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Healthy vs. Abusive Relationships: Spot the Signs

All relationships fall somewhere on a spectrum from healthy to unhealthy to abusive. Nobody’s relationship is 100% perfect and all couples go through tough times. But healthy relationships make us feel good, while unhealthy and abusive relationships don’t. Think about how you and your partner approach these topics to see if your relationship is healthy, unhealthy, or abusive.

Valuing Each Other

Healthy: Our relationship is based on equal responsibility, power, and commitment.
Unhealthy: We both feel ignored or poorly treated a lot of the time.
Abusive: One of us feels completely devalued, manipulated, or controlled by the other.

Problem Solving

Healthy: We solve problems through fair negotiation.
Unhealthy: We have a difficult time solving problems together.
Abusive: When problems arise, one or both of us uses threats and coercion to “win.”


Healthy: We have an economic partnership.
Unhealthy: We often disagree over money.
Abusive: One of us controls all of the money and decisions about money.


Healthy: We share responsibility about parenting and have a common understanding of “good parenting.”
Unhealthy: We often disagree about what’s right for the children and don’t always share responsibilities for their care.
Abusive: One of us uses the children as a pawn (for example, using them to pass messages, encouraging them to gang up on the other parent, threatening to take them away).

Honesty and Trust

Healthy: We are honest, we trust each other, and we are each accountable for our behavior.
Unhealthy: We sometimes lie or keep secrets from each other; we lack trust.
Abusive: One of us frequently lies, keeps secrets, and blames the other for all problems.


Healthy: When we talk to each other, we’re almost always honest, open, and non-threatening.
Unhealthy: We often misunderstand each other or avoid talking to each other.
Abusive: One of us intimidates the other with threats and cruel words. Conversations feel unsafe.


Healthy: We have a mutual respect for and accept each other.
Unhealthy: We often blame each other for problems.
Abusive: One of us uses criticism and humiliation to make the other feel guilty and ashamed.


Healthy: We share responsibilities for taking care of our home, children, and each other.
Unhealthy: We often struggle to balance responsibilities.
Abusive: Our responsibilities are unbalanced. One of us has a lot of responsibilities but no authority to make decisions, while the other has all the authority and few responsibilities.

Beliefs and Values

Healthy: We share the same core beliefs and values.
Unhealthy: Some of our most important beliefs and values are different or in conflict.
Abusive: One of us disrespects or makes fun of the other’s values and beliefs.

Feelings and Emotions

Healthy: We support and seek to understand each other, especially when one of us is sad or angry.
Unhealthy: We are sometimes indifferent to each other’s feelings. When one of us is upset, we ignore or push each other away.
Abusive: One of us disregards or makes fun of the other’s feelings, or refuses to show affection when it’s needed most.


Healthy: When we disagree, we work together to resolve our differences.
Unhealthy: Our disagreements usually lead to bickering, yelling, and/or ignoring each other.
Abusive: One of us has all the power and has no respect for the other’s perspective, opinion, or feelings. They always win.

Friends and Family

Healthy: We support each other’s relationships with friends, family, and the community.
Unhealthy: We are reluctant to be involved with each other’s friends and family.
Abusive: One of us isolates the other from her/his friends, family, and the community.

Relationships Should Feel Good

If you think you are in an unhealthy or abusive relationship, you are probably right. It’s okay to ask for help. Call our free and confidential 24/7 Help/Crisis Line at 773-583-HOPE (4673).

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