Healthy vs Unhealthy Relationships

February is National Teen Dating Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. It is the perfect time to talk about healthy relationships, especially when it comes to teenagers. Navigating relationships in our teenage years can be a roller-coaster of intense feelings, from happiness to sadness and everything in between. Knowing what healthy and unhealthy behaviors are in a relationship can help teenagers know when they need help or when they need to leave an unhealthy relationship.

According to the CDC, 1 in 11 females and approximately 1 in 14 male high school students report having experienced physical dating violence in the last year, and 1-8 female and 1 in 26 male high school students report having experience sexual dating violence in the last year. Teen dating violence includes:

  • Physical violence
  • Sexual violence
  • Psychological abuse
  • Stalking

As parents or guardians of youth we should always try to model healthy relationships at home, and when it comes to child sexual abuse prevention, having conversations with your children about body safety and boundaries can help your children know when something unsafe is happening to them. This open communication should continue into teenage years and develop into conversations about consent, balance of power and mutual respect in a relationship.

What Makes a Healthy Relationship?

A healthy relationship is built on trust, good communication, understanding, honesty, respect, support, equality, and the ability to maintain separate identities. A partner in a healthy relationship means you celebrate each other’s accomplishments and support your partner being the best version of themselves. Healthy behaviors also include being happy for each other when something positive happens, and treating each other with respect and dignity.

It’s important to maintain individual identities and not be upset when your partner wants to spend time with their friends or spend time doing things they enjoy outside of your relationship. Support your partner and let them enjoy their hobbies and interests, even when it doesn’t involve you.

Healthy relationships are built on mutual respect and there should not be an imbalance of power. It’s also important to remember that just because you are in a close relationship, there should still be privacy and boundaries. Having open communication with your partner may allow you to express your comfort level and boundaries when it comes to your body.

Love is Respect, a project of the National Domestic Violence Hotline, explains, “Whether you’re casually having sex, just started dating, or are in a committed relationship, setting and respecting boundaries is essential to any and every relationship. It’s important that partners feel comfortable expressing their wants, goals, fears, and limits, and everyone’s boundaries are honored. That means everyone feels comfortable communicating their needs without fear of what another person will do in response.”

What are Unhealthy Behaviors?

According to the CDC, unhealthy, abusive or violent relationships can have short term and long-term negative effects, such as depression, anxiety, engaging in unhealthy behaviors like drugs and alcohol, or thoughts of suicide.

Key behaviors in unhealthy relationships are control, possessiveness, dishonesty, disrespect, threatening tones, threatening physical violence or physical abuse. Some warning signs of an unhealthy relationship are if your partner doesn’t let you see your friends or doesn’t want you to go anywhere without them. If they criticize the way you dress or act, or expect you to drop everything to be with them. Any sort of physical violence or forcing you to go further than you want to sexually is unhealthy. Pay attention if your partner tries to separate you from your friends and/or family. Your partner should not be lying, checking your phone, reading text messages or listening to voicemails without your permission.


Stalking is when someone repeatedly calls or leaves messages when you don’t want them to, or repeatedly shows up unwanted. It can also be repeated and unwanted attention by a partner that may cause you fear over your own safety or someone else’s safety. Cyberstalking, which is similar to stalking, is repeated, unwanted use of social media, emails or text messaging to cause fear and concerns over safety.

What to do if You Are in an Unhealthy Relationship?

If you think you may be in an unhealthy relationship it’s important to tell someone what is happening to you. If you can, document any abuse taking place. If you need help leaving an unhealthy relationship or you need help creating a safety plan, contact one of the organizations below.

YWCA of the Niagara Frontier Crisis Hotline for sexual assault and unhealthy relationships/domestic violence. You can reach a crisis advocate 24 hours a day and get access to a DV shelter through the hotline. You can call or text 24/7 at 716-433-6716.

LoveisRespect has trained advocates available 24/7. If you need help or advice, they can be reached at 1-866-331-9474 or Text LOVEIS to 22522.

RAINN is the National Sexual Assault Telephone hotline. You can call 1-800-656-HOPE to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.

If you suspect a youth might be involved in online sexual exploitation or a victim of child sex trafficking, visit or call NCMEC’s 24/7 toll-free hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 911.

More Information:

Preventing Teen Dating Violence |Violence Prevention|Injury Center|CDC

Characteristics of Healthy & Unhealthy Relationships |

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Relationships (

Healthy relationships for young adults | love is respect