How do I know if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy?

By Kara Witthuhn
School-Based Counselor

How do I know if a relationship is healthy or unhealthy?

Great question, because how you navigate romantic relationships early in life has lifelong impact. Healthy relationships provide social and emotional growth and can help you develop into an adult who has healthy relationships. Unhealthy relationships, however, risk detrimental impact on your physical health, happiness, and overall well-being.

  • Healthy relationships are energizing, inspire growth, and demonstrate mutual respect and caring. A healthy relationship allows you to be yourself, bringing all your flaws and strengths to the table, while accepting the other person for who they are as well. This is the way our Creator sees He loves us for who we are and he reminds us to focus on the strengths of others: Above all, love each other constantly, because love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).
  • Unhealthy relationships are stressful and draining. Common characteristics of unhealthy relationships include mistrust, guilt, drama, disrespect, poor communication, and controlling behaviors. Unhealthy relationships often feel imbalanced or one-sided, where one partner invests more effort, energy, and emotion in maintaining the relationship. The root cause of all these unhealthy behaviors is sin in us and in the world.

While no relationship is perfect this side of heaven, and all relationships have difficult moments and missteps, it is important to know the characteristics of a safe and healthy relationship and the warning signs of a relationship that is unhealthy and even potentially abusive.

A Relationship Checklist:

Healthy Relationship Traits
  • You feel valued and loved after hanging out with your dating partner.
  • You trust your partner and don’t get jealous easily.
  • Your partner respects and supports your decisions.
  • Your friends and family support your relationship.
  • Your relationship does not impede your studies. You enable each other to be better students.
  • You have interests and hobbies that are outside of your relationship.
  • You and your dating partner are able to communicate in an open and honest manner. You are not afraid of respectful disagreements.
  • Your relationship is friendship-based (not passion-based). You enjoy spending time together that doesn’t involve intimacy.
  • You and your dating partner share the same morals and values and have discussed appropriate boundaries and expectations for intimacy.
  • Your relationship has stood the test of time. You have known each other long enough to weather the highs and lows of life with grace. Your partner has demonstrated strong character, integrity, and commitment to biblical values.


Warning Signs of an Unhealthy Relationship

Unhealthy Relationship Traits
  • You feel insecure after hanging out with your dating partner.
  • You get jealous when your dating partner talks to others of the opposite sex.
  • Your dating partner tells you to change the way you dress.
  • Your dating partner doesn’t like your friends and asks you to stop hanging out with them.
  • You find yourself constantly defending or making excuses for your dating partner to your family/friends.
  • Your grades have declined and/or you’ve given up extracurriculars or hobbies.
  • You “walk on eggshells” to avoid sparking a conflict.
  • Your dating partner lies or omits information.
  • Commitment to the relationship is inconsistent. You frequently threaten break up, or are often on again, off again.
  • Your partner pressures you to levels of intimacy (sharing “secrets” or saying “I love you”) beyond your comfort level or forces you into sexual activity against your will or without consent.
  • You fear that conflict or a break up will contribute to a mental health crisis and/or suicidal concern.
  • Your dating partner has used physical force to get his or her way (hitting, slapping, grabbing, or shoving).


If you have questions or concerns about a relationship, connect with a trusted adult—a parent, teacher, pastor or your school counselor.

Download the Healthy Relationships Checklist to share.

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