What's a healthy dating relationship, anyway?

Sometimes she says things that make me feel ashamed. Is that okay?

Healthy relationships help you feel safe and secure. They can bring fun and excitement to your life.

Unhealthy relationships do the exact opposite. When you’re in an unhealthy relationship, you can feel confused, anxious, and unsure. Knowing the differences between a healthy and not-so-healthy relationship will help you make better choices about who you date and for how long.

Healthy relationships

Here are some signs of a healthy relationship:

Being yourself
Staying true to who you are is a good sign that you’re in a healthy relationship. Changing so someone will like you won’t work in the long run, and will frustrate the people who know you, like your friends and family.

Honest couples feel comfortable talking about things in the relationship, including any problems or concerns. Being afraid of talking to your partner or feeling pressured to talk about your deepest secrets are signs that your relationship is less than healthy.

You don’t have to talk all of the time, but you do have to keep in touch, especially about the things that are important to you or your relationship. A lack of communication can lead to feeling isolated or confused about your boyfriend or girlfriend’s feelings. Don’t forget, part of good communication is checking in with the other person to find out what they think and feel, and listening when they have something to say.


Respect is key to every healthy relationship. When people respect each other, they act supportive, fight fair, and listen to one another’s concerns. They also treat themselves with respect, and refuse to do things they’re not OK with.

Feeling safe
If you feel threatened in any way, you are not in a healthy relationship. Feeling safe is both emotional and physical: you should feel that your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t try to hurt either your feelings or your body.

Trust is about being able
to count on someone. 
It’s about knowing they’ll follow through on their promises and tell you the truth. Trust is about feeling that person will support you and look out for you, and that they have your best interests at heart.


Equality keeps relationships safe and fair. Being equal in a relationship means sharing the power, for example, not bossing one another around. Equality can also be about sharing the effort. If you’re trying to contact your boyfriend or girlfriend 24/7 but they can hardly find the time to call you, your relationship may be unequal.

Does he come to your baseball games? Does he ask you how you did on your Math test? Does she listen to you when you’re stressed about something and need to talk? These are signs of support, and it’s an important quality in healthy relationships. Support is about feeling cared for and respected.


Fighting fair

It’s healthy to argue from time to time. Arguing gives you a chance to explore things that you disagree about, and it helps you get your feelings across. It’s a problem if you’re fighting all of the time, or if you say cruel things when you’re arguing. And remember, physical fighting (punching, hitting) is NEVER okay.

Here are some tips for fighting fair:

  • Stay calm. Try to speak calmly, no matter how upset you are.
  • Don’t accuse. Even if you’ve been wronged, it’s better to explain how you feel than it is to blame or accuse. “You think I’m an idiot” is different from saying “I felt hurt and embarrassed when you did that.”
  • Address the problem. There’s no point in starting an argument unless you know what you want from it. Do you know what you’d like to change? Aim for a solution rather than “winning.”
  • Step back. When tempers are hot, it can be a good idea to take a break. Suggest that you talk about it in a day or two. A bit of time will help you cool off and give you some space to think.

Fighting fair online

If you’re fighting online, it’s still important to fight fair.

  • Be respectful online. Don’t post hurtful comments on someone’s Facebook wall or do other things that could cause harm.
  • Think before you press send. It might help to give yourself some time to cool off before you send an online message. If you wouldn’t say it in person, don’t say it online.

For more information on cyberbullying and how to stay safe online, click here.

Relationship red flags

Watch out for these signs that you’re in an unhealthy relationship:

  • Physical abuse. Your partner pushes, hits you, or destroys your things when angry.
  • Control. Your partner tells you what to do, wear, or who to hang around with. They check up on you all the time or use threats (for example, to harm you or themselves) to make you behave in specific ways.
  • Humiliation. Your partner calls you names; intentionally puts you down or makes you feel bad in front of others.
  • Unpredictability. You don’t know what will set your partner off; you feel like you are walking on eggshells.
  • Pressure. Your partner pushes you to do things you don’t want to do or aren’t ready for, including sex or using drugs/alcohol. They don’t take ‘no’ for an answer, or use threats or ultimatums.

Find out more about Dating Violence.

Not sure if your relationship is healthy or unhealthy? Take the quiz and find out.

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Last Reviewed September 2013 by the Kids Help Phone Counselling Team

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