Healthy and unhealthy relationships

Relationships can be confusing. Especially if you really like someone but they do things you're not comfortable with. So think about what feels right for you. 

Making sense of how you feel

Being in a new relationship can make you feel excited, happy and in control. It’s normal to enjoy getting compliments, feeling special and safe or like you’ve got more confidence.

But relationships can sometimes change and it can be hard to know when things are starting to go wrong.

In a healthy relationship someone shouldn’t try to control you. Controlling or threatening behaviour can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or psychological. If your relationship doesn’t feel right, it may be time to end it.

Saying what you want

You have the right to say how you feel and to be respected. Consent in relationships is about feeling in control and saying yes or doing things because you choose to, not because someone is pressuring you to.

If someone is pressuring you to have sex, do something sexual, dangerous or violent, this is wrong. 

If you ever feel unsure, unsafe or get that sick feeling in your tummy, it could mean you’re not comfortable with what’s happening.

Being in an unhealthy relationship can mean that you’re being exploited or abused. And this is never OK. So it's important to listen to yourself. And get support at any time.

6 things in a healthy relationship:

  • good communication
  • mutual respect
  • trust
  • honesty
  • equality
  • being yourself.

Find out what consent means

being pressured into sex

Having sex is a big decision. If you don’t feel comfortable or ready to have sex or do sexual things with someone, then you don't have to. The person you’re with should care about you enough not to pressure you or make you do something you’re not happy about.  

Consent means agreeing to do something. People can stop giving consent at any time. Sex is only ever okay if both people involved want to have sex. Having sex if someone hasn’t given their consent (which means they don’t want to have sex) is illegal and is called rape.

There can be a lot of pressure from things like music videos or online porn to have sex. And it might seem like lots of other young people are doing it. Or talking about doing it. But this shouldn’t be a reason to start having sex. Everyone is different, and you should do it because you want to, you feel ready and you're 16 or over. 

If you need to talk about sex, you can talk to us any time. You can also look at advice on Disrespect NoBody.

Is your body trying to tell you something?

Often when something doesn’t seem right, your body reacts by:

  • your heart beating faster
  • sweating more or feeling hot
  • finding it harder to breathe
  • feeling uneasy or tighness in your tummy
  • having a dry throat
  • dizziness or feeling like your head is spinning
  • feeling stiff and tense.

What to do if you feel unsafe

Ending a relationship can be really difficult, and there are some things could put extra pressure on you. These could include things like grooming, blackmail or emotional pressure. 

If your boyfriend or girlfriend makes you feel scared in your relationship, it's important to get support. Try talking to an adult you trust or to a Childline counsellor.

Having a safety plan can also help keep you safe. Read the safety plan instructions below and make sure you keep your plan in a safe place where your partner won’t see it.

Tips for ending a bad relationship

  • Plan what you want to say
    Focus on your feelings but remember to clearly say that you want to end things.

  • Pick a neutral place 
    Meet in neutral place with other people around. This is important for staying safe.

  • Plan how you'll get home
    Plan how you'll get home safely before you meet up. It's also a good idea to let a friend or family member know where you're going. 
  • Talk to people you trust
    Getting support from your family, friends and people you trust can really help you to feel better.

  • Distract yourself
    Spend some time doing things that make you feel good about yourself. Find out what you like, what you're good at or try joining a club.

  • Look after yourself
    Taking care of yourself can include things like trying not to go out too much or drink too much. You may be tempted to contact your ex or feel vulnerable.

  • Remember it's not your fault
    If they contact you again, remember this isn't fair and remember they should respect your decision. If they pressure or threaten you, talk to an adult you trust.

worried about someone's relationship?

You might be worried about a friend, relative or someone else. If you think they’re in an unhealthy relationship, it can be difficult to know exactly what’s happening or how to help them.

If someone is in an abusive relationship or being groomed, it can make it hard for them to know when something is wrong. Being groomed is never someone’s fault. But you might be unsure about how to help them.

If you're supporting a friend in a difficult or dangerous situation, it's important to remember to take care of yourself too. Although you might want to help your friend, you're not responsible for them and the situation may be out of your control.

Asking an adult for help and encouraging your friend to get support will help you both to stay safe. 

Things you can try

Watch: Am I in a good relationship?

Watch: Gaslighting and pressure in relationships

Watch: Getting out of a bad relationship