• Learning for LifeandWork

What is an unhealthy relationship?

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

An unhealthy relationship is a relationship between two people where one or maybe both people in the relationship feel upset, fearful or stressed more often than they feel happiness.


An unhealthy relationship can occur in any relationship. For example, between a parent and their child, between a boyfriend and girlfriend/husband and wife, between people who consider themselves as friends.


An unhealthy relationship can be easy to spot from the outside, but more difficult to recognise when the person is in the middle a relationship.


Unhealthy relationships don’t always have to involve physical or emotional abuse – though these are indications that the relationship is unhealthy. If a person is able to pinpoint the ways that the relationship is unhealthy this will allow them to be able to take steps to change the situation.


Signs of an unhealthy relationship include:

  • Pressure to change for the other person as they are always being told what is not good about them.

  • Worry from the person about disagreeing with the other person or having their own opinion on something for fear that this may cause an argument.

  • Feeling pressure to stop activities previously enjoyed as there is jealously about being active and spending time with other people.

  • Always having to justify their actions, for example where they are going or who they are meeting up with.

  • Arguments that are not settled fairly and the person is blamed for the argument.

  • If there is shouting or violence in the relationship.

  • If there is controlling behaviour over one person, for example controlling how a person should dress, how much money they should have, who they should be friends with.

If a relationship contains many of these characteristics, it may affect a person's physical and emotional health. It might be in the best interest of the people involved to end the relationship.


What could a person do in an unhealthy relationship?

- A person could try and talk things through with the other person and try to come up with an agreed way forward.

- A person could try spending more time together and understanding each other better.

- A person could use talking therapies such as:

If the relationship has become violent a person should:

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