A couple holding hands.

What Is a Healthy Relationship?

Relationships are critical for our overall well-being and health. Yet, the perfect relationship does not exist. However, there is a line between a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy relationship. So, what is a healthy relationship? Let’s take a look so you can teach your teenagers what is healthy and what is not healthy when it comes to relationships.

Most healthy relationships are built on respect, trust, support, equality, honesty, communication and a sense of playfulness. Moreover, the two people in the relationship do not form one whole person. They each have their separate identities as well. Healthy relationships take work. No one who has been in a relationship for many years will tell you it has been easy, but they may tell you it has been entirely worth it.

Here we outline a healthy relationship versus a bad or toxic relationship. We’ll also discuss the importance of healthy relationships in your teen’s life and the effects of a bad one, as well as how you, as a parent, can help your teen understand what a healthy relationship looks like.

Healthy Relationship vs Toxic Relationship

With young love, it is easy for our teens to latch onto anyone who shows interest or affection towards them. This is why it is important for them to know the difference between a healthy relationship and a bad one. It’s also important for them to understand what real love looks like, so they do not confuse it with infatuation.

What Is a Healthy Relationship?

A healthy relationship should bring joy and happiness into your life, more so than stress or any other negative feelings or energy. There will be times when it is hard and stressful, but ideally, the happy times should far outnumber the bad. In a healthy relationship, respect is maintained. Activities are done together and apart. You’re able to express how you feel without fear. Healthy boundaries are also communicated and respected by both parties. You also support each other in your different goals in life.

When setting an example for your teen, discuss with them what they think a healthy relationship entails. Debate it and base it on both of your values. This can help your teen understand what a healthy relationship consists of and how to avoid unhealthy relationships as they grow. Further, set a good example yourself. Your teen learns from the adult most present in their life. Therefore, you should constantly work on improving your own relationships, as your teen will learn from it too.

What Is an Unhealthy Relationship?

Unhealthy relationships cause an excess of stress and pressure. There’s constant tension and you may feel on edge. These problems may lead into other parts of your life as well. For instance, you may feel pressured to change yourself as a person. You may worry when you disagree with your partner. You rarely feel good after settling an argument. You begin to avoid making time to spend together. The relationship itself may feel unfair and unequal as well.

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What Are the Effects of a Bad Relationship?

Research indicates that bad relationships can actually begin to take a hefty toll on your overall health. In particular, it may place you at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues, obesity, diabetes and more.

It can further place your mental state in a less than happy place. You may feel that you are losing your identity and have taken on the one your partner has given you. This can lead to mass confusion and even depression. Often, it will take therapy to start knowing yourself again and detaching from that identity to create a new one.

What Are Relationship Red Flags?

Perhaps your teen has recently entered a new relationship, or they have been in the same relationship for a while, but you have noticed they have changed. You’re worried that the relationship may be unhealthy. Here are the signs you should keep your eye out for:

  • Overly controlling, possessive, or jealous behaviors
  • Changes to their habits or behaviors
  • Unexplained bruises or other injuries
  • Lying
  • Checking in frequently
  • Apologizing for things they do not need to apologize for
  • Progression in relationship seems forced or rushed

If you notice anything that concerns you, talk to your teen about it. Don’t approach it with confrontation, such as forbidding them to see the person. This may only cause them to want to continue the relationship more. Instead, simply express your concerns and open the discussion. Talk about your concerns and how your teen is feeling in the relationship. These are important open discussions to ensure your teen’s safety and optimal growth and development.

When to Talk to a Professional

If you think the relationship may be abusive, it is best to seek the advice and help of a professional. There are various options out there that can help you and your teen overcome and deal with the situations at hand. There are also legal actions you can take if things escalate. Talk to a lawyer if this is the case or consider seeking a restraining order. Take note that laws may vary in different states, which is why discussing your child’s options with a lawyer can help you determine the right course of action if necessary.