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What Is the Difference Between a Healthy & Unhealthy Relationship?

by Jill Avery-Stoss, studioD

Navigating a relationship sometimes involves such a wide array of emotions that it can seem overwhelming to ascertain how healthy -- or unhealthy -- it actually is. There may be intense feelings of love, anger, pain and excitement all intertwined. The manner in which you and your partner handle them contributes heavily to the well-being of the relationship.

Distribution of Power

Ideally, people in relationships share power as equally as possible. This means they both have input in matters such as finances, parenting, sexual relations and even dinner locations. Partners may defer to one another regarding some issues -- it is the opportunity to offer opinions and suggestions that is most critical. Unhealthy relationships are those in which one party consistently makes decisions on behalf of both and controls the direction of the relationship, while the other remains silent, meek and passive.

Means of Communication

Open, honest and respectful communication is essential to the functioning of the relationship. It allows those involved to address concerns, process feelings, offer comfort and support, provide feedback, problem-solve, compromise, and simply enjoy one another's company. Situations in which one person repeatedly speaks over or interrupts the other, refuses to participate in conversation, calls the other names, threatens, or is manipulative tend to be unhealthy and harmful.

Consideration for Personal Boundaries

Personal boundaries can be physical, emotional, sexual and even spiritual in nature. They also vary among different relationships and can change over time. Boundaries help individuals maintain their own identity and demand respect. People involved in healthy relationships recognize and respect one another's boundaries. Relationships become unhealthy when either or both partners are unable to define their boundaries, have no regard for the other's privacy, and ignore the other's feelings, needs and desires.

Space for Individual Identities

In many unhealthy relationships, people spend so much time with one another that they become enmeshed and begin to define themselves only in relation to their partners. They lose sight of their own likes and dislikes, personal goals, and relationships with others. Healthy relationships tend to be more balanced, allowing each partner to spend time alone or with friends and family. Partners encourage one another to pursue personal interests and support them during times of success and failure alike.

About the Author

Jill Avery-Stoss is a graduate of Penn State University and a writer and editor based in northeast Pennsylvania. Having spent more than a decade working with victims of sexual and domestic violence, she specializes in writing about women's issues, with emphasis on families and relationships.

Photo Credits

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