Identifying Healthy vs Unhealthy Relationships

One of the most vital aspects of a human experience is linked between quality of social relationships and improved health (Umberson & Aras Montez, 2010). If we do not take care of ourselves by engaging in healthy relationships, it is believed to cause a possible negative effect on our physical health (Tomaka, Thompson, & Palacios, 2006). When we enter into relationships regardless of if personal, professional or communication engagements, we often move towards trusting others without getting to know them. This is often what we have learned throughout our prior interactions when an introduction occurs, social activity or in a trusted environment such as new employment, etc.

We tend to hope for the best from people and therefore, trust that they will be kind and return the same. Unfortunately, this is not always the case due to various situations. Such as stress, change in relationship dynamics, and/or the person may have been masking their underlying personality. This could be due to many things but is often related to a change in circumstances that bring out other personality and behavioral traits. The slight change of interactions can be warning signs of unhealthy relationships. For example, if someone you meet is charming, overly kind, supportive and accommodating but as the relationship begins to take form, there are signs of irritability, confrontation, questioning of prior relationship norms.

Signs of developing a health relationship are:

  • Allows for individuality, accepts others as who they are
  • Accepting of other relationships
  • Brings out the best in others, encourages growth
  • Welcomes discussion where there are disagreements with intention to learn from others
  • Gives as much as receives within the relationship
  • Individuals have their own self-esteem separate from others
  • Believes in equality and mutual respect

Some early signs of developing an unhealthy relationship are:

  • Feelings consumed within the relationship
  • Extreme fear of letting go
  • Feeling the need for others to feel secure or happy
  • Fear of change or being vulnerable
  • Experiencing negative comments (effecting confidence, creating power dynamics, etc.)
  • Development of power and control dynamics (one person in more control of decisions, finances, determining social interactions, etc.)
  • Needing others to support feeling of self-worth

Mutual respect is at the key to any healthy relationship. There are many factors that contribute to mutual respect regardless of if personal, professional, social/community relationships. The nonviolence wheel describes the various highlights of mutual respect aspects of any relationship.


McKay, M., Fanning, P., Lev, A., & Skeen, M. (2013). The interpersonal problems workbook: ACT to end painful relationship patters. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications.

Tomaka, J., Thompson, S., & Palacios, R. (2006). The relation of social isolation, loneliness, and social support to disease outcomes among the elderly. Journal of Aging and Health, 18(3), 359-384.

Umberson, D., & Kars Montez, J. (2010). Social relationships and health: A flashpoint for health policy. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 51(Supp 1), S54-S66.