Skip to main content

By: Bari Sobelson, MS, LMFT

Heart of Stone

When you think about intimate relationships, do you ever think about them in terms of their health status? The National Domestic Violence Hotline (NDVH) contends that all relationships exist on a spectrum, ranging from healthy to abusive with unhealthy lying somewhere in the middle. Let’s think about this spectrum by taking a closer look at each category:

Healthy: It is important to remember that a healthy relationship does not equal a ‘perfect’ relationship. We may get caught up in this notion now more than ever with the constant reminders from social media that pop up in our news feeds of our friends’ relationships on display.  Be realistic when thinking about features of a healthy relationship rather than defining ‘health’ by what you see on the internet and through media. Here are a few features of a healthy relationship from NDVH:

  • Partners talk openly about problems and listen to each other with respect to the opinions being expressed
  • Partners value each other just as they are rather than trying to change them into something or someone they are not
  • Partners will make decisions together
  • Partners will enjoy their own personal time rather than feel the need to be together at all times
  • Partners will have equal economic say
  • Partners will parent together as a team rather than against each other

Unhealthy: These relationships are somewhere in the middle of healthy and unhealthy, with features that may lean more towards one or the other. In thinking about the features from a healthy relationship standpoint, take a look below at what these features may look like in an unhealthy relationship according to NDVH:

  • Partners fight or do not discuss anything at all when problems arise
  • Partners are not considerate of each other, showing disrespect in their relationship
  • One partner may feel that their desire and/or choice is more important than the others
  • Partners may only spend time with one another, rather than anyone else
  • It is assumed that only one partner is responsible for the finances

Abusive: People may not even realize that they are in an abusive relationship until much later. They also may assume that because they are not being physically abused, they are not involved in an abusive relationship. It’s important to know what abuse may look like in forms other than physical violence. Taking the same features used as examples in healthy and unhealthy relationships, take a look at what NDVH says about abusive relationships:

  • Partners communicate with each other in ways that are hurtful, threatening, insulting, or demeaning
  • One of the partners does not respect the feelings, thoughts, decisions, opinions, or safety of the other
  • There is no equality in the relationship- one partner makes all of the decisions without the other’s input
  • One partner maintains control over finances and the access to it
  • One partner may use the children to gain power and control over the other partner

Remember that this is referred to as a spectrum because relationships can lie anywhere between healthy, unhealthy, and abusive with a lot of variation somewhere in between. If you would like to learn more about this spectrum and about the resources that The National Domestic Violence Hotline has to offer, visit

Blog Image: Photo from Pixabay [Heart of Stone by dimitrisvetsikas 1969, February 18, 2017, CCO]