about a party you plan to attend. Your partner says they are worried as they know the kids throwing the party have a reputation for using drugs. You tell your partner that you understand their concern but feel you will be safe. You let them know that you’re going with your bestie, and both of you have a commitment to not doing drugs. Your partner says they still feel uncomfortable but know it’s your decision to make. You make a safety plan together in case things go bad at the party.
9) You and your partner usually spend time together on Saturday nights. A group of friends from elementary school are planning a special event just for people who attended the school on a Saturday night. You tell your partner you would like to go to the event. Your partner says he really looks forward to spending Saturday nights with you, and will miss you, but understands that it’s important to you. He texts you one time before you go to say, “Have a great time with your friends! Talk to you on Sunday.”
10) You and your partner both love to sing. You frequently do karaoke and make TikTok videos together. While making the videos, you laugh a lot.
11) Your ex-partner, with whom you are still friends, is coming into town. You plan to spend some time together catching up. Your current partner is upset, yells at you that you shouldn’t spend time with your ex, and storms off. They later call and apologize for their actions. They tell you they were feeling jealous and expressed their jealousy inappropriately. They tell you they trust you and hope you have a good time.
12) You and your partner go to a different coffee shop every Monday after school. You pay one week and choose where to go, and they pay and choose where to go the next week.
These are just some of the healthy signs in the above scenarios; you may see others as well!
2) Comfortable Pace
3) Respect, Honesty
6) Kindness, Respect
7) Independence, Trust
8) Healthy Conflict, Trust
9) Independence, Kindness
11) Taking Responsibility, Trust
12) Equality, Fun
Solid Ground’s Broadview Emergency Shelter and Transitional Housing provides confidential temporary housing for parents and their children experiencing homelessness due to domestic violence. We provide 24-hour trauma-informed support services to help families meet their immediate needs and move forward with their goals. Our team of housing counselors, child advocates, domestic violence/legal advocates and specialized service providers partner with residents as they work to secure permanent housing, heal from trauma, and increase self-sufficiency and stability.
Domestic Violence Help in Seattle/King County
Call 206.299.2500 for Solid Ground’s confidential Domestic Violence shelter services and/or 2.1.1 toll-free at 1.800.621.4636, M-F, 8am-6pm for info about all King County resources.
National Domestic Violence Hotline
1.800.799.7233 or TTY 1.800.787.3224
English – Online chat is available 24/7/365.
Español – Póngase en contacto con nuestros asesores altamente capacitados las 24 horas, 7 días de la semana y reciba el apoyo que merece. Chat en Español esta disponible cada cuando el botón de chat está en rojo.
Resources for Youth
Get relationship help | love is respect advocates are available 24/7/365. We offer confidential support for teens, young adults, and their loved ones seeking help, resources, or information related to healthy relationships and dating abuse in the US.
OUTSpoken Speakers Bureau & Youth Programs | The NW Network offers a wide range of supports to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, and questioning youth and young adults (13-24) around issues of violence and crime such as dating violence, bullying, hate violence, physical and sexual assault, exploitation, theft, police harassment, and experiences in the sex trades.